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Community, Mental WELLNESS

How To Deal With The Stress Of Aging Parents

BE WELL

If you’re among the approximately 44 million adult Americans who are assisting in the care of their aging parents, you understand the significant stress that comes with this responsibility. Whether your parents are in good health but require some assistance with daily activities or they need more substantial care, the concern for their well-being likely weighs heavily on your mind. Those concerns may intensify as you contemplate an uncertain future and potential health issues that may arise. Amidst these challenges, finding reliable resources and support systems becomes paramount to ensure both you and your loved ones receive the care and attention needed.

Whether your aging parents are experiencing a gradual decline in independence or already necessitate in-home elder care or residency at a nursing facility, the responsibility of their care can be overwhelming. From managing their daily needs to ensuring their safety and well-being, the challenges can bring significant stress and uncertainty. The financial burden that comes with providing their current or future care may also be weighing heavily on your mind.

The good news is that there are strategies you can implement to alleviate the stress associated with caring for your aging parents. Let’s explore a piece of advice that is often overlooked but can make a significant difference in your care giving journey.

Two women holding hands

Share the Load

Sharing the workload of caring for your aging parents can significantly alleviate your burden, but a lot of us struggle with asking for help. You may be aware of the challenges involved in caregiving and feel reluctant to impose them on someone else. Additionally, there might be concerns about entrusting your parent’s care to someone who could potentially be irresponsible or, worse, harmful, without your oversight. However, it’s essential to recognize that accepting help can lighten your load and ensure better care for your loved ones.

Most people, particularly relatives or friends of your parents, are often willing to lend a hand and understand the challenges you face in shouldering the entire burden alone. However, if you refrain from seeking help, that support may never materialize, leading to overwhelming exhaustion over time. Neglecting to carve out time for yourself can result in the disappearance of any personal time in your life. Being the primary caregiver for an aging parent can significantly impact various aspects of your life, including work commitments, friendships, romantic relationships, and even your interactions with your own children or other relatives. Therefore, reaching out for assistance is crucial for maintaining your well-being and sustaining healthy relationships.

These are all compelling reasons that emphasize the importance of sharing the responsibilities that come with caring for aging parents. Engaging with their friends and neighbors to establish a support system, such as regular check-ins on designated days, can provide invaluable assistance. Moreover, coordinating with other family members to share responsibilities like running errands, grocery shopping, or accompanying them to doctors’ appointments can significantly lighten the load.

Now, let’s dive into the significance of planning and how it can effectively mitigate your stress levels.

A person writing beside an elderly person

Create a Care Plan

When managing the care of aging parents, especially as they begin to lose independence, it’s common to fall into the pattern of reacting to their needs as they arise, often without prior consideration. However, this reactive approach may limit the available options or lead to decisions made in haste. By proactively creating a long-term care plan with your aging parent or parents, you can establish a comprehensive blueprint that addresses their evolving needs and preferences. This proactive approach ensures that all parties involved are informed and satisfied with the care arrangements, thereby reducing stress and uncertainty in the future.

Most importantly, establishing a plan ensures that, in the event of your unexpected passing, provisions for your parents’ long-term care remain intact. To develop a comprehensive plan, start by determining if their health insurance extends coverage to long-term care, though this is typically not the case. Familiarize yourself with the coverage limitations of the health insurance. Additionally, explore the option of long-term care insurance with an insurance provider. Your parents might also be eligible for a reverse mortgage, enabling them to convert a portion of their home equity into cash to support their care needs. Creating a proactive plan ensures their well-being and financial security in unforeseen circumstances.

In addition to addressing practical matters, incorporating a healthy diet and exercise regimen into the long-term care plan for aging parents is crucial. Encouraging your parents to stay active not only enhances their overall health but also fosters independence and longevity. Engaging in open discussions allows all involved parties to gain a clearer understanding of available services and resources and how to access them effectively.

