How to Survive Caring for an Elderly Parent: Managing your Emotions

Anne Jones’s tips on how to survive caring for an elderly parent while being strong in yourself as you care for a loved one.

My mother was given a maximum of six months to live so we brought her into our home to care for her last days. Three years later she was still with us! I share the insights and understanding that this time brought me and how you can keep your energy and spirits strong through what can be an intensely demanding and challenging time.

When my mother had a stroke I felt my heart was going to split in two. The pain was
unbearable and I kept dissolving into tears. I felt the pain as if she had died! But she hadn’t and I couldn’t understand why it hit me so hard. Because she was still with us I felt I couldn’t share the grief and I tried to resolve it – as though my emotions were a problem that needed fixing! But, of course there is no quick fix for grief. The pain in my heart was my heart being broken for although she hadn’t died and my mother wasn’t the same, she wasn’t all there; the mother I had known had left so it was right to grieve and as the tears poured and I got over the shock I felt calmer. I distracted myself by planting seeds in our greenhouse, something about starting a life seemed to help me.

My focus soon became totally focussed on her care and my emotional upsets were more about her condition and her suffering. Her stroke didn’t leave her impaired in her speech and she wasn’t paralysed, but she was never the same again. There were flashes of her personality and nature but it was as though part of her had already passed on. Three years later she died and although I wasn’t in the room at the moment she passed, I was beside her seconds later. As I stood at her bedside I suddenly felt an amazing energy flow through me and I sensed the wholeness of my mother’s spirit fill me before she left. I cried but was comforted to know that she was leaving her suffering and also I had a sense of completeness. When I asked my spiritual counsellor about this he said that my mother had been due to leave earlier but her heart had kept her with me, despite her soul wishing to go. In fact much of her spiritual energy had in fact passed over at the time of her stroke as planned. The feeling I had when she finally left was a reunion of her spirit. I didn’t have anything like the sense of grief when she finally departed, rather I experienced a warmth and peaceful feeling and I could joyfully celebrate her life with our friends and family.

There were many times in the years that my mother spent in our care that my emotional tap was switched on! Some good, some not so! She went through a time when she constantly called out “Help me, Help me”. When I went to her side she opened her eyes and smiled and I asked, “What’s wrong darling?”. “Nothing” she said. “But you called out” I said. “Did I?” she replied! After ten times in a couple of hours I felt fit to bust! Yes, there are many situations that can cause you frustration, at times anger and of course sadness when a person drifts into dementia.

Dealing with your emotions

Suppressed emotions are toxic to your energy, emotional body and your physical state. So, without causing offence or upset it’s important that you release these emotions as soon as you can. If you feel like crying find a space and have a good cry, let it out. You will feel sorry for yourself often, you are human and having to focus on another person’s needs constantly is very draining no matter how much you love them. Allow yourself to wallow occasionally!

One day our carer came to the house and I flew out as she arrived and ran into the garden and screamed and screamed. I felt completely overwhelmed as though a million tentacles were enveloping and suffocating me. The screaming helped! If you don’t have a place where you can do this you can try thumping a pillow, that really helps with frustration! For deeper emotions that may be from old childhood issues with your parent you can write down those feelings and then burn the paper and allow the energies to transform into the light of the flames.

With all your love and patience there will be times when your emotions will get the better of you, and that is quite natural. Rather than beat yourself up, use one of these ways to help yourself through to calmer times:

  • Essential oils. I love essential oils and I use them to change my mood. Put a few
    drops on a tissue and inhale when you need it and use on your pillow at night to help you sleep. Lavender is very calming, peppermint will revive you, rose brings you back to your heart and love, juniper and sage can clear your personal energy of negativity, citrus fragrances will uplift you.
  • Yoga. I have always found this a real help and have had to force myself to go to my regular sessions even when I have felt too tired to bother as I always feel better afterwards.
  • Exercise. I enjoy swimming but running, Pilates, aerobics and weight training are all good for expelling excessive frustrations and stress.
  • Reiki and reflexology are great for clearing your energy and meridians. Also I found a couple of therapists locally that give Gong Baths, where you can lie down in comfort and be swept with the vibrant sound of large gongs.
  • Relaxing baths and massage. Pamper yourself as much as you can, this can be
    particularly good when you feel resentful and put upon.
  • Meditation. In my last article I shared a meditation to help you relax your body. Here is one to help you to transform your emotions:
    – Emotions come from imprints of pain like scars that are held in our
    subconscious and consciousness; memories of past hurt and trauma. They
    also come from negative beliefs and programming that we hold. All healing
    comes through love so I am asking you now to transfer your emotions into a
    clear quartz crystal orb where they can be healed.
    – Sit quietly, breathe in deeply four times and hold your hands in front of you,
    visualise the crystal in your hands. If you can’t imagine it then say “I hold a
    crystal in my hands”.
    – Say “I pass into this crystal all my anger, frustration, pain, sadness, all
    emotions I no longer wish to feel from my thoughts or from past trauma”.
    – Send love into the crystal to heal and transform those energies. Use Reiki or
    any other healing you know or just feel your love flowing into it.
    – Now bring your hands up to your heart centre. “I bring this crystal and all it
    holds into my heart where it is transformed into love right now, right now,
    right now”.

In a future article I will share ways you can help your relative to manage their own
emotions and the fear that can disturb them as they come nearer to their time to
pass on.

Sending you love and big hugs

Anne x

About the author: Anne Jones is an international author and key-note speaker. Her self-help books have been translated into 17 languages. With her down-to-earth style she helps her audiences and readers to find ways to cope with everyday problems and overcome the effects of trauma and loss. She gives practical advice on how to stay uplifted and energised as you face the challenges of life. See her website for further information.

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