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Challenges of Caring for a Parent

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Top Takeaways 

  1. Changes in your relationship with your parent are bound to occur when you become their caregiver. To work through this transition in a healthy manner, maintain effective communication, have patience, and set boundaries where they are needed. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to take healthy authority over the situation when caring for a parent. 
  3. Other family members may not react as expected to the changes in your parent’s health condition. Have patience and understanding as you both process your emotions. 
  4. If you are experiencing negative emotions or other caregiving-related challenges, consider joining a caregiving support group. 


Intro 

Taking on the role of caring for a parent as they age is a significant shift in your relationship that will require changes and adjustment. While this is a chance for you to enjoy additional quality time with your parent, you are bound to face some challenges and difficulties along the way. Below, we've listed several potential challenges that you may face as your parent's caregiver, as well as strategies to address them. 


Changes in Your Relationship

When you become the caregiver for your parent, this will lead to a change in the dynamic of your relationship. Your parent has always been responsible for caring for you, and now the roles have flipped. This will require an adjustment period for both of you. 

Additionally, your parent may be in denial over their condition while you are concerned. They may still desire independence even though you have begun caring for them. 

Below are several strategies that can help you both handle this adjustment. 

Communicate Effectively

It is common for parents to feel embarrassment when they are no longer able to care for their children, and instead their children must care for them. 

  • When possible, allow your loved ones to freely express their feelings and emotions, so resentment does not build up. 
  • If you are feeling difficult negative emotions around your new role as a caregiver, or aspects of the new dynamic of your relationship, it may be a good idea to lovingly communicate your feelings to your parent; however, this will vary in each situation. 

 

Have Patience

Patience is key to maintaining a healthy relationship. It will allow you to avoid acting towards your parent in a hurtful way. Practice patience to avoid making them feel guilty, criticizing their actions, making rude comments about their condition, or treating them poorly in any other way. Here are some ways you can do this. 

  • Remove yourself from situations where you feel emotional. Take a short break or go for a walk to calm down and improve your mindset. 
  • Take a deep breath or count to 10 before responding in a difficult conversation. 

Take Healthy Authority Over the Situation. 

When your parents need a caregiver, this is often a result of a decline in their physical or mental health. 

  • As a caregiver for your parents, you should have the ability to make decisions for them, say no when necessary, and not feel guilty when you don’t do what they want you to do. 
  • It is also important to encourage them to maintain their independence when possible, so allow them to maintain some level of authority in certain scenarios. 
  • Know that neither of you should have an unhealthy amount of control over the other. This will vary in each situation and may require some trial and error to find a healthy balance.  

Set Boundaries and Maintain a Work/Life Balance. 

When caregiving for a parent, the boundaries between life and work can quickly become blurred. This is especially true if your parent has moved in with you. Work to find areas where you can set boundaries that allow you to take care of yourself, while still being present for your loved one. Here are some examples of boundaries that you can set for yourself: 

  • Set a bedtime for yourself and do your best to stick to it. 
  • Set a self-care schedule for yourself, in which you allot specific times in your schedule for relaxation, alone time, exercise, or whatever you need to take care of yourself. 
  • If you don’t live with your parent, limit the number of times you’ll accept phone calls from them in a day, or even an hour if you are in constant contact. Remind yourself not to feel guilty when you don’t answer a call. 

Relationships With Other Family Members

The necessity of a caregiver for your parent can present several challenges when relating to other family members. Some family members, including your siblings, may be experiencing denial about your parent's health condition. This might mean that they will not take part in the caregiving responsibilities. 

 

Other family members may not have any interest in helping with caregiving for different reasons. When you are left as the sole caregiver, this can lead to feelings of resentment towards your family members and even towards your loved one. 

 

Here are some strategies to face the challenge of difficult relationships with family members: 

  • Allow them to process their own emotions. Remind yourself that everyone processes their emotions in different ways and at a different pace. Give them time, and when it is appropriate, gently address complex subjects. 
  • Healthily process your own emotions. Recognize resentment, anger, or other unhealthy emotions that you may be feeling towards any of your family members. Cope with these emotions by journaling, meditation, and other self-care practices or seeking therapy or counseling. 
  • Communicate effectively. When you both are ready, it may be helpful to sit down with your family members and have a conversation to understand how they are feeling and express to them how you are feeling. Growing understanding is crucial so that you both can be present for your loved one.  
  • Begin by requesting help with small tasks. If caregiving for a parent seems overwhelming to other family members, try to start small. Begin by asking them for help with simple tasks, like picking items up from the grocery store, doing laundry, or mowing the lawn.  
  • Join a caregiving support group. It can feel frustrating when your family members do not respond to your parent’s caregiving needs how you might expect. Joining a support group can be helpful to discuss these challenges with others who have experienced them. 

General Caregiving Tips 

Becoming a caregiver can be a major transition. The following are some additional caregiving tips to help you transition into your new role as a caregiver for your parent.  

 

  • Cope with Financial Challenges. You may need to take on some of the financial burdens for your parent’s care and necessities if they did not have money set aside for their medical needs. Here are a few ways to cope with the financial stresses of becoming a caregiver for your parents: 
    • Find ways to save money where possible. This can be done by couponing, taking advantages of senior discounts, and purchasing essentials in bulk. 
    • Take advantage of tax credits available to caregivers. Depending on your situation, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your taxes if you support more than 50% of their living expenses. Be sure to document all of your caregiving expenses and consult a tax professional to achieve the best tax outcome for your situation. 

  • Cope With Difficult Emotions. When your parent's health begins to decline, and you become responsible for providing them with care, your new caregiving role can bring up a lot of emotions. This can include negative emotions like guilt, grief, worry, anxiety, and more. Here are some ways to cope with negative emotions that may arise as a caregiver
    • Practice meditation or breathing exercises to cope with stress. 
    • Write in a journal or talk with a trusted friend to express your emotions. 
    • Join a caregiving support group or attend therapy.
Robert Fisher

Robert Fisher has a background in Nursing and Healthcare management, with specialities in health and wellness, fitness and nutrition.

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