First, we do have to put ourselves first sometimes. What’s best for us, best for our own families and our own peace of mind must be a serious consideration. Sacrificing our sanity for the sake of caregiving is not the best choice. Delegate and find others to help if having too much of the caregiver burden is getting you down.
Second, know our own limitations. Caring for aging parents can become very time-consuming and emotionally wrenching as we watch our loved ones decline in health. Trying to bravely go it alone, taking in an ailing parent, or assuming other large, long term chores is not for everyone. It’s okay to say “no”. Every adult child is not the same and many are simply unable to do a good job of being a primary caregiver. Admitting this to ourselves is both healthy and necessary.
Third, forget trying for praise, appreciation or recognition of a caregiving job well done when our parent has dementia. Our parent’s brain is not functioning normally with dementia. The cognitive impairment may mean that he or she is unable to appreciate your efforts. It may mean behavior changes, such as suspicion, accusations and nasty outbursts in your aging parent when that sort of thing didn’t happen before. Do a good job for your own sake and because it’s right, not because you have to have your parent’s approval.
Fourth, we need to love ourselves for trying. Our efforts may not always succeed. We may feel doubt about what we’re doing. We may feel guilty that we get mad at an aging parent who is so difficult. But we keep trying to make life manageable, keep up their quality of life the best we can and go at it with sincere hearts. We need to tell ourselves that we are brave and valued for forging on in the face of difficulty. We need to appreciate our own efforts.
Fifth, we need to take breaks. We get so lost in caregiving, directing others, managing our own jobs, families and problems, we forget how much time we’re putting in. We forget to stop. This is really important! To nurture our own bodies and soothe our own spirits is the very thing that gives us the strength to carry on and keep it up.
So, my friends, be very good to yourselves. Love your own heartfelt work of helping aging parents, especially the most difficult ones. It takes a strong will to put up with the resistance difficult parents put up.
Mikol and I are with you. We have difficult people in our lives, too. My Mom was mentally ill and the challenge to my strength and patience was there for years on end.
We are on this journey together. We can help each other along.
If your aging parent is driving you nuts, let us know about it, We do like to address your questions.
Until next time,
All the best,
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney and Dr. Mikol Davis