Taking care of an aging parent can be a rewarding as well as an overwhelming, exhausting job. A parent who is living with chronic illness and/or dementia may have dramatic mood swings, become confused, intolerant, or demanding at times, and may forget names, people, and even important memories frequently.
Important to remember is that older adults typically are experiencing multiple, emotionally provocative changes, transitions, and limitations in several areas of their lives. Becoming more mindful about these challenges will support your well-being by heightening your acceptance, empathy, and healthy adjustment as your parent’s condition and needs evolve.
Here’s a list of some of the issues your parent may be facing as they get older:
- Strength and stamina may deteriorate. It’s frustrating not to be able to get around as easily as before.
- Eyesight, hearing, and sense of taste and smell may begin to wane. This makes it harder to connect with others. It makes food less appealing. It makes activities like movies and social gatherings less enjoyable and tolerable. It makes the world seem less safe.
- Sound sleep patterns may change. It can take longer to fall asleep, and it can be harder to stay asleep. Waking up very early in the morning can become an annoying and tiresome habit.
- Loss of bladder control may develop. At best, it’s inconvenient. At worst, it’s humiliating.
- Digestion may become challenging. It may be too difficult to digest foods that used to be favorites. Constipation can be a depressingly common condition.
- More frequent health crises may come up. Sudden, frightening changes can occur as a consequence of accidents, illnesses, and injuries such as broken hips, heart attacks, strokes, or a diagnosis of cancer.
- Role transitions become necessary. Retiring from a longtime job can result in a loss of identity and self-esteem and may arouse feelings of uselessness and confusion. It can be hard to maintain a sense of purpose for getting up in the morning.
- Driving may no longer be possible. The inability to drive often is experienced as a tremendous loss of independence. The feeling of helplessness can be intense.
- Financial security may be threatened. The retirement planning that was supposed to provide security may not have turned out as well as hoped. Financial worries are especially hard if there are large medical bills or increased expenses related to hiring an in-home caregiver or engaging other supportive services.
- Companionship, friendships, and marriages are disrupted. Either through death, incapacitating illness, or moving away from home, many relationships are lost and mourned. Missing loved ones can create a pervasive feeling of loneliness.
As you can see, the emotional upheaval surrounding the process of aging can be staggering for both parent and the adult child who is providing care.
If you’re struggling to adjust to a parent’s declining health and independence or feel beleaguered by the responsibilities of caregiving, we’re here to help you develop the self-care and coping strategies you’ll need to adapt more effectively. With therapeutic support, you’ll be better able to preserve your quality of life while also protecting that of your aging parent.