As our parents look after us when we grow up, so many of us have to look after them in their autumn years. It isn’t always a bed of roses, yet there are a number of ways of coping with the pressures as you face them.
Looking after yourself, you can look after your parent better. It may seem selfish to take time out for you, but you need to be able to refuel yourself in order to continue looking after everyone else.
Put simply, if you burn out and have to be looked after full-time yourself, you aren’t going to be much use to anyone else!
Give Your Parent Autonomy
Where possible, ensure that they do whatever tasks they can. This helps both them and you. Taking their independence away from them before they are ready is degrading to them and unnecessary for you.
The John Shore website suggests, “It’s important for them to continue to feel as if they, and not you, are running their lives. Let them decide everything they can about their own care and situation.”
Finding the balance between them doing their own thing, all the time and alone, and being overbearing is important. Many elderly disabled people are left totally alone. In China this got to the point that it became law that families visited their parents at least once a year.
Giving your parent independence may include buying things to help them get around the house. If their bedroom is upstairs for instance, consider buying them a stairlift so they can get to bed under their own steam. You can even get a stairlift for outdoors to ensure they are not restricted to the house.
The saying “healthy body, healthy mind” has been proven in medicine. Take time to exercise – perhaps go to the gym or take a brisk walk. This will help as the pressures of daily life build up on you. As you blow off steam in the gym, so you feel more able to face what you’re doing at home.
Staying physically fit will help you do the lifting and carrying that comes with your elderly dependent. By being physically fitter, so your body wards off illness, both things like common colds, and worse problems such as cardiac and mental health issues.
Asking someone to look after your parent while you take a break gives you the chance to forget about your duties for a while. This may mean having a night out with your partner or friends, or it may mean a week away. Your boss at work expects to give you time off for holidays every year (it is accepted that people work more efficiently when rested). Caring for a loved one is no different.
The website Empowering Parents suggests using a home care agency if possible, “They can provide respite so you can get out for a while.” A good agency will be able to give your parent exactly what they need, and hiring them regularly gives your parent a new familiar face in their world. Variety is the spice of life in everyone’s world!
If it Gets Too Much, Get Help
Many carers of elderly parents can suffer mentally themselves. This may be from family pressures (looking after young children as well as elderly parents) or from the pressures of losing your parent little by little to dementia before your eyes.
Anxiety is a major issue. The physical symptoms of anxiety are: “Anxiety can physically manifest itself in symptoms like sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and trembling.” Worst case, it can feel as if you’re having a heart attack.
Don’t be afraid to see a professional to get help. Psychologists can offer Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, breathing techniques, and psychotherapy to help you face your daily stresses and strains.