U tilize resources.
Take advantage of the help that others offer. This is especially important if you do not live near your parents. (See Solving Problems from Afar on page 23.) When people ask whether they can help, instead of saying, "That's okay, I can manage," say, "Yes, thanks!" Then tell them what they can do. The more specific you can be, the better. If you can't think of an immediate need, make a note for the future. Later you can call them and say, "I'd like to take you up on your offer to help. . . ."
Your siblings and relatives can help. So can your parents' neighbors and friends. Ask. If you don't ask, they may never know you need them. It is the wise person who calls for help before a situation becomes critical.
Tap into community resources as well. Volunteer drivers can take your parents on errands and to appointments. Friendly visitors can break up long days and give your parents company to look forward to. Local senior centers offer activities and classes that are both educational and enjoyable. Adult day-care facilities offer programs and activities that can help time pass and meet your parents' social needs as well.
Avoid the temptation to do it all yourself. It may seem easier at first, but in the long run it won't be. Taking everything on your shoulders is a sure way to burn out.
R espect your own limits.
Everyone's limits vary. Yours may be measured in hours ("I can only give my mother an hour of my time today") or in patience ("I will offer to help one more time; if my parents say no again, I will back off"). Whatever your limits are, respect them.
In addition, remind yourself that what is possible is not always feasible. You may want to spend every available minute taking care of your recently widowed father. But you have a husband, two children, and a job. You simply can't do all you would like. Often, good enough is just that.
Once you have announced a plan, don't go back on your word. For example, suppose you say, "I can stop by between 12 and 2 today, Dad. I have to pick up Cindy after school, so I can't stay any later." Then be sure to leave by two o'clock.
If you find yourself unable to continue doing something your parents need, find someone who can take on that activity. For example, if your mother is lonely and you can't see her as often as she would like, ask others to visit her.
Providing care for aging parents is inherently upsetting. Expect to feel sad, angry, and frustrated at times. When you have these feelings, resist the temptation to judge yourself harshly. There are no unacceptable feelings. There are simply feelings that make sense given the situation and your relationship with your parents. For example, if you have never gotten along with your parents, don't expect to feel all right about having to help them now. Even if you have had a close or loving relationship and don't mind taking care of them, anticipate feeling sad and angry as they decline.
Be wary of people who tell you how you should feel. "You're lucky you have your parents to take care of." Or "Be grateful you can pay them back for all they did for you." Statements like these devalue your own feelings. Don't buy into them.
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