How to overcome responsibility anxiety for ageing parents

Looking after ageing parents and finding appropriate care for them can be one of the most stressful times of our lives. We often aren’t prepared for the rapid decline in our parent’s health or mobility and once the initial shock subsides, dealing with the practicalities of that parent’s care often leaves us bewildered and confused about what to do next.

A chief concern is usually about the ageing parent’s health and safety. We worry about how they will care for themselves in their own homes carrying out simple tasks such as cooking and cleaning.

Quite often the task of caring for them falls on an adult child or their siblings. Becoming a carer can be tough. There is the physical cost of caring, the time involved - which may come at the expense of work or other recreational activities - and then there is the emotional/psychological burden.

The mind often ticks over with questions like “Why hasn’t mum or dad answered the phone today?” “Is my visiting twice a week really enough help?” And, “Am I giving enough care or the right kind of care?,” causing undue stress and anxiety.

Family members often don’t realise the cumulative effects that this anxiety can have over time. It can have a serious impact on the person’s own mental and physical wellbeing, says clinical psychologist at Victorian Counselling and Psychological Services, Damon Ashworth.

“If feeling stressed is stopping you sleeping, making you sick, or if it’s starting to impact on your work performance or socialising, you really need to take action to protect your own health and wellbeing,” says Ashworth.

Find our top tips to reducing anxiety and restoring balance and harmony in this difficult life stage.

Key strategies for reducing responsibility anxiety

Get informed
Find out as much as you can about your parent’s daily life. Cover off things like what they like to eat, the style of clothes they like to wear and what they like to include on their shopping list. Enquire about the easiest way to help them get these things. If your parent is happy, this contentedness will be passed on to you.

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Looking after yourself is essential when looking after others

Ask for help
Doing everything yourself is almost certainly a recipe for psychological burnout. “Set limits on what you can do yourself. Enlisting the help of a carer to come around to help your parent can reduce the burden and stress you feel and mean you have more time to take care of yourself,” advises Ashworth.

Take time out to look after you
If you’re stressed and anxious it’s unlikely you can properly care for yourself or anyone else. You need time out for self-care activities too, says Ashworth. “Make sure you are exercising, doing something that relaxes you like meditation, visualisation or reading. Or if you are really struggling, see a psychologist,” he says.

Trust the experts
Trust the experts, but trust your own judgement too. “You need to trust that carers have done the training and have professional qualifications to do what they’re doing, but trust your judgment as well. If you don’t like the care being provided it’s ok to find someone else you like better if that puts your mind at ease,” says Ashworth.

Breathe to avoid panic attacks
Anxious people take quick, shallow breaths, explains Ashworth. Simple breathing exercises can restore a calmer state and avoid panic attacks and hyperventilating. “If you feel a panic attack coming, sit down, breathe slowly into your stomach, and take in long, slow breaths,” advises Ashworth.

Why choose in-home service provider Just Better Care?
Just Better Care’s staff will take the time to get to know your parent, identifying the best ways to support them to live independently in their own home and community. Services can include personal care, domestic assistance, transport, home maintenance and social support. A tailored in-home care plan can be developed to ensure your parent is receiving the care they need, when they need it, while giving you peace of mind.

For more information about how Just Better Care can work with you to understand the support your parent needs, visit www.justbettercare.com or call 1300 587 823.

How have your dealt with the stress of helping ageing parents? 

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