When It's Difficult to Love an Older Loved One
The process of aging and the challenges that accompany it can make the most easy-going person out of sorts. But if a relationship between parent and child is already strained or fractured, caring for the elderly parent can be intense. The natural instinct for adult children to want to ensure the best care for their parents as they age is hard wired as they continue to seek their parents’ approval. Having some tips to navigate this new territory can make a difference in the lives of both adult children and their parents who need care.
When Charles was young, his mother died suddenly of breast cancer. Driven by grief, Charles’ father found comfort in alcohol, disappearing often and not being able to be there for his son physically or emotionally. Thankfully his paternal grandparents stepped in and raised Charles though he rarely saw his father outside of holidays or random visits.
As he got older, Charles viewed his grandparents more like his own parents. After they passed away, his father reached out and asked for his help. Recently receiving a diagnosis of alcohol-related dementia caused by the many years of overusing alcohol, his dad needed assistance at home.
Charles was torn. On one hand, his father hadn’t raised him or been there when Charles needed him most. But Charles realized his father had been tormented by the death of his mother. Charles ultimately decided to help his father as a way to honor his paternal grandparents and all that they had given him, though he knew it wouldn’t be easy to be his father’s caregiver.
Family dynamics can be sticky and they’re always subjective. There could be histories of slights and unsupportiveness as well as in some cases, neglect and abuse, which can complicate the care situation. Moreover, society adds pressure and expectations on families to care for their aging family members, especially when it comes to adult children and their parents. It can be challenging; however, here are some top two tips from AARP and Aging Care you could offer to families to help them navigate through these times:
Try talk therapy. Opening up about the past and working through the feelings surrounding it with a therapist or counselor can be enlightening. It can help some people release their resentment and welcome forgiveness, like Charles. Or, it may help them realize that they need boundaries and cannot be the primary caregiver.
- It may be helpful to follow a moral compass and spiritual values rather than try to find a familial connection. For example, it might be better to say, “It’s important to me to help people in need,” rather than “Good children love and care for their parents.” It will keep their compassion high but help them stay at a professional distance.
- The person you’re caring for, most likely, will not change their past bad behaviors. There is peace in resigning yourself to dealing with someone who may behave in challenging ways but by setting your expectations, you can manage your own reactions to respond in a way that is helpful to your loved one and that leaves you feeling in control of your emotions.
Seek outside help. Whether that’s a CarePatrol senior advisor, geriatric care manager or legal guardian, they may want to reach out to other eldercare professionals if they need assistance or find that being the primary caregiver is overwhelming. Maintaining your own health and wellbeing is important since you cannot care for someone when you’re feeling depleted. Having a support team around you can be essential to helping your loved one.
At CarePatrol, it’s our mission to help families and older adults find safer living options and make recommendations based on their preferences and care needs. If you have any questions about our process, please visit carepatrol.com. It is important to support them on this journey with practical support.