As parents age and begin to need assistance, the relationship between them and their adult child may shift. If you are caring for your elderly parent, you may experience frustration, resentment, and grief as you navigate the shift from son or daughter to caregiver.
Caring for a parent is an honor and can be very rewarding. But, it’s not selfish of you to recognize your need to care for yourself and your own family. Here are four things to keep in mind that may help you succeed in this new role:
- Remember the Golden Rule
As you take over tasks like paying bills, filling medications, or assisting a parent with eating or bathing, you may begin to see yourself as the parent figure and your mother or father as the child. Don’t be surprised if your loved one expresses resentment or becomes stubborn. After all, it’s not easy losing a sense of independence. Your parent likely feels vulnerable, and aging is just as much an adjustment for them as it is for you (if not more).
Keep the Golden Rule in mind as you go about being the caregiver for your parent. Ask yourself, “how would I wish to be treated in my old age” and let that be your guide.
- Make quality time a priority
It’s easy to become bogged down by appointments, medical documents, bills, etc. when you’re the primary caregiver for a parent. Look for times in your schedule when you can simply kick back and relax with your mom or dad. Take time to do things you enjoy together, such as crossword puzzles, baking, or playing music. Listen to their stories. Do you know where your mother or father grew up? What was their first job like? Who were their heroes or Hollywood crushes? You may have grown up thinking that your parents aren’t very interesting people, but they have years of experiences that you likely aren’t aware of! (Need help coming up with topics of conversation? Try asking these life story questions.)
You will never regret spending time with your loved ones and giving them the gift of your attention.
- Take a break
If you find your caregiving role is causing you to stress or taking too much time away from family, hire an in-home care agency or a geriatric care manager. Hiring help will give you the chance to enjoy your parents more and takes the pressure off of handing the day-to-day details of their care.
Hospice is a service many people only consider right before death, but hospice care actually provides many resources and assistance to elderly individuals facing a life-limiting diagnosis. Hospice team members are trained to help caregivers and are a wonderful resource for respite care.
You can also find support from the Department of Aging. The website for Maryland’s Family Caregiver Support Program states, “[The program] works in conjunction with a host of State and community-based services to create a coordinated array of supports for individuals who need them. Studies show that these services can reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress and enable them to provide care longer, thereby avoiding or delaying the need for costly institutional care.”
Some senior care facilities offer short-term respite care. Consider it a vacation for both you and your parent!
Keep in mind your parent cared for you for many years of your life — and it wasn’t always easy for them! Now, as your roles reverse, continue to treat your loved one and yourself with grace and respect. And remember, we’re here to help!