When I was 16, the joke was that someday I’d be the one to chauffeur grandma to the grocery store. “Just wait,” they said. “We’ll make you drive us all over town.” Though I do see her at least once a month and certainly don’t mind running errands with her, the family teasing turned into reality when my mother lost sight in one of her eyes. Now I am my mom’s wheels, and being an adult child taking care of an older parent really brings home some of the things people face. I’m an only child, so it’s just me. Well, me and my very gracious partner who helps out when he can.
The truth is when you are a child taking care of your parent, you feel alone. After all, it’s your responsibility to handle the shopping, the errands, getting them to doctor’s appointments, even balancing their checkbook. And when things fall through the cracks, it’s too easy to blame yourself.
But it is important to remember, you are not alone. Really. You aren’t. There are resources, community, family, church-based, and otherwise that you can use. And your parent really doesn’t want to be a burden on you. So how can you keep from feeling as if you are alone.First, don’t keep it in. Letting such feelings fester only hurts you. Additionally, they could erupt, like a volcano, and when presented in an uncontrolled fashion, the feelings could hurt your family, or you. So make sure you have candid, heart-to-heart talks with your family members about the situation.
Second, enlist the help of family and friends. If people offer, at least keep them in mind if you don’t take them up on their offers of help. Pushing people aside only isolates you. So when someone offers, even if at the moment there’s nothing they can do, thank them, and keep them in mind. You never know who might be able to help or what they might be able to do until you ask.
Third, understand that you can only do what you can do. Your family member will understand too, and if you need to take time for yourself, that person will understand. Depending on the level of help needed, the person most likely would appreciate being able to take care of him or herself for a day or two while you tend to personal things. Then, you can return to your family member refreshed and ready to go again.
It can be tough being the adult caretaker for a parent. You’re busy working on your own career, and your own family, and yet, you still need to care for your parent. Yet, it can also be the most rewarding thing you can do, too. So make sure you take care of yourself. That way, you will be better able to handle whatever comes along.