Aging Parents and Adult Children
Aging Parents and Adult Children
Having an adult relationship with your parents can be both rewarding and challenging. Some parents are overly critical, complain when you try to help, or never say “thank you.” The challenges can become especially difficult as they continue to age. Transitioning to a caregiving role is a major shift as the parent/child roles begin to reverse. You must determine how to care for yourself and focus on your parent as well, and the stress of this task can strain your relationship and affect your physical and emotional wellbeing.
The Aging Process
In many ways, aging is a grieving process. Older adults slowly lose their independence, as their mind and body fail to function properly. Your aging loved one may need to transition from their home to yours or another medical facility. Try to be empathic with them and consider how you would feel if you lost control of your body. How would you react if decisions were made about your life and future without your consent? When you put yourself in your aging loved one’s shoes you might better understand why they are experiencing grief-like symptoms.
Transition Tips for Aging Parents and Adult Children
The following guidelines provide information to help you practice good self-care and caregiving skills.
Care for yourself first- Caregiver stress can cause physical, emotional, and mental problems. When we don’t prioritize ourselves we limit our caregiving efforts. It’s important to get proper rest, good nutrition, and regular exercise to maintain our optimal health. When we feel better we’re able to enjoy our loved ones more. Ask for help and delegate tasks to other family members if you need it.
No comparisons- Every adult child is different. You need to be comfortable saying “no” when you’re unable to physically or emotionally handle a responsibility. Just because another friend caring for their parent can accomplish the task doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for you. Know your limitations. Also, it’s wise to avoid comparing your relationship with your parents to other families. Every family has its own unique challenges.
Understand your anxiety- Relationships with our parents can sometimes be difficult. When we’re stressed and anxious about other areas of life it’s easy to direct those emotions toward those we love most. The more easily you can identify when you are stressed or anxious, the better equipped you’ll be to know when to handle situations with your parents. Choose a time you’re calm and able to do your best thinking.
Accept a lack of recognition- It can be challenging, but it’s important to grasp you may not receive praise and thanks for taking on this responsibility. Some parents struggle deeply with change and the fear of aging, so they’re unable to express their appreciation. It’s important to focus on why the job is important, rather than the lack of recognition.
Practice empathy- If your parent is experiencing chronic pain it’s difficult to be in a happy mood all the time. They may put on a front in front of others but feel comfortable to express themselves with family. Try to understand what pains your parent is feeling as well as the physical and cognitive losses. This can help you empathize with their moods, comments, and expressions.
Listen- Listening is the greatest honor you could give as it honors your parent. Be patient with them, as it might take longer to articulate their thoughts, especially their fears and stories.
Fears- The aging process can be scary. It’s possible your parent is experiencing rational or irrational fears. Listening to them can calm their nerves. Try to explain facts in a simple, non-threatening way.
Repetition- Be kind toward your parent when they repeat themselves. Perhaps, you’re hearing the same childhood story for the thousandth time. Also, if they’re struggling with technology use, remember that some tasks are extremely difficult with memory loss or degenerating eyesight. Be patient, as you would be with a child struggling to read or tie their shoes.
Watch for personality changes- Cognitive difficulties can alter your parent’s personality. In addition, medication can impact personality. It’s important to contact their physician if there are any sudden changes. You may be accused of trying to hurt them, or they might be suspicious of you. They could have sudden outbursts, yell, and become visibly distressed. Try not to take these personally, as this is not the true heart of your parent.
Give back power- It can be easy to do certain tasks for your parent simply because you can do it faster. Things might be calmer if you give some control over to your parent, even in small areas. Also, ask for their input about decisions that affect their life. Giving back power, even if it’s minimal, can greatly improve your relationship.
The process of giving up control over your life isn’t easy for anyone. However, when we’re able to walk our parents through decision-making with small changes, they are more likely to trust us with the big ones. Ultimately, doing the right thing for your parent’s wellbeing is what matters most, to both of you.
Want to talk to a counselor today about this?
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