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The Psychological Effects of Caring for Aging Parents, Part 2

Monday, August 3, 2015

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Our Top 4 Fears about Aging Parents

In the first installment of this series, we discussed the tricky task of becoming a parent’s caretaker. It is often a huge adjustment that can leave us feeling overwhelmed, tired, anxious and/or downright terrified. This installment will cover the fears that many children face as their parents age.

As our parents get older, we begin to go through the aging process with them and we see that our foundation in life may be weakening. In addition, the anxiety and fear that can kick in when you have to deal with debt, dementia or finding a place for them to live can feel like a huge weight on your shoulders. Here are the top 5 fears about aging parents and a little bit of advice on how to deal with

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 11.26.48 AM1. Dealing with chronic illness

The fear that is the most common and that will affect most of us, is the fear of chronic illness in our parents. We are afraid of what that will mean for them emotionally, whether they will care for themselves properly and about whether we will be able to support them as much as we may like.

Please, please, please… do not lose yourself in this process. If your parents do eventually need care (and it’s not uncommon at all that this would happen) then you need to start by developing a plan that does not drain you or cause you undue stress. This post has some great ideas for getting the whole family on board for mom and dad’s care.

This is not a selfish fear so if you are feeling like you are wrong to worry about money then rest assured you are within your rights to have concerns. If your parents have accrued a great deal of debt over the years, you may want to look into how to help them get their debt down. If not, should they turn ill (or worse, end up in need of long term care) you will be scrambling to find funds OR paying everything out of pocket yourself.

2. Guilt about “homes”

This is a big one for many people with elderly parents. There is a sense that putting your parents “in a home” is a vile and unkind act. However, for some of us, it is the best that we can do. If they need more care or attention than you can give then it may just be the very best thing for your parents to take up residence at a lovely facility. There are also options for in-home care which may be best for some other families. The real issue at hand is that we mustn’t take on too much of the burden of care for our parents and leave ourselves depleted, depressed or totally financially insecure.

3. Being judged by others for your choices

Most of us have gone through this before in some other form. Maybe you were worried about what people thought of your parenting when your kids had tantrums at the store or thought your colleagues were judging you about what college you attended. It is human nature to want the approval of other people. We are social creatures and tend to want to be accepted. However, your choices are yours to make. Therefore, if anyone ever seems put off by you hiring help or thinks that you are wrong for finding your parent a safe place to live, you must ignore them. You need to know within your heart that you are doing your best and let other people’s opinions be just that… OTHER

4. Handling Dementia

One of the most frightening things that can happen to our parents is for them to lose their mental acuity. The sense that our parents are leaving us becomes even stronger as we watch them forget things, become unresponsive or seem to get lost in their own world. There is no easy way to handle this and you won’t find a guidebook anywhere. However, as with all of the issues you will face with elderly parents, you must consider your own well-being and health. If you find yourself deeply troubled by your parents’ illness, or by any of the fears mentioned in this article, you should talk to a professional who can help you to traverse this difficult and sometimes confusing terrain.

You are more than likely fearful of your parents aging and as you see them begin to be less and less capable of taking care of themselves, the more anxiety and guilt you may feel. However, you must keep in mind that just as there are no perfect parents, there are no perfect children. Continue to do your best for everyone in your life… including you.

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