free the pen, a blog for writers

June 1, 2011

3 Things to Remember When We Caretake Our Parents

Filed under: Uncategorized — freethepen @ 1:35 pm

Many of us over fifty are now caretaking our parents. Although caretaking those we love usually starts out with an open heart,  adult children often begin to feel overwhelmed, guilty and even resentful for having to leave so much of their own lives behind in order to keep up with the demands of caretaking responsibilities. Here are three important steps you can take to make sure you help ease some of the negative feelings that effect the care you give and diminish the health of your own life.

1. Talk to someone. Talking to a therapist or minister for support, both spiritual and psychological, is invaluable. Most people don’t want to take the time, spend the money or focus on how badly they need help while they are giving help. Talking to a trained professional does wonders for allowing you to vent, get support, receive clarification and even expand your knowledge of community resources. Let me put it another way, by not allowing yourself to face the strains and pressures of caretaking a parent, no matter how much you love them, you might start walking down the road that leads to depression, anxiety and develops problems in your own life. So make an appointment and talk to someone about what you are doing, how it is effecting your life and let them remind you when it is time to do something for yourself.

2. Keep your friends. Caretakers are notorious for allowing their friendships to slide by while they use their time to take parents to appointments, cook their meals, clean their homes or perform many of the other duties involved in caretaking responsibilities. If your parents are sick and require medical assistance the duties to care-take increases not only in performance but in consequences. Do not feel guilty or shamed for making a lunch date with a friend for one or two hours a week, going shopping after work, or taking in a movie. Remember you need time to enjoy your own life. Let your parents know that this date is important if they want you to be happy too. It is not only okay to take this short amount of time for yourself, it is necessary for your own mental and physical well-being. We can have up to 1500 physiological reactions to stress. Caretaking is stressful. Give yourself a way to decrease your stress. It is that important.

3. Take a moment to breathe. Caretaking can feel like a burden even if you don’t want it to. So while you are managing all the responsibilities of appointments and the personal tasks of taking care of someone you love, why not add something enjoyable to the list of chores? Next time you walk into your parents’ home, take a book of poetry or a favorite novel. Read to them to offset the energy you put into the ‘doing’ of it all. Even those in need enjoy the moment of joy and delight in a poem or getting lost in a novel. These moments can lighten up the pressures of getting everything done and connect you to your parents in a more life affirming way. Take a moment to breathe together. Perhaps adding a fresh arrangement of flowers in the middle of a room or painting your mom’s toenails would help. Whatever your parents enjoy, do some of it with them. It just might help to lighten the moment. Sit with a cup of tea and look at old pictures. Ask a minister to come over and pray with all of you. Take the time to slow things down, breathe in the moment and connect in a moment of lightness.

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