Handling the Stress of Caregiving for Your Aging Parents

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Taking on the role of a caregiver is a selfless act and is to be commended. While it is both a responsible and loving decision to make, it can begin to take a toll on your mental and emotional state.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be that you are experiencing caregiver’s stress that will soon lead to a burnout if not taken care of promptly:

  • Increased irritability
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Random, unexplained illnesses (such as pain, headaches, the common cold, or allergy flare-ups)
  • Apathy or the loss of desire to carry out day to day practices
  • The desire to self-medicate (the abuse of alcohol or drugs)
  • Changes in appetite (over-eating or the complete loss of appetite)

If any of these symptoms relate to you, here is what you need to do to both preserve and regain control over your well-being.

Remember That You Are Only Human

There tends to be a great deal of pressure associated with being the caregiver of your parents, partly because you feel indebted to them. It is common to feel guilty when you become agitated or drained. When you begin to experience conflicting feelings of dread and shame, remember that you are only human and you are allowed to go through those emotions. This does not mean that you love your parents any less. There will be good and bad days no matter what, but if you begin to reject or dismiss your true feelings they will only begin to persist.

Speak Your Mind

Sure, your parents are aging and they still deserve your respect, however, you are entitled to your own thoughts and are able to speak your mind. If you feel as if you are being taken advantage of, say so. Say “no” when necessary and stand your ground. Always express yourself freely in the most loving way possible.

Keep Schedules

The lack of planning can cause both chaos and stress. To avoid becoming anxious or worked up because you have neglected to administer medication or have forgotten the time of a doctors visit, set alarms and make lists to make sure that everything goes as planned each day. The organized you become, the less stress and anxiety will follow.

Take The Necessary Breaks

No matter what job a person may work, everyone needs a break every now and then- and for caregivers of relatives, those breaks may be desired quite frequently. To preserve your emotionality or recover from a declining mental or emotional state, phone a friend or relative to cover for you for the time being. If there isn’t anyone who would be able to temporarily step in, take advantage of the many respite care options that are readily available. There are many options such as adult day care, senior centers, and you can even opt for in-home care. Many of these plans can be covered using insurance or some are even run by volunteer programs that are offered to you at little to no cost.

Seek Help

Watching your parents age and having to do the brunt of the work involved in order to sustain them can cause harm that is difficult to cure alone. In order to get the support needed to keep you going, you need a strong support group. Carve time out of your schedule to phone a friend and frequently schedule lunch or shopping dates. You may also look into hiring a therapist or joining a support group to connect with those who are going through the same situation as you are. Do whatever you need to do in order to remain social. The key is to open yourself up to people who understand what you are going through and can help you get past the inevitable hard times.

Make Personal Dates

Don’t lose yourself while caring for your parents. In the midst of making sure that their needs are meant, it is easy to neglect yourself which ultimately contributes to caregiver stress. Remember to continue to carry out the hobbies that you had before becoming a caregiver. Take yourself out to eat, go shopping, see a movie, hang out a bar, make new friends, join a club, do whatever it takes to maintain a sense of self and create a life of your own.

Stay Active

The life-changing effects of regular exercise are often underestimated. Exercise has been proven to have drastic positive effects on one’s mental state and it also releases endorphins (the body’s feel-good hormone) in order to keep you in good spirits. Just about any activity will do the trick, but yoga is one that will help to connect the mind, body, and spirit while helping to transform any negative emotions into a more positive state. Try coupling it with daily meditation to lighten your load and help you to be able to operate from a clear head-space.


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