Relationships between parents and their children aren’t always picture-perfect, and as people grow older they can change for the better or for the worse.
Caregiving an aging parent isn’t an easy feat, but it can be much more stressful if the parent has dementia.
Unfortunately, with dementia, aggressive words and actions can worsen. The rise in aggression can send an already strained relationship over the edge, making the job of caring for a loved one taxing – stretching the one giving care to mental and physical overload.
Many caretakers do not realize that countless adult children face the same dilemmas. How do I continue caring for my parent from day to day? We didn’t get along before dementia, and now I feel stressed and resentful. I am exhausted. I am also feeling guilty! What should I do? Is it time to seek help?
Family Caregiving and Chronic Stress
If you are an exhausted and stressed caregiver of a parent, you truly are not alone with the challenges that you face.
Many studies have identified that family caregiving can result in chronic stress, which can compromise a caregiver’s mental and physical well-being. Behavior issues and cognitive impairment (i.e., dementia), as well as relationship (and a history of relationship issues), add an extra layer of pressure to the job of caregiving.
Three of many factors that add to greater degrees of depression and stress, and low ratings of well-being in caregivers, are reported in the study Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving:
- The care recipient’s behavior problems
- The care recipient’s cognitive impairment
- The relationship between caregiver and care recipient
An abstract of the study Caring for My Abuser: Childhood Maltreatment and Caregiver Depression, reports that people with a history of parental abuse showed significantly more frequent depressive symptoms compared to caregivers who had not experienced parental abuse. People who had been neglected showed significantly more frequent depressive symptoms compared to those that had not experienced neglect.
How to Care for a Parent When Your Relationship Has Been Strained
We have several suggestions that may help you manage caring for your parent who you have been in a difficult or unhealthy relationship with. We recommend that you start with a focus on any signs of aggression that can be related to dementia, followed by taking care of yourself, hiring help, and considering memory care.
Even if your parent has been historically neglectful or abusive, the aggression that they display with dementia may have a cause other than their relationship with you, such as confusion, discomfort, environmental factors, and misunderstandings through poor communication. Confrontation with your parent will only exacerbate any symptoms of aggression. Your role is to remain calm and to communicate in a manner that is easy to understand and reduces confusion. Evaluate each potential cause (i.e., confusion, environmental factors, poor communication, discomfort), and always seek medical help to rule out illness or pain.
Related article: Behavior Changes with Dementia: Aggression
Get Some Help – Counselor or Social Worker
Work with a licensed counselor or social worker to help you sort out your feelings, and to ensure everyone gets the help, care, and support that they need.
Speaking with a professional will help you:
- Find clarity and set healthy boundaries (to protect your well-being, and that of your family, job, and your home)
- Manage guilt feelings or resentment (help you to resolve your feelings and move forward)
- Engage in self-care (you cannot properly take care of others if you fail to take care of yourself first)
Remember to never feel guilty for taking care of yourself first!
Hire Help – Respite or Caretaking
The advantages of hiring help, either respite or caretaking, will take some of the load of caregiving off your back. It can give you a restorative needed break. But these services can also act as a buffer between you and your parent. By bringing someone else into the caretaker role, you may eliminate the emotional aspects that can bring rise to aggressive behavior. By hiring help, you also will be engaging a person into the role who can fully assess your parent’s needs and ensure that they are met.
Remember, it is okay to take care of you and protect your mental and physical well-being, and sometimes that can mean getting a legal guardian appointed to your parent. Full or partial guardianship provides for a person’s care and management of their money while preserving any capability of them making their own life-affecting decisions. When a person is proven by the court to be incompetent and therefore requires someone else to care for their health, living situation, and finances, full control can be appointed to a person through legal guardianship. Contact your local department of family and protective services, or a family, probate, or guardianship attorney to obtain more information and to get the process started.
Consider Memory Care
We understand the challenges involved when considering the options for your parent’s memory care. Even if you have had a rough relationship with your parent, you still want to ensure that their care fits all their needs and that it supports their quality of life.
Some of the most common questions when making memory care decisions for a parent include:
- What is the cost of memory care vs. assisted living?
- What is the difference between memory care and assisted living?
It is difficult to compare the cost difference between memory care and assisted living when so many factors are important to the equation, such as level of care and type of living environment.
The type of care provided to your loved one with memory impairment is principal to the cost of their care.
Our blog, Is Memory Care More Expensive Than Assisted Living? will help you sort through some of these questions.
Another common question is, how to manage finances for memory care?
Assisted Living communities often offer support to family members in navigating funding options for assisted living services and in choosing the right level of services. Our blog, Does Medicare & Medicaid Pay for Assisted Living in Texas? will help you review benefits provided in the state of Texas. Within this blog, we also provide a link for choosing a memory care facility from another state, and how to find additional funding and financial support for assisted living (in any state).
We Are Here for You
We want to help you with your questions and ease your mind about transitioning your loved one to memory care.
You are always more than a visitor – you are part of the process!
If are in the Round Rock, Texas area, and would like to schedule a family visit, or make an appointment, you may do so online, or call us at 512-399-5080.