My Elderly Parents Stress Me Out – The Caring Generation®
The Caring Generation® Episode 62 November 4, 2020. Join Pamela D Wilson, Caregiving Expert for My Elderly Parents Stress Me Out and tips for caregivers who feel trapped caring for elderly parents. Guest Dr. Eric B. Larson Senior Investigator Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research, Clinical Professor University of Washington School of Public Health who shares research about Preventing Memory Loss from the SMARRT Study.
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My Elderly Parents Stress Me Out
00:04 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation. Pamela D Wilson.
00:48 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program, coming to you live from the BBM global network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves, and aging parents, all tied together with a little bit of humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver. The topic for this caregiving radio program is My Elderly Parents Stress Me Out. How to manage the emotions of feeling trapped caring for elderly parents. During this program, we’ll talk about five areas that relate to feeling that my elderly parents stress me out—this is by caregiver request.
My Elderly Parents Stress Me Out: What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do
01:34 Pamela D Wilson: These include managing our thoughts and the way that we respond, including identifying physical or mental responses to feeling trapped caring for elderly parents. We will also look at ways to focus on reality versus letting our imaginations run wild that can be emotionally upsetting, and it can affect the way that we want to respond. But we’re not always successful. And then we’ll talk about how to create a path forward from all these thoughts of my elderly parents stress me out and thoughts of feeling trapped caring for elderly parents. Our guest for this program is Dr. Eric B. Larson. He is a general internist who researches aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, including cognitive health and genetics. He is a senior investigator with Kaiser Permanente Washington, who, in collaboration with the University of Washington School of Public Health, have implemented the ACT study that’s called Adult Changes in Thought since 1986. It’s one of the longest-running studies around.
02:45 Pamela D Wilson: On this program, he will share results from a more recent research study called SMARRT, Systematic Multi-domain Alzheimer’s Risk Reduction Trial—that’s a mouthful. Actions that we can all take to reduce the risk of a memory loss diagnosis. So let’s go back to our subject—let’s start with the first idea that relates to my elderly parents stress me out and feeling trapped caring for elderly parents. I’d like to begin with the thought of thinking, pausing, and reflecting before speaking or responding. When we look at the stress that we experience from situations or relationships—whether in caregiving, in the workplace, or personal—all of the stress that we feel comes from feeling pulled in one direction or another, or feeling stuck. Maybe not making any progress toward goals that you want to accomplish. If you’re feeling stuck in the role of a caregiver and feeling trapped caring for elderly parents, your thoughts or your mind might be pulling you down. Dragging you down. You may not realize the power that you have to change this situation if you can think just a little bit differently.
04:02 Pamela D Wilson: How do all these situations begin? One example is when an elderly parent refuses care. Let’s say that mom or dad won’t take medications, follow a doctor’s recommendation or take any action like exercising or eating better, that could have some positive benefits. The bottom line is that your parent probably won’t do this because mom or dad can’t see through this idea of having to make changes in his or her life. Mom or dad could also be feeling a little helpless or hopeless, and then you’re feeling trapped caring for elderly parents who won’t do anything, and you’re stressed out because you feel like you’re having to do everything, and this feels burdensome. Instead of arguing or disagreeing with an aging parent—that you may have learned by now doesn’t work. Think, pause, think for a few more seconds before you speak, or say anything. Even go to the extent to count to 50 or 100, or you can say something like, “I need to think about this. Let me talk about this later.”
05:06 Pamela D Wilson: You can think of this as being at an emotional crossroads. You can go left or right, choose A or B. Choose to argue and become more upset or be nice, kind, patient, and empathetic. The angrier and more emotional that you become, the more likely you are to do or say something that won’t help the situation. This is the idea of feeling trapped caring for elderly parents. All you’re thinking is, “Ah, my elderly parents stress me out, and I don’t like feeling this way.” We’ve all been in stressful situations. Stop, reflect, take control of your brain before you respond. When you learn to choose how you respond, you can redirect your thoughts to that being nice, kind, or empathetic instead of angry or frustrated. Then you can create a better outcome and have a better relationship with everybody in your life, including your elderly parents or your spouse. We’re not born with this idea of emotional intelligence. It’s a skill that we learn through practice and experience.
