As seen in the first episode, caregivers who are caring for their parents are in a unique situation. A common thread in this type of relationship is role reversal where the grown child now feels that they must act as the parent. This can trigger tension for both caregiver and parent as old unresolved parent-child conflicts come to the surface. But to help keep communication open between parent and child, and to support cooperation in dealing with issues as they come up, it is critical for the caregiver to understand that from the perspective of the parent, they will always be the "child." It is up to the caregiver to be aware of this and yet engage the parent as a partner in this new stage of both their lives... and not as a "child" they are trying to control.
It is also helpful for caregivers to keep in mind that for the parent, the loss of independence and control over their own lives coupled with the feeling that their lives now have less meaning as they age are the most common fears for seniors. For a caregiver to be the most effective, understanding these basic fears can support the dialogue between parent and child as the parent surrenders control over their lives and the caregivers assume more of that control. Set up a goal where everyone in the partnership is moving in the same direction; the caregiver helps the parent maintain as much independence, safely, for as long as they can. Both parties gain from the experience in the give and take of a healthy, growing and loving relationship.
Some points to help in the process:
- Keep in mind how they see their own lives now: their loss of independence, their frustration with limits they never had, the possibility that they are overwhelmed by a world, once their world, that is moving much faster than they are.
- Remember that how you speak to them is as important as what you are saying. Treating them as equal partners in the process, using a kind tone and being as considerate as you would like someone to be for you, will go a long way to keeping communication honest and open.
- There are times when the frustration of their changing life is too much for the parent and they may take their anger out on the caregiver. It is important to realize that this is what's happening and not to react by "returning the fire." Take a deep breath, acknowledge their difficulty in the moment and offer help.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- "How to Have the Talk" by Melissa Healy ; The Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2012
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