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Caring for an Aging Parent: 3 Tips to Keep You from Losing Yourself

July 20, 2023

Caring for an aging parent can feel daunting, frustrating, isolating, and sad. But it does not have to be this way. Read on to the learn more about the following tips to help keep you from losing yourself as you care for your parent. 

  • Tip #1:  Take it slow. Caring for an elderly parent is generally a long-term process.
  • Tip #2: Be compassionate. Compassion may help you to not lose your patience with your aging parent.
  • Tip #3: Help your aging parent live their best life. And while you are at it, live your best life too.

This chart shows the average amount of hours of care giving aging parents require from their adult children.

When the roles change.

I went on a lovely walk with a good friend recently. We caught up on our plans for upcoming celebrations, we talked about our children’s activities, and we giggled about our aging bodies. About half way through our trek the conversation changed, my friend shared a part of her life that was extremely difficult for her – a part of her life where she often felt guilty, inadequate, emotionally depleted, and sad. She, like so many baby boomers, was facing the difficult task of caring for an aging parent.

Having worked with the geriatric population and their families for several years, I want to pass along the following three insights I found to be significantly helpful to the caretakers of the elderly when entering into this phase life.

The logo for the adult children of aging parents

Formed in 2012, Adult Children of Aging Parents (ACAP) provides information, resources, support and community for adult-children as they care for their aging parents and for themselves.

Tip #1: Take it slow. Caring for an elderly parent is generally a long-term process.

First, we need to accept that things have changed. When our parents begin depending upon us, their children for their basic care, our world has changed. Be prepared for a radically new paradigm. Old roles may not apply. Old methodologies may not apply. Old emotions may not apply. Be prepared to work from a whole new script.

Take it slowly. Caring for an aging parent is generally a long-term process, so do not rush it. You and they both are in uncharted territory. Let the process uncover itself naturally. Let whatever happens organically unfold.

An old person in a suit and tie.

In 1979 Jerome H. Stone (pictured here) founded the Alzheimer’s Association, the largest non-profit funder of Alzheimer’s disease research.

Tip #2: Be compassionate. Compassion may help you to not lose your patience with your aging parent.

Try to understand that when you start taking care of your parent, they lose the one thing they have always had in relationship to you: authority. That is something that is not going to be easy for your parent to give up. Expect them, in one way or another, to lash out about that loss. Try your best to have compassion for what they are experiencing. Remember that most of us will be in their shoes some time down the road.

Caring for an aging parent requires giving them their autonomy whenever possible; offer your parent options instead of orders. It is important for them to continue to feel as if they, not you, are running their lives. Let them decide as much as they can about their own care, and help them by supporting the healthy choices they have made on their own.

Meals on Wheels America logo

Founded in the United Kingdom during World War II, Meals on Wheels is one of the largest organizations addressing senior isolation and hunger.

Tip #3: Help your aging parent live their best life. And while you are at it, live your best life too.

Encourage your loved one to participate in social activities as much as possible. Keeping them actively connected with friends and family enhances their quality of life and helps affirm for them that the are still of value to others.

During this phase of your life, remember to take care of the caretaker – that’s you! Caring for an aging parent is not easy. Take walks, stretch out, eat right, and make sure you spend quality time away from Mom or Dad. Make time to rejuvenate yourself as a critical part of your care routine for your parent. Your life still needs to be about you, and your loved one will be pleased to know that they are not depleting you of your personal joy.

This can be an intimate and loving time for both you and your parent; do not forget to look for the silver lining. I promise it is in there!

CFR staff therapist Hope Nichols stands looking towards the camera. She is wearing a grey shirt and has short blonde hair. Behind her is a grass. She is a Philadelphia therapist accepting new patients.

Hope Nichols, LMFT (pictured here) is a CFR Staff Therapist.

About the Author

Hope Nichols, LMFT is a Philadelphia and Wynnewood, PA, therapist. If you have questions about caring for an aging parent, this article, or Hope’s practice, you may reach Hope at hnichols@councilforrelationships.org or 215-770-2334 ext. 7061.

CFR offers therapy and psychiatry services on a slide-fee scale. See our Therapist & Psychologist Directory to find a CFR therapist or psychiatrist near you.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015. You can find the original publication here. This article are been republished with permission from the author. 

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