Living and working in South Florida, many friends, colleagues and clients have gone through or are going through the stress of taking care of elderly parents. While this process is inherently stressful, adult children of the elderly often give themselves a problem about their problems, often in the form of guilt.
At the root of the caregiver’s problem is the often perfectionist notion that they should take care of the parent around the clock and are fully responsible for the parents well being. As a result, they don’t take enough time to manage their own lives and stress and feel guilty when they do.
Recently, a therapist colleague reached out at a group meeting to share her personal struggles in this area. When someone suggested she take more time for herself and assured her that she was doing a fine job as a loving daughter and caretaker, she said , “Yes, I know that intellectually, but I don’t FEEL it”.
I chimed in and posed the following; I would guess by that you mean that you occasionally during the day tell yourself that you need and have a right to take some time for yourself, but with far greater frequency you tell yourself that you really should be at her side and should not be taking the time away, that if something happened, it would be your fault, etc.” She readily agreed that is exactly what says to herself often during the day.
She agreed to work on this and thanked me for my insight and suggestion.
Adult children of elderly parents need to have a degree of “healthy selfishness” and take care of themselves so they may have the physical and emotional energy available for their parents.