Caregiver’s of elderly parents are under a tremendous amount of stress.
April is National Stress Awareness Month. Are you aware of your stress? Of course you are, it’s a frequent companion. I debated on writing on the subject for a while due to the plethora of information already out there. I looked over the standard fare: make time for yourself, set your priorities, network and get people to help you, meditate, let go of what you can, and my least favorite of all, talk it out with a friend. Really? Talking it out with a friend may be the worst thing you can do. Bear with me here; this is not your average, “Bless your heart, you poor thing” kind of post.
We all need sympathy and understanding from time to time but if the problem is still there for any length of time, perhaps it is time to take a different approach. Friends mean well, they will empathize with you and support you in your misery and pretty much help you stay in that misery if you are not careful. At least until they get tired of hearing your story. And aren’t you tired of hearing it? Seriously? This is not my area of expertise but here are a few strategies you can use:
1. Identify what is stressing you. Specifically. Not that your mom is driving you crazy, but the behavior that is driving you crazy. Write it all down. The cooking, the cleaning, the endless laundry. The doctor’s appointments, the medicines, the bills, etc.
2. Now look at your list. How much of what you just wrote is just frustration, overwhelm and you trying to be all things to all people? How much of it truly a problem? Separate them out. For instance, my mom has chronic pain, severe and at times it is horrific and she moans. Every time she moves she moans and doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. She moans so much, one of our dogs started doing it every time he lay down. Some days it will drive me up the wall. (Headphones! And my iPod have saved us all). It is annoying but not a real problem. Her resistance at going back to her pain management doctor, for that is a real problem.
3. Take an objective look. List every solution for every problem that you can think of. Even if you have no idea how to make it happened. No excuses. Put down actionable steps that can be taken by someone, not necessarily you. Do not leave out anything even something you might be against, like putting dad in a nursing home. It is an option.
4. Write down what you feel would help you to cope. One day a week off? Maybe you just need to go to worship services once a week or you just want an evening with friends. How about someone to help with the cooking and laundry or to take dad to the park? Put it on paper where you can see it.
Now go ponder on all this and write it all down and we will come back tomorrow and look at it again.