Caregiving Blog: Becoming A Caregiver for An Aging Parent
Becoming a caregiver for an aging parent may be a relationship that you accept but may not want. The role of caregiving for aging parents is unexpected. Caregiver responsibilities grow overnight. A previously stable, happy, life becomes fraught with frustration, worry, and family battles.
Caregivers Feel Betrayed by Family and Friends
Caregivers may feel betrayed by family members and friends when becoming a caregiver for an aging parent. Brothers and sisters disappear. Friends scatter, leaving the caregiver feeling isolated and alone.
The transition to becoming a caregiver is like no other. As we move forward in life, we experience changes where personal courage and strength is necessary. For example, moving out of the parental home, going to college, taking that first real job.
These are activities that we do alone until we meet others in a similar situation. New friends and acquaintances give us comfort—that while we may feel uncomfortable—everything will work out.
Other life transitions occur. Friends may marry and have children. Relationships are tested when friends act in ways different from the prior relationship. The focus may be on taking care of a baby instead of going out to socialize. Having a husband may eliminate or reduce the frequency of girlfriend outings.
Relationships With Best Friends May Be Lost
The loss of a best friend or friends due to life transitions may be permanent or temporary. Maintaining friendships through life transitions is possible when we expand our understanding of life and life roles.
Married with children friends may spend more time with married with children friends because of the desire to be around and learn from others with similar life experiences. This desire for understanding and commonality places a challenge on the friendship relationship to evolve to a different type of friendship that takes effort to find a new normal. To find new shared interests and commonalities. Not all friendships can survive such a significant shift.
Caregiving is A Life Transition
Caregiving is a life transition that results in becoming a caregiver for an aging parent. Similar life changes occur as the result of becoming a caregiver. Like the changes in friendships that transform into new situations, families experience similar transitions.
Not all families succeed when caregiver responsibilities grow, and caregiving becomes a new role. Brothers and sisters come together or become distanced depending on the closeness of relationships before caregiving.
The willingness to be a caregiver for an aging parent also depends on the prior relationship with the adult child. If disharmony existed, harmony will not likely be restored by becoming a caregiver for an aging parent. Differences are rarely healed but exacerbated by stressful caregiving situation. When caregiving becomes too much, gaining a new perspective can be helpful.
Differences of Opinion Flourish When Becoming a Caregiver For An Aging Parent
When aging parents need care, a tug of war battle begins. We are a society that embraces being independent and in control of life. The reality is that except for our daily actions, reactions, and responses to outside interactions, we control very little. There are times when we feel like the duty to be a caregiver is taking over our lives and survival and sanity is in question.
We Want to Main Control – But Then Realize We Control Very Little
This lack of control by the aging parent and by the adult child caregiver is a common feeling that causes discord in family relationships. Aging parents want to remain independent and in control. They want help only when they want help.
When health fails and brain functions slow, aging parents may not make decisions that are perceived by children caregivers to be in their best interest. This worry that aging parents may not be able to take care of themselves is when children step in with the desire to take over and manage the situation.
Translate this situation to earlier in life when parents worried that their teenage children were not making good decisions. What happened then? What effect did the actions of parents have? Life roles change.
Dad may realize that he should not shovel snow. If told by his son that he is too old or too frail to shovel, dad will find the shovel and shovel for hours to prove a point.
Dad can and will do what dad wants. Being told what to do by a son is unacceptable even though dad may be barely physically able to get out of bed the next day. A desire exists to maintain dignity no matter hold old the father is in the family.
Worry About Situations Getting Worse Keeps Caregivers Up at Night
Situations, where control struggles exist, worry adult children caregivers. While aging parents may want to remain in control and be independent, when something happens the increased responsibilities and work fall on the caregiver.
Aging parents find it difficult to acknowledge that children pick up the pieces of situations gone wrong. The responsibilities of caregiving rarely result in less time and effort. The longer caregiving extends from a time perspective, the more care and time will be needed.
Caregivers providing hands-on care feel more burned out and stressed. It is at this time that the statement, “I’m so tired of being a caregiver,” is heard and only understood by another caregiver in a similar situation. Being a 24/7 caregiver for a person with multiple health concerns is one of the most stressful live roles that exist.
Aging Parent’s Don’t Want to Be Judged
The idea of judgment exists in caregiving. Aging parents don’t want to feel like they are being judged, monitored, or assessed by their adult children. Heightened attention happens in situations where an aging parent has experienced an accident, and the children became hypervigilant trying to manage care and avoid a repeat situation.
The foundation for the monitoring is fear that harm will come to an aging parent. The aging parent views monitoring by adult children as being overbearing and intrusive.
Take this a step further to where adult children may make suggestions or offer ideas to parents about how to make situations better. These actions also result from fear. Fear that the aging parent will continue to experience health declines is a constant worry that results in sleepless nights.
