Parenting Your Parents

Many people find themselves spending more time caring for their parents than their kids.project manage elder care

If your childhood emotional baggage weighs more than a set of old luggage, caring for an aging parent is ripe territory for bringing up unresolved psychological issues.

Author, psychologist and personal coach Susan Pilgrim believes in bearing responsibility for the people you love and are connected with, regardless of how close you are. She stresses however, to understand what you're getting into and why.

"There are all kinds of psychological issues that come up for people parenting their parents," says Pilgrim.

If necessary, pay someone to help your parents around the house.
Take advantage of local community agencies.
Invite your kids to help, even if it just means keeping your parents company.
Use looking after your parents as an opportunity to teach children about their heritage.
Take time off to nurture yourself and your family.

Many caregivers get resentful if they look at helping elderly parents as payback for what they did for them as a child. Other adult children do all the work, and bitterly complain to siblings. A few nurture their parents to get the approval they missed out on as children.

Be careful if any of those story lines sound familiar. "I don't want to sound mean, but care giving shouldn't envelop your whole life," says Pilgrim.

There are 65 million unpaid caregivers in the United States today. Many of them are married and can expect to spend more time caring for their elderly parents than their own kids. When the going gets rough Pilgrim advises you to think of yourself as a project manager.

The situation becomes more manageable if you hire help. Involve the whole family, and make it a group effort. Enlist siblings who live far away to contribute financially. This will lessen some of the financial burden placed on you and your immediate family.

When drawing so heavily on your reserves of inner strength, be sure to refuel and take time off to nurture your own family. "You don't want to be so obligated you neglect yourself and your own family," says Pilgrim.

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