Speaking of Aging: How to Be a Parent to Your Parent
Although not easy, difficult conversations are most useful if they take place before a crisis occurs.
This article was written and contributed as a community service by Dr. Erlene Rosowsky, a licensed psychologist who is a core faculty member of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology(MSPP) and an Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.
Founded in 1974 and located in West Roxbury, MSPP is a graduate school of psychology that integrates rigorous academic instruction with extensive field education and close attention to professional development. For further information, please visit www.mspp.edu.
This is Part II, click here for Part I.
Special Challenges for the Caregiver
"How do you take care of yourself while you are caring for your elderly parents?"
Some more suggestions:
Protect your social life, your health and make sure to care for your own family; attend support groups and know when you need help and go after it; normalize the time of your caregiving, in other words factor in the time to be spent with/for an aging parent as part of your week.
Watch out for changes in your mood and your “usual” way of feeling. Anxiety and depression in caregivers is a real risk when an adult child is caring for the aging parent. The caregiving not only affects the adult child, but can even transcend to the grandchildren. Parent care, grandparent care, is really a family affair.
Cultural differences within a family can be a source of conflict. Children become Americanized. It is important to have a dialogue with foreign-born parents before any aging problems occur regarding parents’ expectations of care. For example, in Japan it was traditional for the daughter-in-law to care for her elderly-in-laws. Now, with the daughter-in-law working, and not in position to assume this role or responsibility, many older people are being placed in nursing homes. In addition to the manifest challenges of aging, the older adult also feels abandoned and shamed. This has lead to a marked rise in the suicide rate among older adults.
The Facts of Caregiving
According to a National Caregivers Survey, 25 percent of all U.S. households provide care to an older adult. The caregivers, who are mostly middle-age adults caring for their parents, devote an average of 18 hours a week to this task. The need for elder care most often comes during the adult child’s busy mid-life years. Forty percent of those providing elder care are also raising children younger than 18. Most elderly care recipients have at least one chronic illness, and 25 percent have a form of dementia. The average duration of caregiving lasts 4.5 years. When caregivers were interviewed about their caregiving experience, 50 percent report significant sacrifice in their personal lives (in terms of their jobs, activities and time with their immediate family), but a surprising 70 percent reported that the overall caregiving experience was positive.
Resources: It is important that one appreciates the responsibility and complexity inherent to the aging process, whether as caregiver or older adult.
The following resources can be helpful:
American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) – www.aarp.org
MSPP Brenner Center for Psychological Assessment and Testing: For Older Adults –www.mspp.edu
National Association of Professional Geriatric Case Managers – www.caremanager.org
National Council on Aging – www.ncoa.org ( excellent -local Councils on Aging)
National Institute on Aging – www.nia.nih.gov