06:08 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s take one step back and look at how we can notice when our emotional levels are rising. When you’re upset, does your heart beat faster? Do you feel hot in your face or your neck? What about clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth? How many of you clench or grind your teeth even while you’re sleeping? What about clenching your fist, rubbing your head, or the more obvious, raising your voice, yelling, sometimes, even screaming? These are all physical or mental signs that mean my elderly parent is stressing me out. Feeling trapped caring for elderly parents means that every feeling that we have is connected to a thought. Stop, pause, and ask yourself what you’re thinking and why. If you’re emotionally upset, do your thoughts relate to a prior experience that was upsetting that you still remember? Are you replaying that event in your mind where your feelings were hurt, and you’re bringing all that to the experience today? Do you feel trapped caring for elderly parents with no clear path to make the situation easier? A lot of caregivers tell me they feel this way. Are you letting the imagination part of your brain sway your thoughts to respond with fear instead of facts and reality? Here’s a way to know the difference between imagination and facts.
07:30 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s look at a common caregiver situation. Your brother or sister promised to help you, and he or she didn’t show up. You were relying on them to take mom or dad to a doctor appointment. Instead, you get a call from mom or dad 30 minutes before that appointment, and your brother or sister didn’t show up. You’re at work—you can’t get there quick enough, and you’d rather not send mom or dad by the taxi or Uber to the appointment because there were questions that needed to be asked and answered. So you called to cancel the doctor’s appointment, and you reschedule it on a day that you can take off work to take mom or dad. But you’re feeling angry. You’re fuming—you would love to call your brother or sister and scream at them, but you stopped yourself. Instead, you make that choice to take control of your brain—stop those angry thoughts.
08:16 Pamela D Wilson: In the second half of this program, we’ll talk about how to differentiate between things that we imagine in our minds versus facts. How many times do your thoughts run rampant to crazy situations, or you imagine that somebody might be angry with you and they’re not, or you’re just thinking all kinds of things about something that you’ve done or didn’t do? A lot of us do that, and a lot of us also react to fear. We’re afraid of things. So all we do is worry and fret. A lot of caregivers do that. Up next, we have Dr. Eric B. Larson, he is from Kaiser Permanente, Washington, and the University of Washington School of Public Health. He’s going to join us to talk about the SMARRT study and risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and actions that we all can take today to prevent memory loss for ourselves, and also how to notice if our elderly parents are taking actions that would help them also prevent memory loss.
09:16 Pamela D Wilson: You can follow me on Facebook at PamelaDWilsoncaregivingexpert. You can join my online caregiver support group, it is called The Caregiving Trap. There are a lot of wonderful, amazing caregivers in there from around the world. As young as the age of 20, all the way up to 70, 80, 90. I’m Pamela D Wilson. You are with me on The Caring Generation radio show, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
12:02 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio show for caregivers live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Joining us is Dr. Eric B. Larson. Dr. Larson, welcome to the show.
12:16 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Thank you. Nice to be on the show.
12:19 Pamela D Wilson: You were a member of the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention intervention and care, which released its report in July. What were the findings of that report?
12:31 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Yes, the main finding that attracted a lot of attention was the notion that up to 40% of the risk for becoming afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease could be potentially modified by factors that are changeable. Everything from childhood education, well-being up to exercise, and control of blood pressure. That amount was 40%. In our previous estimate, it had been 37%, so it’s probably a wonky kind of difference. But it suggests that it’s really important to do what we can to prevent this disease.
13:10 Pamela D Wilson: And can you just talk about some of those factors? I know you mentioned childhood education. What else is in there?
