Is Your Grandparent Depressed? Part II
In the first part of this series, I discussed ways in which you can identify and help seniors who may be struggling with a mental health issue. In Part II, I want to discuss how you can support yourself as well as your older loved one while taking care of them. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll assume that there is a parent or grandparent/child dynamic taking place.
As parents and grandparents get older, there is a natural shift in the care that they receive from younger family members. If you were lucky, your parents took care of you- they changed your diapers, held your hand during heartbreaks, and made sure you had enough to eat and a place to sleep. When they get older and need more help, parents and children often switch caretaking roles. This can be extremely distressing for your parents. To rely on someone that you took care of can be confusing, and also can cause older folks to feel burdensome. Keep a close eye on older folks trying to downplay their needs or doing things that are out of their capabilities in order to give you a break. This is an extremely fine line to toe because you still want to empower your parent or grandparent to have autonomy and agency over themselves and their actions. Try and have conversations around what they feel confident doing alone, what they would like to do with your help, and what they want you to have complete ownership of.
When this shift of responsibility occurs, it can be equally as hard on the caregiver as it is on the person receiving the care. You might be used to relying on your parents or grandparents to get you of a jam, help you make decisions, or with things around the house. When that is no longer an option, it can be a shock to the system. As they age, your relationship with them can completely change, especially if they struggle with memory loss. It’s not uncommon to feel loss and grief when you notice this change in your relationship.
On top of your regular 40+ hour a week job, children, social obligations, and chores, it is normal to become overwhelmed about your new responsibility as a caregiver. Here are some tips to help you manage this next stage in your life:
Be Aware of Compassion Fatigue: In Danielle Bertini, LPC’s blog: Compassion Fatigue: What Is It and How Can I Prevent It?, she explains how folks in helping professions are at risk for compassion fatigue which is the “physical and emotional exhaustion and a profound decrease in the ability to empathize.” Learn what might trigger you to feel fatigued while taking care of your parent so you can notice when it comes up and set your own boundaries for your mental health.
Get Help: It can feel incredibly isolating to be the sole caretaker for your parent. If you have siblings, lean on them for support and get creative with how you delegate tasks. Use people’s unique talents and skills to help you with tasks you might not have the bandwidth for. Does your brother work in finance? Have him keep track of your parents’ spending and medical bills. If you’re an only child or have trouble engaging your siblings, try and find friends who can lend a hand, or research a support group for caregivers.
Self-Care, Self-Care, and More Self-Care: The most important thing you can do to be a great caregiver is to take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup, meaning, if you can’t give yourself patience, love, and compassion- how can you give it to someone else? If you have to, physically block your calendar off with self-care activities. Make sure to take breaks, give yourself days off, and do things you enjoy.
Enjoy Your Time with Them: Life is short, and it can be easy to miss the small moments that make life worth living when you are swamped with the day to day of caregiving. Try your best to be present and mindful with the person you are taking care of. Do things together that you have always enjoyed, try and laugh when you can, and savor the time you have left with them.
If you suspect that your grandparent or parent is struggling with a mental health issue, discussing their options for therapy might be a good idea. Additionally, if you are struggling due to the pressures of taking care of them, contact Symmetry Counseling today to meet with one of our therapists in Chicago.
Bertini, D., LPC. (2021, March 31). Counselor – Compassion Fatigue: What Is It and How Can I Prevent It? Retrieved from https://www.symmetrycounseling.com/counselor/compassion-fatigue-what-is-it-and-how-can-i-prevent-it/
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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