Providing daily care for a parent often feels unnatural. Throughout your entire life, they were the people to supply your every need. They were the well of knowledge you could always draw from, the steady hands that helped you fix anything, and the moral compass that guided you. While some of these parts don’t disappear as parents age, others become unrecognizable. In turn, your role and responsibilities shift to becoming a caregiver. Learning how to handle the emotional toll of caring for your parents throughout these changes is a huge priority so you can care for yourself, too.

Grieve

This reversal usually includes some grieving of what was. It’s important to acknowledge the reality of your grief. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away; it drives it inside you where it works like an infection, hollowing you out until you collapse. Dedicating time to process the loss of the parent you once knew is crucial, as is having conversations with others you love. Siblings are your best resource here—foster your relationships with them so you trust each other enough to go beyond the surface with one another.

Conduct Hard Conversations With Respect

As you care for your mom, dad, or both, you inevitably have tough conversations about health. After a while, the pain of dealing with their health so directly and the tension of those talks can incentivize not bringing things up.

To keep lines of communication open, prioritize gentleness and respect. Though their resistance to your help may lead to anger, your ability to get them treatment depends on these conversations going well. Particularly when you’re broaching a topic as sensitive as urinary incontinence, being slow to speak and quick to really listen and trust them is everything. Never accuse, but rather pose your curiosities (and suspicions) as gentle questions.

Take Breaks

One further way to handle the emotional toll of caring for your parents is to get away for a bit. You can’t sprint your way through caregiving. It’s a long haul where breaks make you strong enough to endure. Hire a professional caregiver when you’re away, draw up all the details they’ll need, and spend time somewhere else. Practicing being away will allow you to worry less when you take breaks in the future.

 

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