Woman standing beside her son and elderly father asking herself, “Why do I feel overwhelmed being my parents caretaker?”

Why Do I Feel Overwhelmed Being My Parent’s Caretaker?

“Why do I feel so overwhelmed?” If you are a caretaker of aging parents, you’ve probably asked yourself and others that question more than once. And even if you have the most loving parents and you love them to pieces, let’s face it. Switching roles with your parents and becoming their caretaker can be exhausting and overwhelming.

Why do I feel so overwhelmed?

Each individual’s experience will be different, but some common themes affect everyone. Here are just a few:

It’s emotional

Watching your parent, who was once sharp, healthy, and robust, decline and become less able to care for themselves is very hard to watch. It raises the realization that they will not live forever to the forefront of your mind.

Watching a parent age also confronts you with the possibility of what might happen to you as you age. It can be scary to think,  “One day, that could be me.” 

It’s time-consuming

Needs such as grocery shopping, helping with bills, doctor visits, and the like take time away from your family — spouses, children, etc. And when they get less of your time and attention, it can cause stress in the family.

It can cause conflicts within the family

Suppose there are brothers and sisters involved (or not involved) in making the caregiving decisions. In that case, it can turn into random battles. Some family members can be front and center to dole out advice but then seem to disappear when requested or needed help.

You end up doing things you never imagined

It’s one thing to go to the store to pick up a few things for your parent, but it raises to a whole new level when they require help with dressing, bathing, or bathroom needs. This role of caregiving becomes a whole lot more stressful.

You’re laden with guilt

More than likely, you started out being understanding and caring for your parent. However, as time goes on and the level of care increases, feelings of resentment and possibly anger start to creep in. And with that, feelings of guilt set in.

You remind yourself how many sacrifices your parent made on your behalf, but you still can’t rise above your feelings.

You feel like you’re caught in the middle

Sometimes caring for a parent become necessary when you’re in your thirties, forties, and even fifties. When this occurs, it means being responsible for bringing up your children and caring for your aging parents at the same time. Hence, the feeling of being caught in the middle. The term for this is the Sandwich Generation, and individuals who are a part of it experience a great deal of stress. 

What can I do when I feel overwhelmed?

Caring for a parent can be an all-consuming and demanding job. Below are some tips to help you feel more in control and hopefully reduce any stress in the future.

Ask for and accept help from friends and family

By all means, if your family is offering to help, take them up on it!

But if your family does not jump in to help, you might have to ask them to help and then delegate some day-to-day responsibilities to them.

Or maybe ask for a friend if they would be willing to step in to give you some much-needed rest periodically.

Hire a parent sitter or professional help

I had a friend who used this tip when she had a parent living with her. She knew she had to have breaks to protect her sanity. So, she found reliable people who could sit with her parent providing her the opportunity to get some things done.

Or possibly, hire a professional caregiver. Here’s a link to a list of resources available.

Find a safe place to vent

Whether you become your parent’s caregiver gradually or suddenly because of a crisis, you know that many emotions rose to the surface— some right away while others took a while. Just know that all your good and bad feelings are normal, valid, and meaningful.

And like I said earlier, you might love your parent, but after a while the responsibility takes its toll. When you admit to your feelings, you can then look for productive ways to express and deal with them.

To help with this, look for safe places to share your feelings beyond other family members and friends. For example, try online private groups to find support from other caregivers.

Have freezer meals on hand

The friend I mentioned earlier found it overwhelming to provide three meals a day for her loved one. She lamented it was one thing when she was younger and in the habit of providing meals for her growing family. Yet, once she and her husband had become empty nesters, it was easier to just get something to eat on the fly many days. So to provide three square meals proved exasperating at times.

She found it helpful to have freezer meals on hand. So when she would make a meal, she tried to make extra to put some in the freezer for days she didn’t feel like cooking

Make it a priority to make time for yourself

Depending on how much care your loved one needs, it can be quite overwhelming not to have time and space to yourself. In my friend’s case, her mom wanted to be smack dab in the middle of whatever was going on. 

This loss of privacy was too much for her, so she set some boundaries in place. For example, she would get her mother up and ready for the day an hour and a half after waking up herself. Thereby giving her an opportunity for some quiet time and morning coffee. 

A nighttime routine of getting her mother settled in her room at a reasonable time each night left her time to relax with her husband before retiring for the night.

“There are four kinds of people in the world: People who have been caregivers, people who are caregivers now, people who will become caregivers in the future, and people who are going to need a caregiver.” — Unknown

All in all, it truly takes a plan and patience to figure out what works best for you and your loved one. Caregiving can be a blessing, but it is also challenging. These are just a few things you can do to help navigate through some of those challenges with less stress. If you want to learn some stress-reducing techniques that can help while taking care of your parent, working with a coach can be very beneficial to you.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we will work toward a better understanding of your relationship with your parents to promote a happy, healthy, and balanced relationship with less stress.

This article originally appeared at My Anxiety Link

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