The Emotional Challenges Of Caring For An Elderly Parent

Caring for an elderly parent can create a wide range of conflicting emotions in the care giver.

Here we look at some of these emotions and highlight strategies to help you cope with them. It is not easy caring for an elderly parent but with the right help and support you can provide the care they need in the comfort and familiarity of a family home.

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Whether you are suddenly thrust into the position of being a carer for your elderly parent, or you’ve slowly chosen to become their carer to avoid care home costs and to respect their wishes to stay at home, there’s an absolute whirlwind of emotions involved.

Some of these feelings can be apparent right from the start, but others might come later on.

You should know that whatever you have felt, are feeling, or might feel in the future: your emotions are valid, and normal, and allowed. And you don’t have to suffer in silence – you deserve support with these emotions, good and bad.

Some emotions you might encounter are:


As your social life, desires, needs and interests aren’t fulfilled because of your responsibility to care, you might feel bored. No longer will you have the freedom to do what you want when you want.


As the situation is somewhat out of your control, anxiety and worry build inside causing all kinds of physical and emotional symptoms.


You’re in this on your own, often with nobody to talk to and, perhaps, nobody who truly understands what you are going through.


You’re exhausted, and stressed, and so naturally you’re irritable and have little patience.


This is an intense emotional situation with a deep impact on a person’s life, so depression is common.


You might feel embarrassed with your parent’s behaviour, or when you have to clean them, which can be difficult for people who haven’t been care givers before. You might feel embarrassed by how they talk to others, or even how they talk to you.


You might resent your parent for needing the care, or for ‘taking away’ the life you once had.


You are grieving for the relationship with your parent you once had, for the way things were years ago. You might be grieving for the life you left behind so that you can provide care.


Feeling a bubbling rage inside is a particularly common emotion in relation to caring for people close to us with dementia.


You are fearful about the future, about the things that might happen, about the things that probably will happen.


You are frustrated at the situation, frustrated at yourself, frustrated at everything it can sometimes seem.


Feeling mixed emotions of wanting and not wanting to provide care for your parent or relative.


Guilt is so common in people caring for an elderly parent. You might feel guilty if you take some respite, you might feel guilty for not doing enough, or doing something wrong. You might feel guilty for your parent being ill in the first place. You might feel guilty for even thinking about avoiding care home costs and factoring money into any decision you make. You might feel guilty wishing your parent could be looked after by someone else.

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These are just some of the emotions you might feel when caring for an elderly parent, and you might experience these emotions in a wide variety of ways and for lots of different reasons. All of these emotions are normal, and all of them are valid but can be an extra burden on top of the practical challenges of caring for the elderly. If you do feel you are struggling to cope with your care-giving position or any emotions you are feeling and you need support, remember that a number of organisations offer help and support, including Age UK and Citizen’s Advice.

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