Doreen is an award-winning blogger, teacher and author. She can be found sharing regularly on her website, DoreenMcGettigan.com. This post was originally featured on The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver with Rena McDaniel.
Caregiving for our elderly parents can be one of the most anxiety-inducing, stressful times of our lives. It can be a time of all-consuming sadness and another unwanted lesson in letting go. It can also be a time we struggle with our siblings and extended family members, as well as with our own emotions.
For those taking care of their family members, you might find that your hours are extremely long, but the days with your loved one are growing shorter and shorter.
There are a few simple things you can do to lessen the stress and make the experience a more rewarding one.
Choose your battles with your parent and your siblings wisely. Ask these questions before battling:
- What will it matter at the end?
- How will it affect his/her quality of life?
- Is there a compromise that can be made here?
And then consider these ideas.
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- First and foremost you must let go of your need to control them and/or the situation. They are not children and should never be treated as such.
- Do not try to change them, it is a waste of time and can cause massive amounts of frustration for you both. Instead work to change yourself and how you react.
- Breathe and count to ten. Repeat often.
- Listen to them more and talk at them less. When they are gone you will wish you had.
- Never get angry with them, ever. This may be their last day here, let them live it the way they want.
- Forgive them for everything. You do this not for them, but for you.
- Be kind to them and everyone involved in their care, including yourself.
- Let them eat and drink whatever they want, whenever they want. If they are diabetic and want to eat sweets find a compromise. If they refuse to drink water offer iced tea.
- If they want to stay up all night watching infomercials? Let them. If they want to sleep all day? Let them.
- If they no longer want to take their pills then throw the pills away. Do they really need those vitamins? If they need to take something for pain or blood pressure try to compromise with them. Crush any vital meds and put them in applesauce, pudding or ice cream.
- Never, ever argue with them. It will just frustrate you and make you both angry. What is the point of that? Give in and you will both be happier.
- If they don’t want to go out do not force them. They may be fearful of falling or of being a burden. Let them stay home but be sure to bring them back a plate, plenty of photos and cake. Don’t ever forget the cake.
During a parent’s illness is the worst time to air family grievances. Discuss your parent’s wishes while they can still express them. Elect someone to be in charge that will support their wishes. And be sure that you support whoever that person is. If that person is you accept help when it is offered. If no one offers then ask for it. You will need it.
While caregiving for a parent is without a doubt a sad situation it can also be one of the most meaningful things you will ever do. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. And never, ever turn down cake.