13:17 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Everything from hearing loss, which is a big factor, to exercise—regular exercise—to control of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, and then a big factor that we’re very interested in is depression as well as things like the medications that people take. And many medications can have an adverse effect on a person’s brain.
13:45 Pamela D Wilson: Thank you. One of your more recent studies, it’s called the SMARRT study. Can you talk about the goal of that study and how it relates to the Lancet commission findings?
13:55 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Yes. Very, very important to talk about that. The Lancet Commission gave the theoretical basis for reducing the risk of dementia or maybe delaying it, and a lot of that came from studies we did at Kaiser here in Washington showing that this, that, and the other factor led to a reduction or an increase in risk. But it was all theoretical. And in the world literature, there’s only been one study which was able to actually demonstrate a reduced rate of dementia, or in this case, it was just cognitive decline. So the SMARRT study was to take these findings and say, “Well, can we prove that people will try to reduce their risk, and if they do successfully make changes, will those changes turn into better cognition or in the great scheme of time, less dementia as people age?”
15:00 Pamela D Wilson: And so, what is the background of the people who participated in this study?
15:07 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Yes, that’s a really important question. They’re older. We chose a group of people that we thought would be at higher risk for becoming demented. Because these events happen infrequently, and you want to see some things to tally in your research. So the age is from 70 to 89. The people tend to discord in the lower half of a cognitive screening test that we use, and the people had to have some of the risk factors that were pointed out in the Lancet study. So that meant—and it was a population that was probably like a lot of the people that your caregivers are caring for—they have problems, and they have needs, and there’s a possibility that if things are done right or better, the outcome will be better in the long run.
16:03 Pamela D Wilson: And from the information that I read, there were two groups in the study. Some of those who actually participated and then others who received education. Can you describe the differences in the time that was involved with each of those groups?
16:16 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Yes. The one group was called a control group, and every quarter we would send them a little bit of information about dementia, late life, and the sort of thing that if you went out on the web, you could probably find, or we actually have it within Kaiser. For example, the other group was a group that was enrolled at random, and they were offered work with a health coach; and the health coach went over their risk factors and asked them, “What would you personally like to work on if you had something you could work on to reduce your risk of becoming demented or losing cognitive function?” And the coaches then would work with these individuals in various amounts of time. But the average person had between 12 and 24 contacts with a coach over the course of two years. The study is still ongoing, by the way.
17:21 Pamela D Wilson: And one thing I want readers to know is, can you talk about the fact that these people actually were obviously Kaiser members. But did they have to go see the doctor so many times, or how did you collect all this health history over this period of time?
17:35 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Well, we had COVID start in the middle of the study. But we had one plan going in, and we had to change it. But basically, we started out with an in-person visit—if that’s what a person wanted—and then we let the person decide. The visit was with a coach. Not with the doctor. The coaches are people who have special skills in behavior change, and the coaches were trained to find out where a person is in the stages of change and then work through those changes and preferences, and if they conquered one goal, for example, like increasing your physical activity, they could work on to another goal like better control of your diabetes, and on average, what we found was people are really interested in this. They wanted to make themselves better, but that it is a struggle when you’re 70, 75, 80 to make some of these behavior changes, and that’s why the coaches who have these behavior change skills—that most of us don’t have—were so special for this study.
18:49 Pamela D Wilson: And so the people that were in there, did they know that the motivation was all about—I want my memory not to get worse? You know what, let me finish that question after the break. Listeners, we are going to continue our conversation with Dr. Eric B. Larson after this break, the podcast of this radio show for caregivers, including the show transcripts, will be up in about a week. Go to my website, pameladwilson.com, click on the Media tab. Scroll down to The Caring Generation radio show. This is Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation, you’re with us live on the BBM global network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
21:45 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host for The Caring Generation on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. We’re back to continue our conversation with Dr. Eric B. Larson. So, Dr. Larson, before the break, I was asking you what motivated the 70 to 80-plus-year-olds to participate in this study?
22:07 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Some of it is just goodwill. They want to help us as scientists find better ways to understand the brain and aging. But I think what the theory of the study is—people of all the things that would motivate somebody to change and take better care of themselves or become an activist—the idea that you could prevent yourself or protect yourself from becoming demented is a powerful motivator and even doctors—the disease that doctors dread the most is dementia, and of course, everybody nowadays have seen somebody with dementia and knows how difficult that can be for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
22:54 Pamela D Wilson: It’s a very sad disease. So talk for a minute about active approach to aging.
23:01 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Well, believe it or not, I’ve actually written a book on this called Enlightened Aging. But the idea of an active approach is that you take aging seriously and you don’t become—well, this is going to happen to me because I’m getting older, and I’ll just take whatever happens. But you begin to understand aging. In our case, it’s the aging of our brains, and you begin to learn what can you do to reduce your rate of decline. And that’s what the study is all about. It says, can we help a person be motivated enough to want to exercise more? To want to deal with—many people have sleeping problems in older age—or really at any age. But especially in old age, and there are behavioral techniques that really work to help people deal with their sleeping problems, and one of the areas of science that’s so interesting right now is the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, and so we’re learning about that at the molecular level, and I’d like to figure out ways that people can learn about it as individuals and take this—I’m going to control my aging as much as I can. I’ll accept the things that happen because some of them are just natural, but anything that’s modifiable, like these risk factors that are in the Lancet Commission, are things that I can do something about, and therefore I want to do something about it, or I want to help somebody else do something about it.
24:35 Pamela D Wilson: Talk more about some of the study findings.
24:39 Dr. B. Eric Larson: Well, the thing that I think is most interesting is that most people, and I think I would say 85% so far, are committed, and they begin to work on their goals and they—the way this study was done, and it ended up that a lot of the people have comorbid conditions. Other problems in their lives, so while they’re in the study, they may fall and break their hip or something like that. So that was a surprise to us. But if we thought about it a little more, I think we would have realized that that’s going to happen. But I guess the thing—the two surprises are—one, people are motivated. People can change. It’s amazing how many people tell us we’re so grateful to be in this study because this, that, and the other thing is now different because of my work with the health coach, and people feel better when they make a positive change in their life. So their subjective well-being is improved. And then the other thing is, it’s just the complexity of as we get older, there are just things that you have to deal with, and in some ways, we can help them in by being in this study. But mostly people have to learn and use their doctors or their other healthcare providers or their family and caregivers to make the best of the situation, and I think most people do. It’s a very uplifting study at the end of the day.
26:19 Pamela D Wilson: How can people actually find out more about the study is there—can they go on your website, is there anything published yet?
26:27 Dr. B. Eric Larson: We have a couple of papers published that are describing the protocol, and I think you’re going to have links to them on your website. We also have a website that describes the study at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, and you can find out about it there. And the other study that I think is worth looking at, if you’re interested in this area of brain aging and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, is our study called the Adult Changes in Thought or ACT study. This is the longest continuous study anywhere in older people above the age of 65. Following them over time and keeping a sample enrolled. We’ve been—we started the cohort in 1994, and it’s still going, So it’s a remarkable study. And it’s well described on the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute website.
27:29 Pamela D Wilson: Well, and I think I probably have some jealous listeners—so does Kaiser do this research any other place throughout the country? People are probably wondering, “Well, can I get into something like this?”
27:41 Dr. B. Eric Larson: There are research institutes in all the Kaiser regions. We’re the only one that’s doing this particular study, and it’s a unique place for this kind of research. But other people are looking at breast cancer and vaccines and mental health and a whole host of things. So it’s pretty typical of a Kaiser Research Institute, they have studies like ours, but not exactly like ours.
