As sure as there is a sky above us and ground beneath our feet, the clock will not stop ticking for any person, place or thing. One of the only things guaranteed in this lifetime is the passage of time. With the realization of this obvious truth, we have to accept, understand and adjust to the fact that family members will age and may need us in ways that they never have before.
Most of us have heard stories from friends and possibly other family members about the difficulty of dealing with an aging family member. We may feel that we understand what it’s like just by listening to the stories told by friends and family. However, until we’ve experienced the feelings associated with the strain of dealing with older family members, we truly don’t know what it’s like. Perhaps for many of us, this could prove to be an extremely difficult undertaking. Making the transition from the role of offspring to one in which our role becomes that of a caretaker, is hard. It is during this period that we are faced with the reality of the mortality of our aging kin. In a sense, it is a secondary period of growing up. One in which we may experience loneliness as we come to terms with the possibility that the person or people that we looked to for advice, guidance and or strength, or now looking back at us for the same things. The father that once ran a successful antique car transport business may become the father that can’t remember where he put his keys.
A deep understanding of the need for self-preservation has to be at the forefront of how we approach the responsibility of taking care of a family member. Before we approach the sometimes trying task of caring for our aging family members, we must first accept that we will have limitations. Accepting that we can’t be all things at all times will lessen stress, allowing us to maintain our own emotional strength and sense of self. This, in turn, will make room for us to show care in an emotionally healthy manner, beneficial to everyone. Dad may become like an additional child, reluctant to maintain any of his independence anymore by creating additional demands on our time. All the more reason why we need to schedule the time to step back and take frequent breaks, offsetting burnout and emotional exhaustion. Adding to this point, it becomes important to continue to participate in activities that we enjoy. The more we maintain a commitment to feeding our own needs, as well as the needs of our loved ones, the healthier and less stressed everyone is.
No Super Heroes Needed
As much as we may want to swoop in and fix every problem that our fragile family member may be facing, we have to come to terms with the reality that there will always be circumstances and situations beyond our control. The most we can do sometimes is just improve a situation. It may not always be possible to solve a problem that our beloved family member may be facing. Remembering this truth is paramount to understanding that we are not superheroes. Once we realize this it allows us to focus on changing what we can and managing the rest. It will also keep us from experiencing unnecessary feelings of guilt which generally leads to stress and overwhelm, neither of which are beneficial for anyone.
To live is to change. Absolutely nothing in life is static. Caring for our aging family members are part of the natural progression of life. A year is not complete without the changing of seasons. Spring is no more important than winter, and everyone’s spring will at some point become winter if we continue to live. Adopting the grace and acceptance modeled by nature exemplifies a wonderful way to approach the passage of time we call aging. Every season has different needs and with each season there is an opportunity to care for and prepare for seasons to come, yet still enjoy our current season of life. It is commonplace for an elder family member to become the person in need at some point. Yet it is still possible and extremely necessary for us to continue to feed our lives by continuing to enjoy the things that keep us connected to who we are. Simply speaking, practicing self-care helps us to provide better care for our loved ones.