Resilience and caring for your aging parents
Chances are you have already experienced stress in all aspects of your life: relationships, employment, and family. How well have you and your family weathered this stress? It can be tough to handle stress and bounce back from the adversity and challenges of normal, everyday life.
Caring for aging parents will bring its own challenges. You may or may not have had time to prepare for your role as an adult daughter or son caring for your aging parent/s. You may feel obligated or even trapped in this role. On the other hand, you may be taking this new role in stride as part of life and your commitment to your parents. You may even have one of these outlooks today and the opposite one tomorrow. Either way, transition brings many challenges and adjustments. Being resilient is the key to managing this transition.
What is resilience?
Resilience is a combination of both internal factors (you) and external factors (community resources, support services, and personal support systems). Families that move beyond surviving to actually thriving are those that recognize a need and reach beyond their own resources to create a wider web of support.
The following questions can be helpful to you in your reflection on both internal and external factors that will enhance your resiliency as a caregiver, and as a family:
How have you coped with stress in your life? Effective management of stress is a skill and one of the keys to resilience.
We can divide our thoughts into stress thoughts and resilient thoughts.
- Stress thoughts are thoughts that resist what is happening. They may sound like “this is so unfair,” “this shouldn’t be happening to me,” or “this shouldn’t have happened.” Stress thoughts may undermine our ability to cope (“I can’t handle this” or “I can’t handle one more thing”) and project both doom and gloom (“My life is over. I will never be happy again.”).
- Resilient thoughts are kind, compassionate, and reassuring. Resilient thoughts may sound like “I can do this,” “I can handle this,” “We can come out the other side of this,” “We can make it through this,” etc.
- Reflect on your self-talk and take note of your stress thoughts and your resilient thoughts.
What are the strengths that you bring to your caregiving journey? Perseverance? Tenacity? Patience? A sense of humour? Your ability to ask for help? Being aware of and stating your strengths will help bring positivity to your caregiving.
What do you feel is lacking in your ability, skills, or circumstances to support your family, the person you are caring for, and yourself? What would be most helpful to you? What needs do you foresee developing over time? What support, information, or skills do you foresee needing?
What have you learned from previous challenges or difficult times? Looking back, what do you wish you had done differently? How can you bring this wisdom into the journey of caring for your parents?
How would you describe your communication pattern? Is there any room for improvement?
- Open and effective communication, while not always easy, is fundamental to successful relationships. Problem-solving and problem prevention are most effective when done in collaboration.
Which community resources and social supports have you used in the past to assist with challenges and transition? Do you know what services are available in your current community to assist you and your family? Resilient caregivers, couples, and families draw on both social support and community resources. Social support can come from family, friends, neighbours, or other caregivers. Community resources can come from agencies, as well as cultural and spiritual organizations and groups.
As a resilient individual and as a resilient family, you can emerge from whatever challenges caring for your aging parents brings, to a family that is living and loving well.
How are you most resilient? What is one thing you can do to increase your resilience even more?