Surviving the emotional aspects of eldercare

Yesterday, Dad was having a rough day emotionally. After a few frustrating attempts to improve his mood unsuccessfully, I had an Aha! moment. So, I switched tactics and said this:

“Focus on the positives in life. Focusing on the negatives doesn’t fix anything.”

The aging process brings on many changes, not all of them welcome. While we may have more wisdom with life experience, we also have more aches and pains. Additionally, diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cause dementia and depression that are not completely alleviated by medication. These changes cause restrictions in our activities that we were once able to do freely. Understandably, people resent these restrictions, feel sorry for themselves, or experience a host of other emotions.

For more detailed information on dementia and depression in these diseases, here are a couple of links for publications and resources:

http://action.apdaparkinson.org/p/salsa/web/common/public/signup?signup_page_KEY=8130

http://www.alz.org/care/overview.asp

Responding empathetically to these feelings in our parents requires patience and a willingness to change our personal perspectives. Because many of the conditions that occur with the aging process are incurable, and can only be treated somewhat effectively, it can be difficult for both the parent and caregiver to experience.

Here is a nice, short publication from the WA state DSHS on the emotional aspects of caregiving:

http://www.altsa.dshs.wa.gov/caregiving/documents/Emotional%20Challenges%20of%20Caregiving.pdf

Know your resources.

If you are overwhelmed and cannot cope with the emotional aspects of caregiving, get help immediately. If you are suffering from severe depression from the strain of your caregiving duties, see your doctor. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your parent.

If your employer has an EAP program, that may provide you with valuable benefits for free. Alternatively, your health insurance company may have resources you can access, such as an in-home assessment for your parent to determine what assistive devices they need. These services are confidential and usually provided for free.

Although you may not be familiar with the social services network, there are a wide variety of resources available to caregivers from a patchwork of government and private charities. Because family caregivers provide such a huge amount of valuable caregiving that would otherwise bankrupt government resources to provide, support is available at free or sliding scale rates to caregivers and the elderly.

Every state and county has a different set of similar websites and services. A quick check on the Internet should start to give you an idea of what is available. If you live in King County, WA state, Senior Services is an excellent resource for free and sliding scale respite care and other forms of assistance to caregivers. Here is the link:

http://www.seniorservices.org/

If you live in WA state, the state DSHS website contains a huge amount of resources. Even if you or your parent do not qualify financially for assistance, DSHS might still be a good resource for recommending support for your situation. Here is the link to the website:

http://www.dshs.wa.gov/

Everyone has a unique way of finding balance and inner peace. This can span from engaging hobbies, socializing, exercise, religious activities, or just sitting and thinking. Here are a couple of links I’ve come across looking for inspiration:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/happiness-now/

http://bemorewithless.com/light/

Finally, here are some of my favorite cheerful thoughts for those days that drive you buggy. Feel free to make a list of your own and post them somewhere handy, or even memorize them.

  • Medicare provides access to healthcare and durable medical equipment that might otherwise be unaffordable to those on a fixed income.
  • We have clean, running water from taps, and municipal sewer systems that keeps us healthy and protects us from diseases like Typhoid.
  • We have access to abundant food from 24 hour grocery stores and programs like Meals on Wheels.
  • Our roof doesn’t leak.
  • We have family, friends, and community who love and care about us.
  • Flowers bloom in the springtime.
  • Tomorrow will be a better day.
  • Everything is temporary, even the worst of times end.
  • From Monty Python- Always look on the bright side of life! (Whistle a few bars of the tune).

 

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