28:08 Pamela D Wilson: Wonderful. Dr. Larson, thank you so much for joining us and for all the work that you do. Listeners, I will put links into the show transcript to all of these studies. Dr. Larson was kind enough to provide all the links for me. Do invite your friends and your family to join us every Wednesday evening and to catch the replay of this show next week in podcast form. This is Pamela D Wilson, your host. You are with me on The Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. I’ll be right back.
30:56 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults. Live from the BBM global network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, health, the patient experience, family relationships and everything in between. Let’s get back to the idea of my elderly parents stress me out, and I feel trapped caring for elderly parents. How often does your imagination take you to that place of fear or worry? This can happen when we’ve had experiences or relationships that were challenging, especially if we felt out of control or we struggled to come up with solutions.
31:42 Pamela D Wilson: Let’s look at a way of stopping our imagination from getting the best of us. This can help all of us. So think of an upsetting situation, and you can use the story that we talked about earlier with the brother or sister who was supposed to take mom or dad to a doctor appointment, and they didn’t show up. So you’re upset. Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle, make two columns, left and right. On the left, you have facts, and on the right, you have imagination, and let’s start with the imagination because that one may be a little more fun. So your brother and sister didn’t show up because they were killed in a tragic car accident. Otherwise, certainly, they would have shown up to take mom or dad to the appointment. That may be wishful thinking because you are so angry, but is it really logical thinking? What facts does your brain have to substantiate a car accident or thinking the worst?
32:39 Pamela D Wilson: Now other imaginings. Having a car breakdown, being sick, maybe an emergency with their children. But then why didn’t they pick up the phone and call? On the other column—facts. You spoke to your brother or sister two days ago to reconfirm the appointment. You even sent an email with the address of the doctor’s office, the pick-up time, the appointment time. All the questions you wanted them to ask. Even a list of prescriptions. You didn’t miss any single detail. Everything was in there. Now, obviously, you start asking yourself why you’re angry. That’s probably pretty obvious. It’s because you relied on somebody else—your brother or sister—to do something that was really important to you and your parents, and they let you down. Instead of calling during the day while you’re at work, you want to make a few notes and rehearse that phone call that you will make to your brother or sister this evening or whenever you are calm enough to make that call. While upsetting during the day, not picking up that phone to call your brother or sister immediately gives you more time to think and actually cool down. It avoids a really bad reaction. Causing another reaction which would be theirs—which really can’t change the fact that mom or dad missed that appointment.
33:53 Pamela D Wilson: It’s water under the bridge. This is one example of why that statement, my elderly parents stress me out, may not always be about your aging parents. They’re not always causing the stress. It could be other people. Caregiver stress can be caused by your brothers and sisters and outside providers and so many other situations as we all know. But what it comes down to is, is the caregiver feels trapped by all of these circumstances involved in caring for elderly parents. Let’s look at another example of how my elderly parents stress me out, and how caregivers feel trapped caring for elderly parents. As you care for aging parents, how many of you feel like you’re walking on eggshells? You’re trying to make everybody happy, and it’s you that’s suffering.
34:41 Pamela D Wilson: This means that your health and your well-being are suffering because you are feeling trapped caring for elderly parents. Like you have no other options. In this example, let’s say that you have to encourage mom or dad to do something that is good for them, but they may not want to make that effort. Mom or dad may say things like, “why should I do that?” and you keep coming up with reason after reason. But they’re still not sold on this idea of change. So how many of you are salespeople? Being questioned or feeling like you have to convince another person can bring up a lot of feelings of insecurity or doubt. Becoming a caregiver and learning to become that advocate over time benefits sometimes from thinking like a salesperson whose job it is to do what? Overcome objections. This questioning or refusal to act by mom or dad, it’s similar to—believe it or not—a sales objection.
