If you are fighting the losing battle of giving everything, all the time, to the care of your elderly parents – and feeling guilty for wanting things to be different – you need to stop this self-defeating cycle in its tracks! This article will focus on identifying and eliminating the things that sap your energy unnecessarily (see Part Three on getting help in our next newsletter).
Guilt is a huge energy-drain; to eliminate it:
- Realize that it is normal, even healthy to resent great demands on your time.
- Recognize that resenting the situation is NOT the same as resenting your parents.
- Realize that your parents must resent the situation, too – but they don’t resent you for having more health and mobility than they do.
- Open a dialog: Your parents probably feel guilty for their needs, and discussion can air out and relieve this reciprocal guilt.
- Give yourself (and your parents) permission to say, “Yes, this situation stinks! But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
- Spend an hour or so per week on comment pages to see how normal your feelings are.
- Stick with pages that lean towards humor and helpful tips – and away from those which wallow in resentment or helplessness.
Feeling Isolated (yes, “feeling” – you can change the reality):
- Spend time on comment pages or in real-life support groups
- You’ll have common ground to easily connect with new friends.
- You’ll have people in your life who get what you are going through.
- If you can’t go to your regular friends, ask them to come to you. If you explain your situation, real friends will find a way to drop by to stay in touch.
- Don’t forget to connect with your spouse and children every day, even if you only have 5-10 minutes for each.
- Also connect with your parents outside of the caregiver role – let them be the parents again.
Mono-focus can also drain you, giving life a flat, grey quality.
- Don’t make care-giving all you do.
- Identify activities you used to do, just for fun; then find new ways to do these activities in small bites
- Read short stories instead of novels
- Clear a space where a craft project can sit undisturbed; then work it in 10-20 minute bursts
- Call a friend and explain why you only have 15 minutes to chat – they’ll understand
- Find activities that can engage you and your parents – they might need something to make life less dreary, too!
- Look at old pictures together.
- Rent a movie and turn on the subtitles. Pause if they drift off, and resume when they awaken.
- Play card or board games you both like.
- Everyone needs a bit of “junk food” for the soul! Make these small moments sacred – they are critical to your wellbeing.
Another huge energy-drain is the Martyr Complex – uncomplainingly, heroically doing everything yourself.
- Guilt can contribute to the martyr complex, so start by dealing with that as described above.
- Recognize that everyone is entitled to a break.
- Would you sneer at parents for hiring daycare or baby-sitters for their children?
- Adjust your unrealistic expectations of yourself
- Food for thought: Parents care for children at an earlier stage of life; by the time they are caring for their parents, they often have poorer health and energy levels.
- Once you accept that you cannot and should not do it all yourself, make this clear to everyone else involved:
- Your spouse
- Your kids
- Your parents
- Other relations outside of your household
Just recognizing that you have the right to your feelings, your own needs, and some respite can lift some burden from your shoulders. For tips on getting the help you need, make sure you catch “Solutions to the Parent Trap, Part Three: Finding Help” in our next newsletter!