If you thought that having a difference of opinions with your parents ended at your teenage years, you may be surprised to find yourself getting frustrated with them as they age. However, between the emotions of watching them get older, the strain of providing more and more help with household or personal duties, and old family dynamics that come into play, your parents may just seem to be driving you crazy.
Don’t fear, caring child, you aren’t doomed to a strained relationship with your aging parent. Here are a few ways to help yourself calm down and improve the dynamic that happens as your parents age.
Talk it Out
What exactly is causing you to feel that your parents are driving you crazy? Is it their increased demands for help or their decreased ability to do something simple? Perhaps your frustration is driven by the fear or sadness that you feel because of their failing health. You may never get to the root of your frustration if you do not have a safe space to talk, and work, it out. Find yourself a trusted friend or objective therapist and talk about your experiences. Sharing in a constructive way with a trusted listener will help you avoid causing hurt feelings or arguments by laying blame on your parents for situations they may be unable to help.
Rally the troops
Sometimes, you can find yourself at your wit’s end simply because you don’t have the time to be helping your parents as much as they require. You may be in the “sandwich generation”, struggling to raise your own teenagers, work 40 hours a week, and care for your aging parents; if you are, you are stressed out and might just need some extra help so that you have more patience to interact with your parents. Ask friends to bring over meals or find a service that can provide doctor visit transportation for your parents. Many hands make light work, and every bit of help you can squeeze out of caring friends can be a huge relief. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
Seek professional guidance
If your aging parents are driving you crazy because they are forgetting things or making bad judgment calls, get the family doctor involved. Often times, family members notice memory issues only after they get so bad that they cannot be ignored. Leaving a burner on overnight or double paying a check and causing a negative bank account can make you crazy, but it can also be a warning sign that something is going on with Mom’s memory. Get a medical professional to do an assessment and give recommendations about what to do. In cases of age-related cognitive decline, early diagnosis can make a significant difference for your parents and your family as a whole.
Take a break
Aging parents are a lot of work, both physical work and emotional work. Be wary if you find yourself snapping at your parents more frequently or ending your day exhausted and in tears. These could be signs that you are experiencing caregiver burnout. A stressed out caregiver often leads to a sick caregiver, which is of no good to anyone; know when you are approaching your physical and emotional limit and bring in respite care services to help you get some much needed time away from caregiving.
Laugh it off
If you can find the humor in a frustrating situation, you are winning. Bring up a family joke in the middle of a heated discussion or take a break to do something fun with your Mom; make the effort to get yourself laughing and smiling instead of yelling or crying. It is healthier to do the former.
Strive for empathy
Remember that what is frustrating and scary for you may be doubly so for a parent. Losing independence, physical ability,
Your parents might drive you crazy for the rest of their days, but you can manage it with grace and confidence. At least you aren’t a teenager anymore and can drive back home when things get bad.
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