Being part of a family is one of the most natural things in life. However, sometimes that family isn’t so great for your mental health! It’s an unfortunate truth, but it affects so many people around the globe, even if we don’t talk about it.
The silence involved can make you feel like such an outsider. Sometimes, your family who are supposed to love and cherish you , aren’t quite doing their job, and it’s hard to explain that. So what can you do in a scenario like this?
Build an External Support System
If your family isn’t there for you, you’ll need to build yourself a support system outside of them. Plenty of friends with couches you can crash on, or provide a shoulder to cry on if your parents have made another cruel remark.
For any person out there, having connections outside of blood relations is a good idea. It widens your life in general, providing more viewpoints and experience for you to count on. And knowing there’s a group of friendly, funny, caring people at the end of the phone can make family responsibilities a lot easier to parse in your mind.
Know Your Own Boundaries
Whether you’ve got a grown sibling you’re being made to feel responsible for or your parents have always reacted negatively to your decisions, your life is your own. As such, you may need to start putting up some walls. Commonly known as ‘going no contact’, you grant yourself the ability to move on from a childhood’s worth of trauma and finally make your own way in the world your way.
But if no contact isn’t for you, you can try ‘low contact’ instead. Some people can panic at the thought of cutting ties completely, and there may still be people in your family you want to see on a regular basis (with boundaries).
No One Can Do it All
Even when you feel like you have to, or like you’re letting a loved one down – you didn’t. Remember, you’re only one person with 24 hours in a day, and you can’t be dedicating all that time to caring for someone else. As a parent or as an adult carer, you’re going to need help.
So let people in when they’re available. Whether it’s counting on the support of a place like Prestwick Care when dealing with an elderly relative, or simply asking a sibling to pitch in when you can’t arrange a babysitter, help is there. You just have to reach out, no matter how much courage that might take.
A temporary worry is much better for you than long term stress when it comes to your mental health and wellness.
Being stressed out by family responsibilities happens to us all. But if they’re chronic, reach out. You don’t have to take it all on alone.
We all – if we are so privileged – age enough to become ‘old’. We grow into our faces, our experiences and our futures and we do so over a long period of time. Not everyone is afforded the chance to grow old, of course, but those who do are lucky to get there. When you have senior parents that have reached an advanced age, you have to expect there to be changes in your relationship dynamic. As parents age they may need more help, they may be more aggressive, they may be resistant to any help or support. The worst part is that when you try to help your parents, you may find them resistant to that help – and that can be difficult to manage.
Every situation for a family is unique and so you have to adapt and adjust to the limitations that you are facing in your specific dynamic. Understanding how to help elderly parents without being overly safe is not easy. It’s actually really hard not to suggest senior living or other support systems to parents who aren’t open to that idea – you need them to feel open to help first. Once you have that, you will find navigating the future far simpler. Helping elderly parents needs some movement, and here are our suggestions to help you to do just that.
Empathise. With your parents, you need to empathise and show them that you get it; their life is hard and it’s not easy for them to manage their own expectations. Sometimes, you may be pushed out by the frustration and moodiness that your parents display. It’s vital that you are empathetic and understanding because as hard as it is for you to deal with the changes, consider how they feel? Consider how they are managing the things happening to them right now. It’s going to be huge for them to go from independent to totally dependent on others and losing that independence takes a lot of getting used to.
Call your parents. You need to do what you can to maintain contact with your parents. Calling them regularly and helping them to understand that you are at the end of the phone is going to be a game changer for them. Set reminders on your phone to remind them that you are there, that you love them and that you want to know how they’re doing. Senior parents often feel like a burden and you can avoid that and make it something you change for them.
Don’t do it alone. Helping elderly parents is so much easier when you’re not alone in it. You shouldn’t have to be the only person holding up the house, right? Well, don’t be. Rope in the help of others and make a point of sharing the mental load as much as the physical load. You shouldn’t take all of the responsibility for yourself because all you’re going to do is burn out. Communication is key if you want to make sure that you have the right support.
Look for the problems. It may feel counterproductive to look for problems before they happen but doing this will help you to figure out the right plan of action for support. Knowing emergency contacts, knowing their medical contacts and understanding their surroundings is so important if you want to ensure that your parents are safe. Seeking out the problems will help you to prepare to fix them and some days, you need to fix them! If you have the essentials sorted, you’re going to find it a much smoother journey.
Be their advocate. As they’re your parents, it makes sense to advocate where you can. Being their voice when things get tough is going to help them and you to find life easy. If they have an illness, ensuring that you all have a good grasp of what to expect will help you to keep moving forward and prevent anyone moving backwards. Knowing their conditions, their medications, their appointments and more is vital if you want to be a good advocate for them in times of need.
Encourage activity. This is something you can do together: walks, swims and sports. Many aging parents find remaining active difficult and it’s important to do that together to help both parents stay social and active. If your parents are active they are helping their health and that’s what you need from them the most, too! Going to sports, senior groups, churches/ religious places, museums and more will help them to maintain their activity and their friendships. It’s super needed for balance and to improve their mood, cognitive thinking, strength and more. Aging parents can participate in senior programs and it’s something that will make them feel energised and vital in the world.
Assist them with downsizing. Parents living in larger houses often need space but not too much space. Cleaning and organising is much harder in a larger home and you can help them to downsize without being bossy or demanding. Realising that you can help without pushing is important. You don’t have to be bossy about it all and ensuring that they don’t feel like you are hiding their memories is important. Your parents may argue at the idea of downsizing, but that’s natural when they haven’t ever planned to!
Help your parents to create a memory book. You want to show your parents that you are there for them and it’s common for senior parents to experience short term memory issues that take time to build. Creating memory books is important for them to know who they are and what their homes have meant to them. Fill it up with scrapbook pages, photos, places and pets through the years so that they can use it and flip through it whenever they are feeling down.
Helping elderly parents is a pull on the heartstrings and you should ensure that you are equipped where possible.