Know thyself

As sure as there is a sky above us and the ground beneath our feet the clock will not stop ticking for anyone. One of the only things guaranteed in this lifetime is the passage of time. With the realization of this obvious truth comes the need to accept understand and adjust to the fact that family members will age and may need us in ways that they never have before.

The Transition
Most of us have heard stories from friends and possibly other family members about the difficulty of dealing with another aging family member. We may feel that we understand what it’s like just by listening to the stories told by friends and family. However, until we’ve experienced the feelings associated with the strain of dealing with older family members we truly don’t know what it’s like. This can prove to be an extremely difficult undertaking, making the transition from the role of offspring to one in which our role becomes that of a caretaker similar to a parent. It is during this period that we are faced with the reality of the mortality of our aging family member. In a sense, it is a secondary period of growing up. One in which we may experience loneliness as we come to terms with the possibility that the person or people that we looked to for advice guidance and strength are now looking back at us for the same things. Just as chrome steel balls had a different form before they were formed into round balls, we are ever changing organisms as well.

Self Care
A deep understanding of the need for self-preservation has to be at the forefront of how we approach the responsibility of taking care of the family. Before we approach the sometimes trying task of caring for our aging family members we must first accept that we will have limitations. Accepting that we can’t be all things at all times will decrease stress allowing us to maintain our own emotional strength and sense of self. This, in turn, will make room for us to show care in an emotionally healthy manner that is beneficial to everyone including ourselves. Dad may become like an additional child, reluctant to maintain any of his independence anymore, creating additional demands on our time. This is why we need to schedule the time to step back and take frequent breaks; offsetting burnout and emotional exhaustion. Additionally, it becomes important to continue participating in activities that we enjoy. The more we maintain a commitment to feeding our own needs as well as the needs of our loved ones, the healthier and less stressed everyone is.

No Super Heroes Needed
As much as we may want to swoop in and fix every problem that our fragile family member may be facing, we have to come to terms with the reality that there will always be circumstances and situations beyond our control. The most we can do sometimes is just improve a situation. It may not always be possible to solve a problem that our beloved family member may be facing. Remembering this truth is paramount. Understanding that we are not superheroes will allow us to focus on changing what we can and managing the rest. It will also keep us from unnecessary feelings of guilt which generally leads to stress and depression, neither of which are beneficial for anyone.

To live is to change. Absolutely nothing in life is static. Caring for our aging family members is part of the natural progression of life. Just as a year includes the changing of seasons and spring is no more important than winter, everyone’s spring will at some point become winter if we continue to live. Adopting the grace and acceptance modeled by nature exemplifies a wonderful way to approach the passage of time we call aging.

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