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Dealing With the Guilt That Comes When Your Parent is Aging

Are you part of the nearly 24 million Americans who help care for a parent? The role of a parent caregiver can feel like a web of decisions that all tie together, from financial decision-making to medical care to where is the best place for mom or dad to call home.

As decisions are made, the web may feel like it’s growing as your parent feels vulnerable and you feel guilt. You are asking your parent to form new acquaintances, trust new professionals, navigate new schedules and acclimate to new environments. On the other hand, you have been thrust into the primary decision-making role and are hoping you are making the best possible decisions for your loved one.

There are many factors that go into feeling guilty, from feeling inadequate to feeling overly responsible. One way to address the situation is to anticipate it and deal with it.

Visit retirement communities with your parent early so he or she is in the loop, and everyone is on the same page when the time arrives.

Stop second-guessing decisions. Even with a plan in place, an unexpected medical condition can alter a plan. Having proper health insurance and financial preparation in place ahead of time can help with decision-making in this situation.

Tips to Move Past Guilt

  1. Stop feeling as if you are abandoning your parent. Your parent always will be your parent, and you will visit them often, along with friends and other family members. If able, they will go on outings and other events and still come to your home for family gatherings.
  2. Focus on taking care of the caregiver -- you. If you do not take care of your exhaustion, stress and guilt, you will not be able to care for anyone. It is “parenting 101,” and definitely applies when caring for your own parent. Eat well and sleep well. Talk with friends about your parent, but talk about other things as well. This decision is a part of your life, but does not define you.
  3. Realize there are lots of great memories to make yet with your parent. Embrace a positive look on the future and relay this into your visits. Plan for visits to be unique and focused on quality time with your parent so you can create new memories and share new laughs.
  4. Understand you are not alone.There are many people going through this same situation who also have feelings of guilt. Reach out to the professionals and support groups at your parent’s retirement community. They are there to help you.

Contact an experienced coordinator at Resthaven at 616-796-3800 to learn more about the resources and support groups available to the families of Resthaven.