Taking care of aging parents can be a major source of stress. Here’s how to cope.
CHRIS: My name is Chris, I’m married, I have an 11 year-old daughter, I have a 93-year-old father who lives in the same city as I do.
He lives in an independent apartment building, he owns a condo there.
I talk to him daily and if I don’t call him and he hasn’t heard from me in a day or so he scolds me for not keep in touch.
My father is very conscientious about his exercise which he attributed his longevity to.
My big worry is the fact that he still lives alone even though he is very physically healthy, mentally I’m not sure he’s able to do everything he needs to do to take care of himself.
There was one evening he was alone in his apartment and he had lit a candle in the living room and unbenounced to him while he was fixing supper the candle had fallen onto the couch and was burning up.
Luckily someone was going by the apt when he went out to look for help, and extinguished the fire in the middle of the last act the screen went blank.
It’s very stressful worrying about him. Us trying to manage our own life with our daughter and a lot of activities, how can I manage that stress on a daily basis?
DR. ANGELA: Many people like Chris are feeling the pressures of raising their own children while also caring for aging parents. This multigenerational situation can affect everyone involved, particularly those who are doing the caregiving. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Before you make any arrangements, be realistic about your own limits and your ability to care for both your aging parent and your own kids. Attempting to ‘do-it-all’ for everyone might only leave you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted; and not very satisfied.
Communicate clearly and lovingly what you can do for your aging parent. Ask for their opinion. What do they think would best meet their needs? If you work together to find a solution, everyone knows what to expect and feelings of resentment can be minimized.
Don’t let guilt get the best of you. We often make decisions to avoid feeling guilty, but keep in mind that you are not rejecting your aging parent if you can’t care for them in your home. Instead, you are showing how much you care by seeking out the best living arrangement to meet their physical, medical, and social needs.
When confronted with the realities of taking care of different generations, as with Chris, it’s easy to lose sight of your own personal needs. Be sure to nurture yourself and find activities that help restore a sense of balance into your life. Only when you take care of yourself, can you fully be there for those you care about.