How to Deal with the Stress of Caring for an Elderly Parent
“My dad needs to get out of my house or I’m going to lose my mind!”
Felt this way about your parents? You might be surprised that it’s a common sentiment among adult children who are caring for their parents — and especially for elderly parents living in their home.
Needless to say, this feeling of being fed up is normal and all too common when caring for your loved one.
We know your pain, and we have experienced your guilt, so we wanted to provide you with some helpful tips to manage the stress of caring for an elderly parent.
1. Avoid Repeating Repeating
No, that’s not just a bad pun, but a tried and true way to avoid conflict with your parent. Let’s be honest, your parents like to repeat stories — we all do — but if you’ve heard it a million times. Likely, you’re at the point where the conversation is a cycle, they start telling a story and you cut them off saying you’ve heard it before.
Instead of saying you’ve heard it all before though, try telling the story back to them. Make a game of it, “And then you… no don’t tell me, I got this.” Chances are, your parent will be happy to know you’re actually listening.
2. Don’t Reprimand Forgetfulness, Invent Solutions
Regardless of whether or not your parent is suffering from memory loss, it is hard to remember something new. If you recently set them up with a smart phone, or got them an Apple TV, and they forget how to use them, don’t sigh (or grunt) and say, “I just showed you how to do this.”
Learning new things (and especially technology) is hard, so rather than act condescending to your elder (the way a savvy 13-year-old would explain Instagram to you), explain how to use it.
Moreover, you can come up with solutions like writing a visual guide or marking certain functions with sticky notes.
3. Let Them Be Independent
Part of the stress of caring for an elderly parent comes from the fact that they need help — sometimes with minute, but time-consuming tasks — but if they can do something on their own, let them, no matter how long it takes. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say your parent is having difficulty eating some cereal. They’re barely able to grip the spoon, let alone hold it steady to their mouth. They’re making a mess, but they are determined. Let them do it on their own.
It’s important to give your elderly parents the freedom to do things on their own if they are able. Not only will this make them stronger, but it will inspire them knowing you have confidence in them.
Remember, most parents feel a tremendous amount of guilt for being a burden to you. If they can do something on their own, be thankful and encourage them! You can always offer help, but don’t demand that you do it. (And if they ask for help, help them.)
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