Archive for May, 2009

Aging parents, 3 steps to coping

I’ve been away for awhile taking care of an ailing father and both in-laws. I am going to share some some important suggestions to help you cope during this trying time.

I’ll be honest, after more than 20 years of helping others overcome  stress and adversity, I found myself occasionally forgetting my own advice. But I got back on track. So if you feel overwhelmed right now, there is help.

Taking care of our aging parents is one of the most challenging and stressful events in life. It is gut wrenching to see your parents become frail and helpless. They took care of us. We depended on them for everything and now the roles are reversed.  I am going through it as I write this. For the last 12 months both of my in-laws have been in and out of emergency rooms and now both need 24 hour care.

You may now find yourself dealing with multiple doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, medicare, powers of attorney, home nursing, medications, learning new medical terminology etc.  On top of helping your parents, you have to take care of yourself and your immediate family. Your children also worry about their grandparents and you struggle with what and how much to tell them. For all of you going through this, I am with you.

Since every situation is unique, I cannot cover all of them. The type of illness, where your parents live, the financial situation and whether you have siblings will all play a role in how you will take care of your parents. Even your culture and background will influence your choices. For example, some cultures and families disapprove of nursing homes. While others believe nursing homes are the best option. Whatever decision you make it will be difficult, both have their own challenges. I’ll write more in another article about nursing homes vs staying at home. There is too much too cover here.

In an earlier article I wrote about my father’s aggressive form of Alzheimer’s which stuck him last year. He is now in a special care home. After months of trying to keep him at home, we could no longer provide him the help he needed.

Your parents may be suffering from terminal illness or just gradually losing their health and independence. Some of you may be preparing for the inevitable end. And some of you may be alone and have to take care of your parents by yourself.

For those of you who had a difficult relationship with your parents, this is especially a hard time for you.  Do you feel guilty over not caring enough? Do you feel compelled to make amends before it’s too late? Or perhaps  life was so tough with your parents that your love is deeply buried or gone, but you are the only able to take care of them. All of these scenarios are more common than you probably realize. You are not alone

And all of these situations are emotionally and physically wrenching. But there are steps you can take to minimize the stress and get help. But I won’t fool you. Nothing will or should completely eliminate the pain you are going through. Some emotional pain and stress is normal and you can’t cure normal.

I want to share with you the hard earned techniques I used. These are simple techniques. So simple and obvious that we frequently forget them as I did. Please use them. I cannot stress enough how important they are.

1) Take time for yourself and your immediate family. Exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep.  You won’t be helpful to your parents or own family if your own health suffers. It’s not necessary to spend every moment with your parents, but it is vital that you set aside at least one hour per day for yourself. Use it to rest, catch up with your kids and spouse. It is also vital that you make a schedule to help your parents. Unless there is an emergency, stick to it and don’t feel guilty if you’re not with them all the time.

2) Seek help from friends, family and professional resources. It’s likely some of your friends have gone through the same thing. Ask them how they coped and what they did to help their parents. I did and learned valuable information on such things as nursing homes, medicare, how to deal with insurance companies, doctors and hospitals.  They also know you feel and what you’re going through. This itself is a huge help.

Ask your family for help and cooperation. Not all of you have this advantage, but for those of you with siblings and close relatives, this step is very important. Put aside any differences and focus on the common goal of getting your parents the best help available. Make a list of tasks, resources and available time and divide the work.  I worked closely with my sister, and while we didn’t always agree, together we got things done. We also had each other for emotional support. It was a blessing.

Most hospitals, insurance companies and local communities offer support programs for people just like you.  Many of these services are free-use them. You can talk to trained counselors and obtain free legal and medical advice. If you belong to a church, ask them about any services they offer. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed.  What you’re going through is a normal part of life. Be strong and seek help. Trust me on this, doing everything on your own is very, very tough.  It was a profound lesson to be reminded that most people are compassionate and helpful and that all of us need help from time to time.

3) Find God, meditate, become spiritual. This is the most important step. If you’re not religious or spiritual, then please learn and practice meditation and/or hypnosis. You must forgive yourself and your parents. Let go of the past and take care of today-now.

I haven’t discussed medications because I am not an MD, but if you feel you need medical help, then by all means seek out a trained specialist. In my case, I relied on God, meditation and self hypnosis to keep my emotions and stress under control. However, I would consider medication if I was unable to control my mental and emotional state. Even so, I would always practice hypnosis and prayer as well. Whatever means you use, you must take care of this part of your life.

My main point is that you must tend to your body, mind and soul and you should never hesitate to seek help from a variety of sources.

I utilized all these steps, except for medication. If you need any advice or help, please feel free to contact me or comment. I am trained hypnotherapist and have spent the last 20 years helping others live a worthwhile life.

Kind regards,



May 21, 2009 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment


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