Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn't know possible.Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love
Caretaking of parents might be one of the most emotionally challenging things that we do in our lives. If we have a healthy, fulfilling relationship with our parent, profound sadness, grief, powerlessness and confusion will most likely be experienced.
If, however, the relationship is dysfunctional in nature, tumultuous, or disconnected, we may feel anger or resentment regarding the prospect of taking care of a parent. Of course, regardless of the relationship, any of these types of feelings may arise.
Between the various stages of decreased mobility and / or lessening of memory of cognitive ability, we may be at one end of the spectrum in which a parent simply needs help with shopping, errands, making calls or paying bills.
At the other end, when a parent has dementia or is wheelchair bound, they may require much more assistance. But at either end, caregiving can be stressful.
Caregiving fits the formula for chronic stress so well that it is used as a model for studying the health effects of chronic stress.National Institute for Health
However, there are also many positive aspects to care-giving. It can make us feel needed, give us a chance to give back and help others, and give us a sense of purpose. And we can connect with that inner sense of purpose by tuning in to our own emotional needs.
Make Sure That You Are Taking Care Of Yourself, First
As with being a parent, if you are feeling stressed or anxious about your role, then it’s time to take some time for yourself, whether that be with a hobby, a walk, or a nice dinner with friends. If your cup is empty, you won’t be able to fill others’. Here we can include getting enough sleep and making time for exercise, as well.
It helps to have a daily plan. What activities do you know need to be done every week (bill paying, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments)? Make sure to schedule time, perhaps at the same time every week, to get these accomplished with your parent. Let them know which days and times you are available, and commit to those times.
But also know that many parents just need someone to speak with, and just generally want your company. It is okay to acknowledge that fact, too, and to let them know that you are available just for reading, walks, or talking.
My Wish For You Today ...
... is that you can lean in to find that love for your parent!
-- Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD, Director