Guilt and Caring for Aging Parents – I

As I mentioned in the previous Blog post, I recently met a professional counselor who specializes in helping adults with aging parents as well as other caregivers, cope with the emotional and practical aspects of care giving.  Lynne Coon, M.S., is a Licensed Professional Counselor and you can find more about her on her website:

I asked her to provide two articles which I think you will find very informative.  I appreciate her contribution.  Here’s Part I of the second article  “Guilt can be Harmful when Caring for Aging Parents:”

“When the needs of aging parents increase, adult children often experience a range of emotions. In future issues of my newsletter I’ll address some of the most common emotional struggles with which my clients are dealing. With this article, I’m going to focus on guilt.

Below is one of the two most common worries my clients have concerning their aging parents; an example of how my clients have responded to these worries; the reactions from their parents and a suggestion for another way of dealing with these feelings of guilt.

#1  Mom or Dad may come to some harm and I’ll feel terrible, or others will think badly of me.

Adult children often see only one option when they feel guilty about their ability to keep their parent safe: to tell them what to do and doing this with the best of intentions. However, the number one fear of older adults is losing their independence and often, adult children trigger that fear when they tell their elderly parents what to do.

Aging parents usually react to being told what to do in one of two ways:

  • They become less willing to share information about  their health or struggle to continue to live independently. The result is typically some sort of accident or crisis, exactly the outcome the adult child was hoping to prevent.
  • They give in to their kids’ demands and go along to get along. They may become unhappy, depressed and withdrawn.

A different, three-pronged, approach:

  1. Share your concerns with your parents. Use “I” as much as possible since the word “you” tends to make others defensive and they stop listening.
  2. Ask your parents for their ideas on how to solve the problem. This step is a process. It’s unrealistic to expect that one conversation is all it will take to arrive at a solution.
  3. Be willing to compromise. Is it more important that your parents make some changes or that nothing changes? Listening and respecting your parent’s opinions can also increase the chances they’ll be willing to make further changes in the future.”

Part II to follow 8-2-2012

“People can succeed at almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm”

Charles Schwab