While caring for an aging parent may sometimes feel isolating, it’s essential to recognize that you’re not alone in this journey. As we’ll explore in the next section, there are various support systems and communities available to provide assistance and guidance.

woman caring for elderly parents

Connect with a Support Group

Caring for aging parents not only brings about stress but can also evoke feelings of isolation and thanklessness. Caregiver-children may find themselves in a rut, experiencing a growing sense of loneliness and the perception that their professional aspirations and personal dreams are slipping away. Over time, resentment may accumulate as caregivers become increasingly drained, both physically and emotionally. Recognizing and addressing these emotions is crucial for maintaining the caregiver’s well-being and fostering a supportive environment for both the caregiver and their aging parents.

Many individuals are facing similar challenges; approximately one in five adult Americans is caring for another adult in their lives. Whether you’re navigating the complexities of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s or experiencing caregiver burnout, know that you’re not alone. Support groups offer a valuable resource, connecting you with others who understand your situation firsthand and can offer advice, empathy, and a listening ear. Embracing these support networks can provide much-needed reassurance and guidance as you navigate the caregiving journey.

Support groups can be located through government websites and various organizations dedicated to caregiving support. Additionally, Bene by Nina, a wellness-focused business, offers resources and tools aimed at promoting mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Their offerings include e-workshops, podcasts, connection games, wellness guides, and fitness and nutrition resources, all designed to foster personal growth and development. Moreover, your local church or place of worship may provide support groups tailored to caregivers, and online alternatives are available for those who may prefer virtual interaction.

Now, let’s think about the advice your own parents might offer in this situation.

A woman practicing wellness yoga

Prioritize Your Well-being

When caring for your aging parents, the responsibilities can indeed feel like a full-time job. From assisting with meals and medical appointments to grocery shopping, outings, yard care, house cleaning, and even personal care tasks like bathing, the list can seem endless.

Amidst these responsibilities, it’s crucial yet challenging not to overlook self-care. Neglecting your own well-being can result in physical and emotional exhaustion, ultimately hindering your ability to provide the level of care you aspire to offer your parents. Therefore, prioritizing self-care is not only essential for maintaining your own health and resilience but also for ensuring that you can continue to be there for your loved ones in the best possible way.

Recognizing signs of caregiver stress is crucial for maintaining your overall well-being while caring for aging parents. These signs include feelings of anger, social isolation, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, irritability, sleep problems, and health issues. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to acknowledge them as red flags indicating the need for self-care. In addition to taking breaks and seeking support from friends or counselors, prioritize healthy habits like proper nutrition and regular exercise to recharge your energy levels. Remember, investing in your own well-being is not only beneficial for you but also ensures that you can continue providing quality care for your loved ones. Adding structured relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation can further enhance your ability to manage stress and maintain balance in your caregiving journey.

Next, manage the stress of caring for aging parents by embracing acceptance.

mother and daughter smiling

Find Out What You Can Control and What You Can’t

Caring for aging parents experiencing physical or mental decline can be incredibly stressful for everyone involved. As a child caregiver, it’s common to feel overwhelmed and disheartened when hoped-for improvements don’t happen. The countless hours spent each week in caregiving often highlight the ongoing decline of your loved one.

If you’ve chosen to take on the role of caregiver, it’s essential to understand the commitment involved. Research shows that family caregivers typically spend around 21 hours a week providing care for older adults. But some of the stress that accompanies these situations can be alleviated by seeking help from others who can refer you to valuable services. Building a network of support tailored to your parent’s specific needs can make a significant difference.

If your parents are still independent, it’s important to prepare for the future. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults turning 65 today will, on average, need long-term care for three years over their lifetime. Two of those years will typically involve care provided at home.

While caring for aging parents can certainly bring about stress, it’s important to recognize that it can also be a deeply enriching and rewarding experience. By accepting the inevitable challenges of the situation, you can cultivate a greater appreciation for the time spent with your loved ones and the experiences you share together.

Being present with your aging parent during their final stages of life has the potential to be profoundly beautiful and meaningful. Embracing this journey can lead to moments of deep connection and understanding that may become cherished memories for a lifetime.

At Bene by Nina, we understand the importance of holistic well-being, which is why we offer a range of resources and tools aimed at supporting individuals like you in your caregiving journey. From e-workshops to wellness guides and fitness resources, we’re dedicated to helping you navigate the challenges of caring for aging parents while prioritizing your own mental, physical, and emotional health. Join us in creating a positive impact and fostering personal growth and development for a lifetime.

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