You’ve just made the decision to take primary responsibility for your aging parents. It isn’t easy, and you know that this is going to entail a lot of hard work. The rewarding part of it is that you’re also going to experience many wonderful moments with them too!
However, the most difficult part of being a caregiver, by far, is the stress. It’s not easy to be constantly worried about an aging parent when you have your own life to worry about too. What if they forget and wander? What if I can’t get them out of bed for their doctor appointments? What if there’s a fire, and we can’t get out? There are so many things that could go wrong!
The anxiety never seems to end. But it doesn’t need to be this way; there are many ways you can reduce your stress without sacrificing your well-being or the quality of care you provide.
Here are some ways you can reduce your stress while taking care of an aging parent:
1. Prioritize Your Needs
You won’t be able to give everything 100% if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. Otherwise, you’ll break down and make the situation worse for everyone involved (including yourself).
This doesn’t mean you should abandon them and leave them alone one bit, but instead practice self-care by eating right, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of rest.
2. Make a Plan (and Follow Through)
This is one of the most important parts of stress reduction: making a plan/strategy for how you will handle things.
This can include having open and honest conversations with your parents about what you’re willing to do and what they want; where they want to live; who else needs to be involved in this process, etc. Sometimes writing things out helps too!
The three main components are being clear about your expectations, identifying your limitations, and planning for contingencies.
3. Let Go of Perfectionism
It’s not possible to be perfect when you’re taking care of aging parents or any other challenge in life for that matter, so let go of any sort of perfectionist ways you might have.
Not only will this help with stress, but it’ll also lead to more creativity and acceptance of where your parent is in their life.
4. Get Support (and Give Support)
You’re not alone when taking care of aging parents; in fact, there are many other people who are or have gone through this too! Getting support can include joining online forums, Facebook groups, finding a mentor, etc.
It’s important to remember that giving support can be just as valuable/meaningful for someone else as receiving it yourself; make sure you do your part!
5. Get a Helping Hand (or Two!)
This can include hiring home nursing care and assistance. If you’re not able to give it 100% yourself, be sure to get help so that things are more manageable for you and your aging parents.
The goal is to achieve the best possible balance between self-care/family needs while also ensuring safety and promoting independence.
6. Delegate Tasks
It’s important to remember that tending to the needs of an aging parent doesn’t have to just revolve around just home nursing tasks; there are many other pieces that need attention too (financial matters, legal matters, and so on).
Donating some time or delegating certain parts of home care will allow you to take on more time-consuming tasks, which will, in turn, improve your ability to manage stress.
7. Stay Positive
This is actually one of the most important parts of reducing stress when taking care of an aging parent; don’t forget to laugh! Even if you find yourself crying more often than not, make sure to laugh too (regardless of how small it may be).
This is especially true when interacting with your parents because having positive interactions can really transform their mood/outlook on life too! If laughter isn’t possible, then try keeping things that bring you joy nearby instead.
8. Monitor Your Emotions and Symptoms
It’s common for caregivers to be “in denial” about how tough this is on them, so it’s important to pay attention to your emotions and any physical symptoms you experience too.
Take time to acknowledge what you’re feeling and express yourself in a healthy way. Write things down, talk with someone that cares, and so on.
Taking care of aging parents can be a very stressful experience, but by following these eight tips, you can reduce your stress and better manage what you’re going through. Remember to take time for yourself, get support from others, and delegate tasks whenever possible to make the situation more manageable. Most importantly, stay positive and keep things that bring you joy close by!