Caring for your aging parents is one of the most emotionally complicated and difficult things that you’ll ever have to go through.
While everyone is just trying to do the right thing by their parents, the unfortunate truth of the situation is that taking care of an aging parent can be really difficult! Between adjusting to a parent’s quirks and difficulties and devoting more time to your parent than ever before, it’ll certainly mean a change in schedule, and that doesn’t even account for the emotional side of things. In coming to terms with a parent’s mortality, it’s easy to wear yourself out and feel guilty about not doing enough.
Thankfully, there are ways to stay sane in this difficult situation. Take a look at our best tips below.
Plan for the New Normal
As experts at The Medium wisely say, “Most of the problems of aging come on slowly. There tend to be lots of red flags before a life-changing crisis hits.” Taking advantage of the time you have to be proactive is crucial to staying sane, and having a plan in place can help you feel more in control.
Much of this is about being honest and realistic about the time and resources you can allocate toward caring for your aging parent. Be careful not to overcommit yourself: this is a marathon, and won’t be resolved after two weeks of freezer meals. You’re dealing with a new normal here, and accepting that things have changed is one of the hardest and most crucial parts to staying sane when you’re dealing with aging parents.
Discuss the Logistics
The logistics of taking care of your aging parent are often the hardest part, especially if you’re sharing the responsibility with siblings or other family members. It’s crucial to get everyone on the same page. The caring experts at Vineyard Bluffton have put together a guide to navigating difficult family dynamics. The most common issues they see include:
- Balancing who does what. Often, caring starts with a few errands and then develops into a part- or full-time job. If one sibling is doing more work than other siblings, whether that’s real or perception, it can cause a rift in the family. Patterns are difficult to break, so it’s important to get ahead of any potential issues and start discussions early.
- Unfair expectations. Assuming that one person will take over the majority of care because of their personal situations is a prime reason for miscommunications. Caregivers should be careful not to expect a sibling or relative with no children, or a different professional situation, to help more because they appear to have more time.
- Financial issues. Siblings that don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to the finances are one of the main causes of family disputes, as are new spouses that do not agree with the cost of care.
For Vineyard Bluffton’s experts, the best way to handle these situations is to get out in front of them: “Initially, hold a family meeting to discuss your parent’s health, wellbeing, and care plan. Include your parent, so they can explain their wishes. Give everyone time to prepare and bring their own opinions to the table. Encourage people to bring notes and write things down as you talk. Even after your initial meeting, you should continue to meet regularly to assess the plan and make any needed changes.
Educate Yourself on What to Expect
Watching a parent age is extremely difficult: you’re seeing someone who may have had a strong authoritative influence in your life change suddenly, and oftentimes not for the best. Read as much as you can (Seniors Matter has an excellent list of books to get you started). Learning more about your parents and what they’re experiencing will help give you compassion, which is crucial to staying sane as you navigate the difficulties ahead.
Boundaries are critical for maintaining your sanity. For the experts at Thrive Global, boundaries are “times and places where you cannot be reached, and when you’re simply rebooting for the next day or week. Finding this alone time is very important, as you can easily forget about your needs, lost in a sea of responsibilities.”
What does this look like in real-time? It means choosing a day or time during the week when you want to be alone and taking part in an activity that makes you happy, such as reading a book or going for a run. The next part is important: let everyone know that you’ll be taking this time for yourself, otherwise they’ll assume that you’re as accessible as usual. You know your family – if your circle can’t even give you half an hour of space, try putting your phone on airplane mode or leaving the house completely.
Taking care of aging parents is always challenging, but the important thing to remember is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking the time to recharge is so important for your sanity, and the quality of care you can provide for your parent.