It can be a wonderful thing to promise your parents that they will never need to go to a nursing home or assisted living centre in old age — that they have you to turn to. While it’s a sweet, well-intention ed promise to make, it would rarely get made if people had any idea of the kind of involvement likely to be needed. Life often brings disabilities past the age of 70. The challenge of offering full-time care to an elderly parent with even conditions as common as arthritis or failing hearing can be crippling to the caregiver.
One study by Britain’s Joseph Rown tree Foundation puts a figure on the terrible toll that being constantly responsible for disabled parents exacts on adult children. Following the lives of 60 caregivers over several years, the researchers behind the study found that they battled depression, stress, behavioural disorders and insomnia.
Even worse, caregivers paid long-term personal costs in the form of lost opportunities in education, missed chances at work and so on. Study after study found that full-time employment among caregivers was rare — taking care of disabled parents meant giving up working altogether for 60% of all caregivers.
If you find yourself struggling in a care giving situation that seems to take up your entire life, you need help.
Apply for disability insurance
The benefits system for the disabled can sometimes be extremely difficult to navigate. Proving that your parent does qualify may require jumping through multiple hoops. If you’ve given up on finding success applying for disability insurance or other benefits for your parents, you should contact a legal service experienced in disability work. Having an expert on your side can completely change the way you see the process.
Find a support group
Sometimes, all you need is to talk to someone who really knows what you are going through — another person as deeply involved in caring for an elderly disabled parent as much as you, living through the same everyday challenges and feeling the same feelings as you. Joining a support group can be an excellent way to find comfort and understanding of this kind.
Depending on the kind of organisation that you approach, you may find more than just moral support; you may find advice, tips and even material support. A local religious group or place of worship can be the easiest source of help to approach. If you or your parent has veteran status, you may approach a veterans’ support group, too.
Take a stress class
It can be counter-productive to dismiss the troubling emotions that you feel as mere stress. Research finds that caregiver stress often leads to serious health conditions. You need to pay close attention to the stress that you feel, and reduce it as far as possible to its specific sources. You may be better able to deal with them this way.
If taking care of a parent stresses you because they need to talk more than you are able to deal with, you might engage them in activities that preclude speaking- – such as watching television with a pair of headphones on. If you are stressed by the financial pressures involved, ask siblings to contribute.
In general, guilt tends to be hugely damaging to the mind. It drains you of energy for completely invalid reasons. If you are troubled by guilt for not doing enough for your parents, you need to realise that individuals have limited power and capacity, and can only do so much. Sacrificing your own life to help make your parents’ life better is a terrible waste. If you do need to constantly strive to do better by your parents, you might try a different route — work hard at finding personal financial success, even if it means putting your parents second for a while. With more money one day, you will be able to do far more for your parents than you ever could straining under your current limitations.