“Dad moved in with us a couple of years ago, after Mom died. He needs more help with everyday tasks now and must be reminded to do some of the basics, like take his medicine or comb his hair. His vision is getting weaker, and the other day I had to tell him he couldn’t drive anymore. That’s when it hit me – I feel like the mom in our relationship. And it made me unbelievably sad.”
Caring for an aging parent can mean handling the kinds of responsibilities that your parent once handled for you. And that can prove challenging for everyone involved.
Lake Gibson Village offers a caregiver support group. Some of the people we work with have experienced this role reversal.
“They’ve had to take over finances, take away driving privileges, make sure the parent is eating, bathing or taking their medications,” Executive Director, Amanda Tenpenny says.
Being a caregiver for a parent can be especially frustrating for the adult children when there is some form of diminished capacity. “Sometimes they must be the disciplinarian, enforcing what’s best. They’re trying to be reasonable and rationalize the issues, and they’re met with anger and hurt feelings.”
One of our clients recalls taking care of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. “We’ve had to tell him to take his medications. It was hard to get him to understand that he couldn’t drive anymore. We even had to take the knives out of the drawers so he wouldn’t harm himself.” “Sometimes he got really mad or patronized us and just laughed it off. He could be stubborn and not want to listen.”
Amanda says that grief often enters the equation in these situations. “The parents are still living, but the relationship has changed. And when there’s diminished capacity, it seems like the loved one is leaving them, even when they’re physically present.”
Another client shared an experience she had with her uncle. “We were very close. He was amazing. Charismatic, smart, could talk about anything,” she says. But by the time she got married, the disease was already stealing him away. “At my wedding, we danced,” she says. “He leaned over and asked me, ‘Whose wedding are we at?’ It was heartbreaking, but I didn’t want to upset him. So, I pointed to my husband and said, ‘His wedding.’”
What Can You Do?
For those caring for aging parents or loved ones, it’s common to feel stressed, overwhelmed and guilty. One of the best things you can do is join a support group.
Memory Care Director, Karen Nattichione, says, “Sharing within a support group allows you to validate your experiences. It’s a relief to know you’re not alone.”
She emphasizes that each situation is different, and there’s not a manual to walk you through this. “Support groups are not about fixing each other’s situations. They’re a place to gather, learn, be honest, share resources and frustrations,” she says. “There is no judgment. It’s a place where you can say anything. It lets you offload your frustrations so you can then be more patient with your loved one.”
She adds that when everything feels out of control, a support group can empower you, improve coping strategies, and even help with depression and anxiety.
Karen also says you need to take care of yourself. “Caregivers get run down and depleted. When that happens, who’s there for your loved one?”
A Different Point of View
Some parents are compliant. Sometimes they manifest rage, resentment, or defiance. Some are just sad. Others are proactive and make the choice to move to a senior living community, like Lake Gibson Village as a way to take control of their future and not feel like they’re a burden to the family.
At Lake Gibson Village, we encourage caregivers to try to see the parent’s experience from their point of view. “If you can see that they’re scared, or don’t understand, or feel trapped, that perspective helps you soften, be more patient, and have more compassion,” says Karen.
We Can Choose Our Perspective
“If you and your family are having trouble coping with your loved one’s increased needs, reach out for help and support,” says Karen. “Joining support groups, talking to a counselor or pastor, or seeking out options for care can help to make your journey easier for you, your loved one and your family.”
Join A Support Group
Lake Gibson Village hosts a Caregiver Support Group every 2nd Saturday of the month from 1:00 – 2:00 pm. For more information, contact Karen at 863-815-6263 or email firstname.lastname@example.org