Taking Care of Our Parents
With today’s continuing medical advances, people are living much longer than even fifteen years ago. While technology may be able to prolong our lives, the reality is at some point, we will all need assistance. For the most part, we turn to our family for that support. Now that we are living longer, healthier lives however, that responsibility is largely left up to the adult children who are often in the midst of raising their own children. This phenomenon has become so common that it was aptly named the “Sandwich Generation”, referring to these adult children who feel squeezed between the needs of their aging parents or relatives and the needs of their own families and careers.
My Parents are Getting Older
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), since 1950, the number of people seventy-five and older doubled from 3% to 6%. By 2060, NCHC further estimates that one in eight Americans will be seventy-five or older. And today, 22.4 million households already provide care to a family member over fifty, according to the American Association for Retired People (AARP). What does this all mean? Well, if you’re a baby boomer, you will likely be among the many adult children called upon to take care of your aging parents. This can be a daunting responsibility and often both the aging parent and the child caregiver find themselves living with overwhelming resentment, guilt, and anger. If unresolved, or not taken care of through the guidance of a trained counsellor, the mounting stress can quickly destroy the relationship and put everyone at risk for emotional and physical illness. While aging is inevitable, our attitudes and reactions to the situation have an enormous effect on how we adapt. Counseling offers us the tools to meet these new challenges in a healthy and loving way so everyone involved feels the dignity and respect they deserve.
ElderCare: What Can I Expect?
For those who are already providing care for an aging parent or relative, the AARP estimates you’re likely spending eighteen hours a week or more taking them to doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, helping with financial issues, and generally just being there for them. Add to that the fact that about 67% of all adult children caring for their parents also work full time, it can lead to tremendous frustration and unwanted challenges, which invariably lead to overwhelming stress.
Emotionally, as children we expect our parents to always look after our needs. Somehow it just doesn’t seem right or comfortable for anyone involved to watch as our parents descend into old age and illness. Often we prefer to live in denial rather than face the unavoidable fact that our parents will someday die, essentially leaving us alone to fend for ourselves. No matter how old you are, your parent is still your parent and the child/parent dynamic still subconsciously dominates your thinking. So, when it comes to the point where our parents are no longer independent, it is very hard to accept. As hard as it is for us to face, our aging parents feel as much or more despair, depression, and anger over their own declining ability to care for themselves as we do. Ultimately, they can feel completely vulnerable and at the mercy of everyone around them. So, when you add it all up, the result is two and sometimes three generations of unresolved hurt, scared, and often angry and resentful feelings in one household. And while stress is to be expected, it doesn’t have to become overwhelming.
When do I need Help to Care for My Parents?
According to Social Gerontology, a leading book on the effects of aging, the average American household today includes more parents than children. In fact, a woman can generally expect to care for an older family member for eighteen years. The magnitude of this situation is realized when you consider that a mother normally only raises for her own children for an average of seventeen years. When you factor in things like depression and other serious mental disorders that are so common among aging adults, it is simply a recipe for disaster if everyone involved is not emotionally, socially, financially, or even physically equipped to deal with the inevitable changes this scenario brings. This is a tremendous responsibility that often produces extreme stress and resentment. When these feelings start to affect your everyday life, it is time to get help.
Stress can lead to depression, eating and sleeping problems, anxiety, problems at work, with other family members, and overall exhaustion. Any one of these is a clear sign to get help. Misguided expectations or unresolved family history can often be the cause of conflict in these situations. Counseling allows everyone involved to bring their feelings and concerns to the forefront. Emotional support and a new perspective on the situation can help people move on with their lives in a healthy way. While aging may be an inevitable part of life, with help, we can always find ways to accept and deal with the challenges it brings.
The Benefits of Counseling for Help With Aging Parents
Individuals who are faced with the changing roles in their relationship with their parents may be faced with a variety of emotions in terms of what this new relationship will look like. Values-Based Counseling helps to provide adult children a neutral perspective when considering the options for how to care for aging parents. Whether it is the decision to move our parents to a retirement home that is better suited to meet their needs, or we open our home and take on their care ourselves, these changes impact how we see our parents and how we see ourselves.
Changing these roles and the relationship to responsibility with our parents presents a challenge as the dynamics of life changes. Our own sense of self in terms of aging may come into question as we see our parents lose some of their independence and vitality. If we are caring for them in our home, routines and family structure are modified. This may include making physical changes to our home to accommodate for the physical limitations for our parents. All these changes affect our current relationships and your counselor will work to address how to integrate these changes into your home and life. This time of change when caring for aging parents is an opportunity to develop your relationship with your parents as they and you enter a new phase of life.
If you need a therapist to help you, we have a large selection of online therapists who are professional and licensed counselors, able to help you right where you are over the phone, via email, or webcam/messenger. If you prefer face to face counseling, please use our therapist directory and find a city close to you with a therapist who can meet your needs.
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