One of our members asked me to write an article on taking care of aging parents, stating that:
My sister, a professional caregiver for the elderly, has taken our father into her home (he is 90) and the honeymoon is definitely over. She is leaning on me for support and it's clear that her codependency is being triggered. He wants her attention ALL the time. She knows she needs to lay down boundaries, and it's very hard because he is beginning to have slight dementia. (Our mother died after 18 years of Alzheimer's, so there is a lot of fear here about this, from many angles, in addition to everything else.)
I know that many of you have, or have had, this challenge in your life. The challenge of taking care of an older person or an ill person is, in many ways, similar to taking care of a baby:
- In both situations, you are taking care of someone who cannot take care of himself or herself, which makes you responsible for them.
- In both cases, the person may be very demanding.
- Often, you might be alone in the caregiving.
- Tiredness is often an issue.
- Anger and resentment might build, especially if you are caretaking rather than caregiving, which means that you are not taking loving care of yourself.
- In both situations, learning how to take loving care of yourself is a vital part of being able to be a caring caregiver.
Ideas That May be Helpful
- If at all possible, have backup help. Whether with a baby, or an old or sick person, doing it yourself is not loving to you or to the person you are taking care of. When people lived in closer communities with family and friends, there were always people around to help. Our isolated way of living makes caregiving extremely challenging.
- Practice Inner Bonding throughout the day to stay in touch with taking loving care of yourself. Remember, what is loving to you is also loving to the person you are taking care of. It is not loving to abandon yourself, any more than it would be loving to abandon the baby, old person or sick person.
- Keep your heart open to your Guidance, as you need the energy of Spirit to be coming through your heart. If you try to rely on your own limited energy, you will wear out, which may lead to you feeling angry, short-tempered and irritated, or to you getting sick. You need the constant flow of energy from Spirit to be energizing your being. Staying open to learning about what is loving to you will ensure that your heart is open and receiving energy from Spirit.
- Throughout the day, consciously set your intention to be acting in the highest good of all.
Just as taking care of a baby can be one of the most gratifying experiences of your life, providing you are also taking loving care of yourself, so can taking care of an elderly person. You have an opportunity to move out of protecting yourself, and into learning what it means to be loving to yourself and share your love with the other person.
If the old person is your parent, such as in the above situation, you may also have an opportunity to heal some of the wounds from the past. The tables are now turned, with you being the parent and your parent being the dependent person. If you had problems with your parent, treating your parent as you wish you had been treated can bring about much inner healing for both of you.
There is no doubt that taking care of an older parent can be challenging, but when you accept the challenge as a sacred privilege, and as a learning and healing experience, you might experience much profound soul healing and growth.