Plus the fear that caregiving responsibilities and efforts will continue to increase in time and scope. Being a caregiver can turn into a full-time job. This transition is rarely considered by the aging parent who may live in a world of denial about an increase in caregiving responsibilities.
The up and down, back and forth tug of war between aging parents and adult children places the main caregiver in an uncomfortable situation. One child may have accepted the role and responsibility of being the caregiver but may not have wanted the role. Other children do little to help, and the caregiver continues to feel betrayed by family members.
Like the aging parent, caregivers don’t want to be judged. Unhelpful brothers and sisters and other family members often give unsolicited advice making the caregiver feel even more frustrated and angry. It’s no wonder caregiving feels like a struggle.
This sense of struggle impresses the importance for all caregivers to participate in support as early as possible. The earlier examples of life transitions and the effect on friendship relationships apply in caregiving.
The caregiver feels alone and abandoned by family and friends who do not speak the same language. Meaning that little understanding exists about the daily life of the caregiver and all of the responsibilities that exist. Criticism and guilt result in the caregiver feeling like he or she can’t possibly do enough.
Caregiving feels like a no-win situation, like a battle that will never be won. Caregivers rightly feel unappreciated and overworked.
From Caregiver Burnout to Transformation
When caregiving situations continue for some time, it is inevitable that the caregiver will experience caregiver burnout from the stress of being a caregiver for aging parents or loved ones. This is a danger point. Caregivers in these situations tend to tune out the outside world and focus on making it through the current day.
The risks of this type of coping to care for an aging parent or a spouse results in poor care and unintentional neglect. Under this amount of stress, the caregiver’s brain shuts off. New information is refused. The ability to problem solve becomes faulty. Mistakes are made in the care of loved ones.
Caregivers Feel Like They’re Drowning
It is easy for a caregiver to feel like he or she is being dragged down underwater by the role and responsibilities of caregiving. Being a caregiver for an aging parent who is unreasonable, denies a need for care, and has other habits that negatively affect health is an unpleasant situation.
The caregiver becomes stuck in a rut and negativity spirals. Without some type of support, it may feel impossible to the caregiver that situations will improve at all.
Negativity from the caregiver passes to the aging parent. If the aging parent is also negative, the caregiving situation becomes toxic, and both individuals would benefit from caregiving support.
Often the aging parent will make the caregiver feel guilty about joining a support group or taking a course. Fear exists that time spent away from the caregiving situation may result in the caregiver not wanting to return. Other fears are that the adult child might disclose personal information to others, which would be embarrassing to the aging parent.
Caregiver support is about the person who needs support. It is not about what others may think or how others may feel about the caregiver finding a support network.
Caregiver Support Offers A New Outlook, Increased Confidence, and New Skills
A caregiver who attends support groups expresses gratitude for finding a group. The ability to talk to another caregiver who understands feels like a breath of fresh air to a drowning caregiver. While family members and friends seem to talk a different language, caregivers speak the same language.
Laughter is common when caregivers compare family situations and realize that they are not the only one in a similar situation. Caregiving skills are learned and shared.
The uplifting that occurs from feeling understood and supported is one of the benefits of caregiver support groups and courses. Frustration and worry decrease. The caregiver becomes open-minded to new information and suggestions rather than trying to make it through the day.
Solutions to caregiving stress and burnout exist in groups. Caregivers realize that by participating with and learning from others in caregiving situations, caregiving becomes easier. New doors open and a sense of relief is experienced.
Caregiver Support, Resources, and Help For Caregivers Is Here
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Pamela’s courses Stay at Home and Power of Attorney help caregivers gain confidence in managing through unknown care situations. The courses complement each other in the information provided. For caregivers uncertain about the benefits of caregiving support, Pamela’s support page, and description of what is a caregiving webinar have common answers to caregiving questions.
Pamela’s weekly caregiving radio program, The Caring Generation® is another support for caregivers and aging adults worldwide. Caregiving TV on the Roku Channel features videos with helpful caregiving Information.
© 2019 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.
Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA is a national caregiving expert, advocate and speaker who solves caregiving problems. Since 1999, she has been a direct service provider as a court-appointed guardian, power of attorney, and care manager. In response to the need for accessible, accurate, reliable, and trustworthy information, today Pamela’s focus is to offer online caregiving support, programs, and courses for caregivers and aging adults. Her mission to reach caregivers worldwide is accomplished through social media channels of Facebook, YouTube, and Linked In, Caregiving TV on Roku, and The Caring Generation® radio on Internet radio. She also collaborates with professionals in the areas of estate planning, elder law, and probate, financial planning, and healthcare to raise awareness of and sensitivity to family caregiving and healthcare issues.