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 whether you’ve gradually come to the realisation that being their carer will avoid care home costs and respect their wishes to stay at home, there’s an absolute whirlwind of emotions involved in the situation.

Some feelings can be apparent right from the start, but others might appear at a later stage when the realities of providing care for your parent sink in.

You should know that whatever you have felt, are feeling, or might feel in the future: your emotions are perfectly valid, and normal, and allowed. You should never feel guilty about your feelings and neither should you have to bear them in silence – you deserve support in the marvellous job you are doing.

Some emotions you might encounter are:

Boredom

As your own social life, desires, needs and interests take a back seat because of your responsibility to care, you might simply feel bored. No longer will you have the freedom to do what you want when you want. Or even the freedom to do nothing.

Irritability

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

Depression

Caring for an elderly parent is an intense emotional situation with a deep impact on your life and your parent’s life so depression is a common feeling.

Embarrassment

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 your parent talks to others, or even how they talk to you, particularly if they have certain types of cognitive decline.

Resentment

It’s not uncommon to resent your parent for needing care, or for ‘taking away’ the life and freedoms you once had.

Guilt

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.

Fear

You may find yourself feeling fearful about the future, about not knowing what might happen. But also realising that your parent may be near the end of their life and what impact that will have on your future.

Anxiety

Because the situation you find yourself in is, in many ways, out of your control, anxiety and worry can build up causing all kinds of physical and emotional symptoms.

Loneliness

It can feel like you’re in this on your own, often with nobody to talk to about the situation and, perhaps, nobody who truly understands what you are going through.

Grief

You may find yourself grieving for the relationship you once had with your parent, or for the way things were years ago when you could rely on them for help and support. You might also be grieving for the life you have had to leave behind so that you can provide the care your parent needs.

Ambivalence

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

Anger

Feeling angry is a common emotion when caring for a parent. It can be particularly common when your parent has dementia and may not be the same person you remember from the past.

Frustration

You can feel frustrated with the situation, frustrated with yourself for maybe not taking naturally to care-giving. You can feel frustrated at everything and everyone around you.

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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.

And if you need immediate, practical help such as respite care so you can have some time to recharge your batteries then, remember, 24/7 live-in care is available to help you out either temporarily or on a more permanent basis.

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