35:38 Pamela D Wilson: Doesn’t matter if you’re a salesperson or a caregiver. If you’re being questioned or you’re having difficulty convincing an aging parent to take action, it’s normal to want to just jump in and immediately respond. This is where you may want to train your brain to pause and think for a second. Responding too quickly means that we might be making assumptions about the reasons that our parents are asking questions or objecting without really knowing why. So how many times, if you’re a salesperson, do you try to probe to get that information? As a caregiver, that imagination part of our brain takes over, and we think we have all the answers. That causes problems when we practice stopping our thoughts right here—and we train our brain to go off on tangents to ignore negative emotions—we can focus on solutions instead of problems. So the idea is to get out of your mind. Pretend that you don’t know anything about the situation and that you’re interviewing your parents looking at the situation from the outside in. Ask questions, listen, so that you understand what they’re worried about. Change your body language and your tone of voice from angry or reacting to relaxed and making a solution the priority. Keep asking questions until you understand what mom or dad are thinking.
36:58 Pamela D Wilson: Keep asking why. Also ask, what else am I not asking? What else should we be talking about that we might not be? If the objections are a subject that you have some facts for instead of only your opinion, you want to respond after listening. But because caregiving situations are so complicated, it’s nearly impossible to have all the facts without doing a little bit of research about alternatives to care. Care costs, maybe you’re investigating medical care or a diagnosis or some legal issues. These are the areas where most caregivers run into challenges because they don’t have any experience there. That is the emotional aspect of caregiving, and then the other aspect is just planning and managing care. It’s the ideas of caregivers saying they’re not prepared for caregiving, and all of this comes up, and we talked about this on another show. It was called Life as a Caregiver, and we talked a lot about how caregivers just go through trial and error because there’s really no manual for how to become a caregiver. That manual of how to be a caregiver is on my website. It’s in my online caregiver course called Stay At Home, Taking Care of Elderly Parents at Home and Beyond.
38:11 Pamela D Wilson: There’s also more help for caregivers. It is in my book, The Caregiving Trap Solutions for Life’s Unexpected Changes. That’s also on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. Do invite your family, your friends, and your co-workers to join us here every Wednesday evening. There is helpful information for every caregiver. No matter if you are 20 years old all the way up to 80 and 90, caring for a spouse. You can also catch the podcast replays of all of these weekly programs. It’s on Apple, Google, Spreaker, Spotify, a lot of your favorite podcast sites. You can make it easy for your elderly parents and your family members to listen by installing that app on their cell phones. Follow and like the show, and they can listen to it every single week. Check it out. It’s all on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. This is Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation. You’re with me live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
41:32 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker on The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Let’s talk more about the stress of caring for aging parents. Allowing our mind to focus on my elderly parents stress me out, and thoughts of feeling trapped caring for elderly parents keeps our mind in a negative space. It’s an emotional journey that we allow when that imagination part of our brain takes over our lives, and we just feel like we’re going crazy. Identifying a way to resolve those feelings of being trapped—it can take a little bit of work—but we can all do it because solutions to all these problems in caregiving—because there are so many issues that crop up, it’s not like they’re dropping into our laps.
42:21 Pamela D Wilson: Dwelling on thoughts of “my elderly parents stress me out.” It takes us back to that emotional crossroads where we have a choice to make between anger and frustration or being kind, patient, and looking at solutions. On the subject of feeling trapped caring for elderly parents, we want to avoid judgment. Which can be a defense mechanism for ourselves. People who judge others, you may know some of these folks, they may be your family members who nitpick many times are insecure themselves. Insecurity in caregiving situations, it transfers to the idea of losing control. And sometimes, that behavior can drive people away. So if your parents are angry, they may be pushing you away, or if your brother and sister are angry about the situation with your parents, you may not want to talk to them.
