Caring for Elderly Parents: How to Feel Positive. When caring for Elderly Parents, it is so easy for us to find ourselves in unproductive emotions. Guilt can become an ever-present companion. As we struggle to accept new realities, we can get stuck in grief and sorrow.
Caring for your family member demonstrates love and commitment and can be a very rewarding personal experience. On the other hand, exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and continuous care demands are enormously stressful.
Choosing to See the Positive and Feel Good
We can and must practice finding ways of feeling positive and good. The more we practice, the more we are training our brains to support us in feeling good regardless of the external circumstances we face.
Care for Yourself
Only when we first help ourselves can we effectively help others. Caring for yourself is one of the most important and one of the most often forgotten things you can do when caring. When your needs are taken care of, the person you care for will benefit, too.
Steps to Managing Stress
1. Recognize warning signs early. These might include irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness. Know your own warning signs, and act to make changes. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed.
2. Identify sources of stress. Ask yourself, “What is causing stress for me?” Sources of stress might be that you have too much to do, family disagreements, feelings of inadequacy, or the inability to say no.
3. Identify what you can and cannot change. Remember, we can only change ourselves; we cannot change another person. When you try to change things over which you have no control, you will only increase your sense of frustration.
4. Take Action. Taking some action to reduce stress gives us back a sense of control. Stress reducers can be simple activities like walking and other forms of exercise, gardening, meditation.
Starting to Exercise
Research suggests that you can maintain or at least partly restore endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility through everyday physical activities. The key is to increase your physical activity by exercising and using your own muscle power.
Exercise promotes better sleep, reduces tension and depression, and increases energy and alertness. If finding time for exercise is a problem, incorporate it into your daily activity. Perhaps the care recipient can walk or do stretching exercise with you. If necessary, do frequent short exercises instead of those that require large blocks of time. Find activities you enjoy.
Learning from Our Emotions
It is a strength to recognize when your emotions are controlling you (instead of you controlling your emotions). Our emotions are messages to which we need to listen. They exist for a reason.
However negative or painful, our feelings are useful tools for understanding what is happening to us. Even feelings such as guilt, anger, and resentment contain important messages. Learn from them, then take appropriate action.
Caring for elderly parents often involves a range of emotions. Some feelings are more comfortable than others. When you find that your emotions are intense, they might mean the following:
• That you need to make a change in your caregiving situation.
• That you are grieving a loss.
• That you are experiencing increased stress.
• That you need to be assertive and ask for what you need.
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caring for elderly parents. It’s an important part of the job. You are responsible for your own self-care. Focus on the following self-care practices:
• Learn and use stress-reduction techniques.
• Attend to your own healthcare needs.
• Get proper rest and nutrition.
• Exercise regularly.
• Take time off without feeling guilty.
• Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities.
• Seek and accept the support of others.
• Identify and acknowledge your feelings.