Providing care to aging parents can be stressful and difficult. During this time period many caregivers tend to neglect themselves, which add on to the level of stress a caregiver experiences. To help understand the type of impact giving care to aging parents can have on someone’s life and what someone can to do reduce caregiver stress, I have interviewed therapist Alisa Ruby Bash LMFT.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Beverly Hills, California. I specialize in anxiety; depression, relationship issues, and helping people cope with all life’s challenges and transitions. I help my clients create permanent change and growth in the present, and let go of negative patterns from the past.”
“I am consulted frequently in the media and have been featured most recently on NBC news regarding the latest marriage statistics, “E! News” regarding Sandra Bullock and Jesse James, “EXTRA” (NBC) as an “Extra Lifechanger” regarding the Tiger Woods scandal, cheating, and offering marriage advice for Tiger and Elin. I write a monthly relationship advice column for L.A. Family Magazine, and have been featured in AOL, More.com, Oprah.com, Complete Woman Magazine, Figure Magazine, Gate House Newspapers, The Intelligencer Newspaper, and the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. I am also the author of “I Love You Forever If — (Secrets To Keeping The Spark Alive)”, a relationship book in stores nationwide 2011.”
What type of impact can being a caregiver of aging parents have on someone’s overall life?
“Everyone needs to be taken care of from time to time. But, when a loved one, especially a parent, suddenly requires long-term care, even the most nurturing among us will eventually experience unexpected physical and emotional challenges. Being a caregiver can have a negative impact on almost every area of one’s life. Although we can understand from a logical perspective that our parents will age and eventually pass away, experiencing the process will undoubtedly wreak emotional havoc among even the strongest individual at some point. Although we can wax and wane between acceptance, grief, frustration, and peace, being a caregiver of aging parents will surely have an impact on our lives.”
“The process of being a caregiver will vary from individual to individual, depending on the specific circumstances, other family members, etc. At the end of the day, taking care of the people who were supposed to always take care of you can cause a plethora of mixed emotions, and they are all normal and valid. Many people find themselves, saddened, resentful, exhausted, and depressed. Although, sometimes, in cases with unresolved parental issues, caregivers can find the process deeply healing. Sometimes children grew up feeling neglected, and through care giving can spend lots of extra time with that parent. Other times, in cases of abuse, seeing that parent now in a frail, helpless situation, can help disempower the horrible memories of the abuser. Forgiving the parent, and witnessing the humanity within each of us can free caregivers from lots of deep emotional pain.”
“Taking care of parents will usually affect other areas of one’s life, such as relationships, work, self-care and friendships.”
How can someone reduce caregiver stress?
“One of the most important things to do in the case of caregiver stress is to ask for help whenever you need it. The stress comes from taking on more of the burden than you can handle. Enlist the aid of any other relatives or professionals, so that you may also have your own life. Also, one must schedule in nonnegotiable times during the day and throughout the week designated to self-care. This can be in the form of exercise, yoga, lunch with friends, massage, a class, psychotherapy, or even dates with your partner. Remember that if you neglect yourself, you will not be able to take care of your loved one when they need you most.”
What type of professional help is available for a caregiver?
“There are countless psychotherapists and support groups to help assist and support caregivers. Even most churches or synagogues have support groups. Eventually, most of us do find ourselves in the position of caregiver, so remember that you are not alone. Hearing how others have coped with this difficult time can be very helpful. Also, engaging in your own psychotherapy at this stressful time can be very helpful to understand how your personal issues are playing into the care giving. Often, since are bodies do manifest our emotional stress; we may experience physical illnesses during this extended period of stress. So, make sure to see your physician for regular checkups, and not to ignore the voice inside that tells you something may be wrong. Be gentle with yourself during this period, and let go of guilt as much as you can. You are doing the best you can and that is good enough.”
What last advice would you like to leave a caregiver of aging parents?
“Even though it can seem like this period of your life will go on forever, this like all other things, eventually change. The fragility of our human lives can seem so poignant in this period. Cherish the moments with your aging parents. Mend the wounds of childhood and forgive your parents and yourself for any transgressions. Remember that they loved you and took care of you the best that they could, and this is your time to give back. Try to remember that as hard as it can be some days, that this is nature taking its course. Enjoy your precious time with your parents, and remember in the end, all we really have to hold onto is the love that we feel.”
Thank you Alisa for doing the interview on how someone can reduce caregiver stress from taking care of aging parents. For more information on Alisa Ruby or her work you can check out her website on www.alisarubybash.com.
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