The Emotional Toll of Caring For an Aging Parent
I am the adult child of an aging parent. That statement has really hit home in the past several months. My mother is 80 years old. She is an extremely strong-willed woman, which has served her well in her lifetime. My mother's independence is important to her, and she holds on to it with a steel fist. Her strong will and independence, although admirable, have also been a source of stress for me and my sister as we have had to provide more help to her in the last few years. Most recently, my sister and I have had the responsibility of helping our mother move out of her home and into a senior living apartment. We have tried to help her navigate difficult, uncomfortable decisions, while continuing to reassure her that we have her best interests at heart.
During this period in my life, I have learned that my sister and I are not alone. In 2015, the National Alliance for Caregiving published the results of their 2014 study of more than 1,200 caregivers (www.caregiving.org/caregiving2015). They reported the following:
- 82% have one person either living with them or within 20 minutes of the caregiver
- 60% of caregivers are female 40% are male; most caregivers are over 49 years of age
- 34% have full-time jobs
- 38% of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving
Through this journey, my sister and I have learned to depend on each other more and more and have become each other's support. We have found humor in the small moments, and have been able to cry on each other's shoulder. We have discovered that there are great services in Rochester to support the elderly, such as Eldersource and Lifespan.
It is so important that the caregiver of any family member -- whether it is an elderly parent, a spouse with a chronic health problem, a child with a disability, or any other family member with a health issue -- take care of herself or himself. Recognize and acknowledge that this is stressful and don't be ashamed to seek out help if things get too overwhelming. Support groups or individual therapy can help you find positive and healthy ways of dealing with the stress and burden of caregiving. At the University of Rochester, Behavioral Health Partners has therapists and medication providers who can help eligible individuals. The Employee Assistance Program can also provide short-term counseling and referrals for employees and their immediate family members.
Steven P Brown |