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By John Lough
Special to The PREVIEW
Improved health care and lifestyle changes have many more Americans living into their 80s and beyond. The result is that the grown children of many of these seniors now find themselves facing increasing demands for help. Sometimes it is a hard demand to meet.
While none of us wants to abandon an elderly parent facing mounting physical and psychological challenges, the needs of our own lives and families can make it difficult to always be available.
The result is often increased personal anxiety and stress, and a negative affect on family life. Providing the money, time and emotional energy that an elderly parent may require might mean that the grown child’s own life and immediate family is paying the price as their own needs are neglected.
It’s an increasingly common situation with no easy cures. But if such stress is something you’re facing, try asking yourself some basic questions:
• Are the needs of your aging parent real, or simply the demands of an elderly parent who feels you “owe” help when and where he or she wants it?
• Can siblings help? Even children who are living far away, or are emotionally not close to that parent, can sometimes surprise with offers of aid when invited to help.
• Are there other sources of help? Neighbors or friends may be eager to offer help and reduce some of your burden. Your local Council on Aging can provide advice on appropriate services available.
• Are you prioritizing your time and activities? Your own family, as well as you yourself, deserve your attention and care. Sometimes saying “no” because your own needs and those of your family must be met is simply something that must be done.
• Are you managing your time well? Create a schedule to help an aging parent with small chores, like shopping or bill paying, rather than just being available on demand.
While it’s natural to want to provide needed help as parents become older and less capable on their own, it’s important to recognize that each of us has limits. Overextending yourself to help that elderly parent can result in negative consequences for you and your family that can bring a heavy price.
Be realistic and reasonable about the help that you can provide and you’ll better benefit yourself, your own family and your aging parent.
Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org