How To Deal With The Emotions Of Helping An Aging Parent?

At some point or another, as an adult, we will come across a moment when we realize that our aging parent is getting old.  Sometimes it is as simple as we start to notice that they are getting weak and frail, others will see it after the death of their spouse or some other life changing event or maybe it is after they had to be admitted to the hospital for a few days.  When we get to this point, we start to feel a variety of emotions such as:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Concern
  • Nostalgia
  • Sadness
  • Fear

It is then that we feel emotionally uncertain about helping our aging parent starts.  And if there needs to be an intervention to handle the situation best, then it is not uncommon to experience a plethora of emotions.

Dynamics of the family

The good thing about doing this as a family is that you can do it together instead of approaching it on your own.  Sometimes this type of situation can bring out the worst and best in everyone, so be prepared and be patient with everyone involved.  This is why it is an excellent idea for families to start discussing the long-term care needs of your loved one before they need help, this way by the time they are in need of help, things will go a lot smoother.  Don’t get me wrong; it will still be stressful regardless, but preparation can make the transition a whole lot easier.
dealing with emotions
How to sort out the emotions

There is no doubt the emotions you will feel will be complicated, because you not only have to deal with your feelings, you will also have to help your aging parent through their emotional roller coaster.  Some of the emotional feelings that you that everyone involved may go through are:

  • Universal guilt
  • Financial fears
  • Losing the family home
  • Change of the parents’ role in the family
  • Unresolved issues with a parent
  • You will start to think about your mortality and aging process
  • Taking a caregiver role which may cause resentment

Stress can sometimes take an emotional toll on everyone involved and as a caretaker you will probably have to start helping your aging parent with some of their day to day activities such as:

  • Medical concerns
  • Legal issues
  • Financial issues
  • Tasks that need to be completed
  • Decisions that need to be made

So what is the best way for a person in this situation to handle the wave of emotions?

First, it is important to understand that feeling stressed during times like this is normal, so if you feel emotions like guilt, worry, resentment or anger you should know that this is not unusual.  But here are a few tips that will help you to navigate when the stress levels go through the roof:

The feelings of anger are a secondary emotion that you may feel from time to time that is associated with sadness.  One of the best ways to overcome anger is first to acknowledge it and then see if you can find a healthy way to let it go and express your feelings.  Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you to sort out anger.

  • Do I need to talk to someone to find ways to let things go?
  • Do I need to talk to someone to work things out?
  • Do I need time to grieve?
  • What am I hurt by?  Was it something somebody did or say?
  • Do I need to be more assertive?
  • Am I setting the right boundaries?
  • Am I saying yes to everything when I mean NO?
  • Am I getting treated poorly?
  • Am I taking on way too much than I can handle right now?

Resentment typically comes about when there is more than one sibling, and one or more sibling is feeling that they are doing way more than their older siblings.  You could feel this way if you are in a situation where you feel you had no say and you were put into a position, not by choice, such as getting the role to be a caretaker or sometimes the emotion of resentment could come about because you have some unmet expectations.  Sometimes it is hard to come to terms with the feelings of resentment because you feel like you shouldn’t be feeling this way.  Ask yourself these questions to figure out your sense of resentment:

  • Do I need to meet with the other family members and discuss with them how each responsibility should be handled evenly among each other?
  • Am I taking on more responsibilities than I can handle?
  • Am I having realistic expectations of my other family members and myself?  And can I let those expectations go if necessary?
  • How do I best take care of myself?

When you have an aging parent that their condition is uncertain or changing, then you normally are going to start to worry.  Sometimes when we feel out of control, fear can give us a false sense of security where we feel like we are in control.  Anxiety typically leads to higher stress levels and brings about a lot of “what if” questions.  Here are a few questions to help you figure out the feelings of worry:

  • At this point how do I go about living one day at a time?
  • What are the things that I have control over in my situation?
  • What things can I put in place to help me feel more secure?
  • Is it ok to just focus on worrying at a given moment of the day and then let it go for the rest of my time?

Anyone that cares for an aging parent will feel some form of guilt and most family members find themselves in this situation because they set unrealistic expectations for themselves.  You are probably encouraging the feelings of guilt if you often find yourself saying “I Should”  It is important to remember that you are doing the best job that you can do right now, so be patient and don’t beat yourself up too much.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I asking for help?
  • Am I taking care of myself?
  • Am I too hard on myself?

You should know that you are not alone if you are feeling any of these emotions that are associated with helping a loved one that is aging.  This is why it is important that you find an assisted living or nursing homes that understands these emotions and that will listen to you and your loved one, as they can help you find solutions.

Case Worker