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Navigating the Emotional Landscape of Caring for Aging Parents

Caring for aging parents is a journey filled with love, complexity, frustration, anxiety and stress. As our parents age, they often experience physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that can be challenging for everyone involved. For those in our generation, especially women between 50 and 60, the responsibilities of caregiving can bring unexpected fears, frustrations, and GUILT.

After all- these people raised us - why are we so frustrated and irritated every time we have interaction?

Fears and Frustrations

One of the most common fears is the uncertainty of our parents' health. Watching their physical capabilities decline, dealing with chronic illnesses, and facing the reality of their mortality can be overwhelming, heartbreaking and sad.  And watching them take multiple medications a day without knowing how they interact or if there is a better option is infuriating!!  Listen- I worked in BIG PHARMA- I get it…. Doctors and companies don’t make money when people find alternatives to blindly taking medication after medication.  But I know there is a better way.  No one should take 30 different pills a day!

There's also the practical concern of ensuring they receive the best possible care, whether at home or in a specialized facility- AND, the stress of who will be paying for it!?!

Frustrations often arise from the changes in our parents' behavior. It's not uncommon for aging parents to lose their social filter, saying or doing HURTFUL  things without realizing the impact of their words. They may become more self-centered and less aware of the needs and feelings of those around them. This shift in behavior can be difficult to navigate, especially when trying to maintain respect and compassion.  This is when my- “don’t say another word- or I’ll lose my SHIT” attitude kicks in.   And then guilt follows.

The Weight of Guilt

Alongside fears and frustrations comes the weight of guilt. Many caregivers and adult children feel guilty for experiencing irritation and frustration with their parents' behavior. We may feel torn between our love and responsibility for them and the very human reactions to their challenging behaviors. It's important to recognize that these feelings are natural and do not diminish the dedication and love we have for our parents.  When I recognize it’s not their fault I hope my “smile and wave” behavior takes over.

Behavioral Changes

As parents age, several behavioral changes can occur:

  • Memory Loss and Cognitive Decline: Issues such as dementia or Alzheimer's can result in memory lapses, confusion, and difficulty with daily tasks.  You know…. “we JUST talked about this”!!!!  At first I got so frustrated like my parents weren’t listening to me- Until I realized, it’s not their fault- they actually do not remember.

  • Mood Swings and Emotional Changes: Aging parents may experience mood swings, depression, or heightened anxiety, which can strain relationships.

  • Loss of Independence: Needing assistance with personal care, mobility, and decision-making can be frustrating for both parents and caregivers.  I’m sure they start to feel embarrassed as they need more and more help- and some parents just don’t know how to accept help.  They might be too proud- or in many cases too stubborn (I heard this from a friend anyway…. 😂)

  • Communication Challenges: Hearing loss or cognitive changes can make communication difficult, leading to misunderstandings and frustration.  Thank God  hearing aids are sooooo accessible now.

Caring for aging parents is a profound, emotional experience that can test our patience and resilience. It's essential to acknowledge and address the fears, frustrations, and guilt that come with this responsibility. By fostering open communication, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion, we can navigate this journey with empathy and strength.

For my friends that have lost their parents and just want to scream “YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE YOUR PARENTS”- trust me, I KNOW.  I’m extremely lucky.  I don’t take it for granted- I’m just being honest with my struggles- and for those that are struggling too- I hope you know you are not alone.

With love from my core,

Amity ❤️

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