You love your parent to the end… They have been there for you forever and now it’s time for you to give back to them.
Absolutely commendable. I admire and support you for your decision as so many people abdicate this responsibility very early on in the process.
However, be prepared for it not to be the nice loving journey that you may have anticipated.
For some people it’s a wonderful and fulfilling journey, but for others… it will challenge them to the hilt.
Facing The New Challenge
We talk about “Challenging Behaviors” but believe me, the person who is likely to be challenged is you!
Why? Because in the first place you probably haven’t had to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your parent for a very long time.
You have built a life for yourself doing the things that you want to do.
But now you find you are severely restricted by the disabling behavior and abilities of your parent.
It is very difficult to get away from a person who is becoming frailer either physically or mentally.
You may even find yourself becoming socially isolated. Your friends don’t visit as much or call you to go out for a coffee or dinner.
Perhaps you never thought this would be an issue for you. But once the harsh reality of 24/7 care of someone sets in… it will test your emotions.
Things That May Happen
You may find yourself occasionally losing your temper with your parents. This will probably make you feel guilty for your behavior… but remember you are only human.
Did your parents never shout at you when you were little? Well, it won’t be all beer and skittles now that the boot is on the other foot! It’s normal to feel frustrated with them from time to time.
Caring for someone is also very tiring. Weeks may go without you getting a full-night’s sleep or it may just be that their constant demands are simply too much for you.
You could become both physically and emotionally tired or just drained so that eventually you feel like your tank is empty. But what is there to do when there’s not much left to give?
Actions You Can Take
First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that all these emotions are normal. Especially if you haven’t been taking good care of yourself and maintaining a social life.
You need to know that you are not neglecting your parent if you put them into care so that you can take a brief holiday.
You are doing them a favor, as it will enable you to keep better care of them for longer.
Make time to go out for coffee with your friends. Find a day program or arrange for a friend of theirs to come in and stay with them while you get some time for yourself.
Remember, you are not being selfish – you are preserving your sanity.
Don’t give up on all the things you like to do just to give all your time to your parent. That is committing yourself to a life of resentment and anger, especially if their caring goes on for a number of years.
Deciding When To Seek Additional Care
When you are finally at the end of your tether and you feel like you cannot go on any longer without relief, it’s time to seek help.
Even if it means succumbing to what you said you would never do… finding a nice place for you parent where they can be with other people can start to take up the threads of both your lives again.
I know this is a hard decision to make but what good are you to your parent if you are always tired and worn out?
Maybe none whatsoever. If caring for your parent is starting to make you grouchy, it will also exacerbate the behavior of your parent as they get older… and that won’t be good for either of you.
Other Tips For Preserving Your Sanity While Caring For Your Parent
- Don’t commit to caring as a permanent arrangement. Say you will commit to it for a specific period of time.
- Maintain some of your own social outlets for time outs and do not feel guilty about it.
- Recognize when you are tired and need a break. Better still, plan ahead to take regular breaks and arrange for other family members to take over your role. You can also have a friend or a hired caregiver come in to relieve you.
- Be proactive, not reactive. Go visit potential places for your parent to go either long term or for short breaks. Let them know that you are taking care of them for now but you want them to help with finding a Plan B – somewhere where they will be happy if you cannot do it for any given reason.
- Be honest with your parent from the outset. Include them in the discussions early so they can have some power over what is going to happen to them.
- Accept the situation with an open mind.
The people who settle best into roles, be it as a caregiver or as an ailing parent, are those who are pragmatic about the situation and always have a Plan B. Those who always think “what if?”
These are some ideas that can help you to preserve your sanity and maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your parent. Hope they work for you!