43:07 Pamela D Wilson: So there’s so much in caregiving that is up in the air, and for our aging parents, their health may be declining. Maybe they can’t do all the things that they used to be able to do. So it’s all of this uncertainty that creates this doubt and disagreements in families. And especially trying to navigate the healthcare system. It’s a challenge when you think you know what’s going on, and then all of a sudden something pops out of nowhere, and you’re thinking, “Wow, nobody told me that.” There’s a lot of areas where information gaps happen, and those gaps can turn into another area where caregivers sometimes can be critical or blame others for things that go wrong, and it’s a bad habit that we all can have. That’s why it’s important to take time out. Find a way to distract yourself. Listen to some music. Think about how you want to respond. Always try to rehearse what you might say if you are angry. Even if you have to delay that conversation so that you can think about it for a little bit. Talk to elderly parents about ways that you can solve problems and research. That takes us back to making a list of what we think to be true versus what we can substantiate with facts to reduce feelings that elderly parents are stressing us out.
44:20 Pamela D Wilson: This is where as a caregiver if we focus on what we want instead of what we don’t want, we can see ourselves as being very capable of solving these caregiving challenges because then we’re not allowing our emotions and our fears and our frustrations to take over everything in our life. If we can train our brain to pause and think, then we gain that control over our emotions. Then you gain more power and control over your day-to-day situations. As a caregiver, you feel less stressed out, less threatened, less insecure. And all of these new skills will be helpful to you because the health of your elderly parents is probably going to continue to decline. That is the way of life. All of these skills that you learn in caregiving will continue to benefit you for your own healthcare like we talked about with Dr. Larson. As the needs of aging parents advance, you might still feel like, “ah, my elderly parents stress me out,” but you may not feel so trapped by caring for elderly parents anymore. Realize that all of us, even those people in Dr. Larson’s studies, can learn new information and new skills. We can be lifelong learners. We can become better advocates for our aging parents and ourselves.
45:34 Pamela D Wilson: As a caregiver, when you learn to coordinate and oversee and advocate for all this medical care, it’s an advanced skill. Believe it or not, that medical care that you can learn to provide, relates to the health conditions of your elderly parent. So let’s say if somebody has high blood pressure, you might be using an automatic blood pressure machine. If an elderly parent is diabetic, maybe you’re learning more about diabetes and taking blood sugar and insulin doses. Every diagnosis has a lot of practical things that caregivers can learn if you take an interest. Plus, you can learn how to prevent that condition in yourself. Sometimes doctors and the healthcare professionals don’t know what caregivers know, and this is why it’s important to speak up and offer information. Also, seek out information. Online caregiving courses, online caregiving groups, there’s a lot of simple actions that you can take every day to learn, and also just to check in on the care of your aging parents to catch any further health complications before a hospitalization or something else happens. While it seems like sometimes doctors should know everything about caregiving, they always don’t.
46:45 Pamela D Wilson: The healthcare system is very specialized. Doctors are definitely experts at the medical care related to their specialty. That’s why sometimes if your elderly parent has other conditions, you do want to ask for a referral to a specialist. So a cardiologist for heart disease and an endocrinologist for diabetes. There’s a lot of specialists out there that can help you take better care of your aging parent. That way, you’re not feeling so trapped and so stressed. More information about taking care of elderly parents is on my website at www.PamelaDWilson.com. Let’s talk for just one second about feeling trapped and stressed, and what happens to your brain. So when you feel stuck, your brain starts to react, and it goes to negativity, and it goes to fear. And you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, all these horrible things are going to happen.” And then what happens is, your brain starts in the spiral. You feel more out of control. Maybe your blood pressure starts to rise. Maybe you notice that you’re starting to sweat, and you’re thinking, “Oh my gosh, how am I going to deal with this?” The way that you do that is to slow down. Also, the way that you do it is to find information about the things that are scaring you.
