Caregiving for Your Parent

Caregiving for Your Parent: When the Roles Are Reversed

If you’re like most people you probably have sweet memories of having your mother or father comfort you and dry your tears if you fell down or got hurt. It seems like yesterday; and yet, you find that the roles are now reversed. You’re the one doing the caregiving for your parent. [i]

We will cover in this article

Responsibilities to manage when you are daughter caregiver

When you become a caregiver for your parent, the role reversal is sometimes hard to wrap your mind around. If you’re a daughter caregiver, it may even be more difficult. Many women of today experience large amounts of stress and frustration as they take on many responsibilities such as:

  • Taking care of their own children
  • Holding down a job
  • Managing a household
  • Taking care of aging parents.

Adult children often become caregivers out of necessity. Changing roles is equally stressful for senior parents as it is for their adult children.
It’s an emotional issue for aging adults whose health is deteriorating. Many of them don’t want to accept help for things they used to be able to do for themselves—things like dressing, bathing, and tending to personal hygiene. It can be hard for caregivers to remember that those they care for once held full and vibrant lives where they enjoyed daily independence.

Aging Affects Familial Relationships and Family Dynamics

The effects of aging don’t happen all at once. Generally, seniors start to experience signs of needing help a little at a time. They might start having aches and pains that never existed before. They may be forgetful at times and they don’t have the strength that they had in their younger years.

Adult children soon realize that Mom or Dad needs a little help. In the beginning, it’s a little help, but over time, a little help can gradually turn into full or part-time caregiving.

As the roles reverse, it’s difficult for parents to accept that their children are now their caregivers. It’s just as difficult for adult children to accept that they must now care for their parents in addition to their other adult responsibilities.

As one or more adult children participate in caregiving for their parents, sibling rivalry can rear its ugly head, even if it didn’t exist before their parents needed extra hours of care. Siblings of parents who need care will likely start to feel some dissention because of problems like the following:

Common Problems with Siblings When Taking Care of an Aging Parent

  1. Siblings may expect non-working mothers in the family to provide all the caregiving, even though they have children to care for at home.
  2. Siblings may try rotating shifts for caregiving, but some are more willing to take a shift than others.
  3. Siblings make excuses not to care for their parents, leaving the majority of care to one sibling.

Common problems with Marriage when taking Care an Elderly Parent

  1. Both spouses work full-time jobs on different shifts and split the chores, so time spent caregiving is time spent away from the spouse.
  2. One spouse becomes overly stressed in adding caregiving duties.
  3. The non-caregiving spouse believes that their spouse has no time for them and resents their spouse for performing caregiving duties.
  4. The caregiving spouse becomes increasingly stressed, frustrated, and depressed.
  5. The non-caregiving spouse feels left-out and alone.

It’s important for relative caregivers to maintain healthy relationships with the spouses, children, and siblings during the season of caregiving. These relationships will still be important when parents have passed on.

Getting Respite Care to Reduce Stress and Frustration

Respite care is temporary care for someone that’s intended to give the regular caregiver a break, so they can recharge and return to their caregiving duties refreshed and with a good attitude.
Respite caregivers are equipped to perform most of the duties that regular caregivers perform. Common duties for respite caregivers include:

  • Help with bathing, dressing, and hygiene
  • Light housekeeping
  • Cooking and meal preparation
  • Doing laundry
  • Giving medication reminders
  • Reading to them
  • Providing companionship

Respite gives the caregiver a well-deserved break. It provides caregivers with a chance to take a step back, breathe, relax, regroup, and maybe get some much-needed sleep. Caregivers need to practice self-care so that they have the stamina, energy, and positive mindset to care for someone else.

Caregivers who have the benefit of respite care find various ways of winding down and getting recharged like:

  • Reconnecting with children and spouses
  • Having lunch with friends
  • Going on a dinner date with their spouse
  • Take a weekend getaway
  • Go on a vacation

Respite care comes in several forms and can last for almost any temporary duration. For example, respite care can be in the form of a substitute in-home caregiver or it can take place at a nursing home daycare facility. Some nursing and special care facilities accept clients for respite care on an overnight or extended care basis while clients are recuperating, or caregivers take a vacation.

When Can Caregivers set up respite caregiving?

  • A few hours
  • One or more days per week
  • A weekend
  • A month or longer

Emotional Effects of Caring for an Elderly Parent

Some adult children can see the time coming when they’ll need to care for their parents either because of genetic health issues or because they begin to see signs of aging in their parents. Others are taken quite by surprise when a sudden illness or injury leaves their parents unable to care for themselves properly.

Regardless of the events that brought about the need for caregiving, many emotions surface [ii] for the caregiver. Some emotions happen right away and lessen over time as acceptance becomes the norm. Other times, emotions encroach unexpectedly and become more intense over time.

Senior caregivers should be aware of the following negative emotions that commonly affect caregivers:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Ambivalence
  • Inability to cope
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Embarrassment
  • Frustration
  • Impatience
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Envy
  • Resentment

Caregivers must remember that their feelings and emotions, whether they’re good or bad, positive or negative, are valid. Caregivers are sometimes apprehensive about sharing their emotional burden over caregiving with other out of fear of judgment. Sometimes just knowing that these emotions are normal helps caregivers cope better.

It’s important for caregivers to feel their feelings and not sweep them under the carpet. Caregivers need to find an outlet for their fears and emotions, so they don’t lead to resentment and caregiver burnout. Not dealing with emotions from stressful caregiving can lead to problems in the caregiver such as:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Illness
  • Inability to cope
  • Depression
  • Over-eating or under-eating
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcoholism

Caregivers find many healthy outlets for managing their emotions like: