How Caregiving Can Affect You
Each of us reacts differently to any situation. And so it is with caregiving. Be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions, from anger, guilt, sadness, and frustration to fulfillment, joy, and compassion. Some days will be like a rollercoaster, your emotions thrusting you from high to low in no time at all. You'll have these feelings toward not only your parent, but also other family members. So many caregivers report that they become frustrated with the lack of understanding and support from other family members, especially siblings. Just know that it is normal for you to experience such a wide range of emotions. The goal, however, is to achieve some balance and home in on the emotions that are healthy for you.
The National Family Caregivers Association's national profile of caregivers found that 67 percent of caregivers felt frustration while nearly 40 percent felt sad and anxious. Half of all caregivers experienced back pain, sleeplessness, and depression.
Walking in somebody else's shoes always gives you a better appreciation of what someone's going though and why that person behaves the way he or she does. Suffering from a chronic, debilitating condition has both physical and mental consequences. The more you understand the nature of your dad's condition(s) and how this affects his emotional well-being can take the sting out of his anger or frustration that he displaces on you.
Knowing the different stages of Alzheimer's, the clinical signs of depression, or the behavioral complications of Parkinson's will give you a heads-up on why Dad acts the way he does. It also reassures you that this isn't personal. The parent-child relationship is often wrought with unresolved conflicts. So, if you don't understand what's really going on, your dad's offensive behavior can open an old wound. There you are--tired, stressed-out, feeling unappreciated--and here he is hurting you, just like years past. Bang. Now you're angry. You react. He picks up on your agitation and things quickly spiral out of control. You need help in dealing with the situation.
I love those disclaimers after Superman that tell kids "don't try this at home." There should be a similar disclaimer that comes with caring for aging parents: "Don't do this alone." You'll be surprised at how quickly you can become isolated from family and friends. You'll start to feel that it's easier to just do things yourself. Or your parent will become so dependent upon you, that he or she never wants you to leave.
Grandma called me her "manager." She'd tell the doctors, the adult day care staff, and her adult grandchildren that they would have to go through her manager. We all thought it was pretty endearing, but she also reached a point where no one else but her manager could take care of her. This became especially tough when my baby was born. For a while, I tried to do it all. But caring friends pulled me aside to help me get some balance. I brought in a nurse's aide to help during the day. The few times I did go out when the baby got older, I had to bring in two separate caretakers. Many caregivers will tell you that they give up trying to go out and "have a life" because it's too much of a hassle getting help.
So before you find yourself caught up in a vicious cycle, search for help right away and set up a support system. Your parent can survive a few hours and even days without you. Let's look at some of the ways you can enlist help.
More on: Aging Parents
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Caring for Aging Parents © 2001 by Linda Colvin Rhodes, Ed.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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