48:00 Pamela D Wilson: So an example with Dr. Larson. All the people that participated in that study willingly were very interested in memory loss. But they were interested in not getting memory loss—not being diagnosed with dementia. And as a result, they turned their fear into a lot of positive actions. Which was actually volunteering to participate in that study. And for some people, it was managing their blood pressure. For other people, it could have been exercise, getting hearing aids for hearing loss, all those things that Dr. Larson mentioned that could prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I will again put those links to his research study in this transcript so that you can check it out next week. This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving, author, expert, and speaker. You’re with me on The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.
51:15 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. This is The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults, live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Coming up next week, we will be talking about challenges in healthcare for companies who provide caregiver support for aging parents. This includes assisted living communities and nursing homes. We’ll also talk about how those challenges create challenges for caregivers and aging adults. My guest will be Jim Berklan of McKnight’s Long-Term Care news. So let’s return to thoughts of my elderly parents stress me out and feeling trapped caring for elderly parents with the idea of problem-solving. Which is an ongoing caregiving skill that’s useful in all areas of life. We talked a lot about managing our thoughts. Noticing how we respond to emotional stress, taking care of our emotions, and identifying the difference between our brain on imagination and our brain on facts.
52:14 Pamela D Wilson: So when we move past the idea that my elderly parents stress me out and I’m feeling totally trapped. We can work with our elderly parents to come up with solutions. So what does it mean? So when elderly parents resist, we’re looking at the idea of responding to their objection. For us, that means listening and responding with some factual information. So something like, “hey mom or dad, I understand you don’t want to take blood pressure medication. I spoke to the doctor. What if you have a heart attack, a stroke?” All of this. “what do you think about how you’d like to feel, and what risks do you want to take about your health?”
52:54 Pamela D Wilson: And then you want to listen. Taking control of when your elderly parents stress you out is sometimes about offering facts and giving your parents options so that they feel more in control of their choices, which really is what all of us want to feel. It doesn’t mean that mom or dad will always make the best choice based on consequences, but at least you’re giving them the choice. This leads to how do caregivers balance that loss of control that we feel when our elderly parents don’t make good choices. We have a choice, that choice is to be willing to swoop in and rescue an elderly parent who makes a mistake. The other choice is to walk away. And while most caregivers will not walk away. Knowing that you can make that choice can sometimes decrease that fear and those feelings of loss of control that you’re feeling. Because let’s be honest, a lot of decisions we make are not logical. They’re emotional, which is why caregivers say, “oh, my elderly parents stress me out, I feel trapped.” Take that imagination out of your brain to end those feelings of being trapped. Caregivers who only rely on their emotions often do things that really aren’t in our best interest and don’t our elderly parents do the same. That’s why caregiving has such a significant physical and emotional effect on our lives. We can’t control what other people do. And we feel sometimes that we should, or we feel like we are responsible for the actions of other people we’re not, we all make choices.
54:30 Pamela D Wilson: So when you work on stopping those emotional thoughts, you can decrease that fear of loss, gain more control over your caregiving situations. Caregivers ask for the healthy education that you need from your elderly parents, your family, the workplace, step into your life, act, and make progress every day. You can do this. Also, you can go on the website, complete a caregiver stress assessment. You can go to www.PamelaDWilson.com, click on the contact me button. Scroll down, you can take that stress assessment. I’d like to thank everybody who has already done that. The feedback that you are providing is amazing. And it helps me come up with subject matter and guests for the show every week. Do invite your family members and your friends to join us here every Wednesday night on The Caring Generation radio show. Visit my website, www.PamelaDWilson.com. All the shows are there under the media tab. You can also visit my Caring for Aging Parents blog. There is a lot of helpful information in there. A lot of those subjects come from caregivers and go to my Facebook page. On there is the Caregiving Trap. It is an online caregiving group. Again, a lot of amazing, amazing people in there.
55:39 Pamela D Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert advocate, author, and speaker. God bless all of you caregivers. Thank you for everything that you do. Sleep well tonight, have a fabulous day tomorrow, and a great week until we are here together again.
55:55 Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D Wilson. Come join the conversation and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D Wilson’s The Caring Generation.