1 in 3 Americans is now an unpaid family caregiver!
1 in 10 over 40 is a person “sandwiched” between caring for aging loved ones and younger dependents!
Of course, as the POParent, you’re aiming to stay positive and have a great attitude about the responsibilities you’ve chosen, even when you’re feeling tired, depressed or low energy. That’s not always simple. Sometimes your “charges” — young and old — don’t reciprocate that positive energy.
Here are 5 ways to keep yourself calm, carry on with what you want to do and (hopefully) make everyone feel and act more positively.
– Talk about the situation: Conversations do not need to be “confrontations.” When we see talking that way, we set everyone up for “oppositionality.” Instead, take a deep breath before making your own needs and wishes known to those you’re caring for. Then kindly and calmly tell them know how you feel about their “negativity” or unpleasant behavior. Tell them what you prefer in their actions and reactions. And, if there are “consequences,” such as you will go to your room and not clean up the dinner dishes, let them understand that, too. Then listen to them, too.
– Examine their medications: Most prescription drugs have what the medical/pharmacological community terms “side effects.” In my book, I just call those “effects” because when they impact you or your loved ones, that’s an honest description of them. Some “effects” may create personality changes or have conflicting relationships with other medicines or supplements. Make sure you get all your drugs from the same pharmacy and ask them check for potential drug interactions. Also tell your parents’ doctors about your observations, especially when you see a change in behavior and/or attitude after a new medicine has been prescribed.
– Don’t personalize the behavior of others: Many fall into the foreseeable “trap” of letting their parents’ moods or their children’s behaviors negatively impact them. Some feel they are the “cause” or are somehow responsible for the way their aging parents or youngsters are acting. It is important to realize that other people’s actions are not about you but about them: use that knowledge as a “protective shield” when those you’re caring for act out or feel badly.
– Own your feelings: When you’re aware of feeling sad, angry or confused, noticing your own thoughts and feelings and acknowledging them to yourself often disempowers their negative hold on you. Know that it’s normal to feel these emotions and give yourself permission to take the time you need to feel these emotions. Sometimes taking a break by retreating to a quiet space or taking a walk can be very helpful. And remember to not blame others for your own responses — after all, it’s no better to personalize the moods or behaviors of others than it is to blame them for yours.
– Keep a journal: Writing out your thoughts, feelings and potential “solutions” can be very therapeutic. Doing so can also help you create a positive sense of distance from some of the negativity or sadness you may be feeling. And that distance can give you a good perspective from which to formulate a plan to create the best solutions for all concerned.