By Kristine Dwyer, LSW
Douglas Heck, PhD
It is important to decide whether to try to
resolve issues with parents, or leave the past
alone. This can be a difficult decision, but an
important one. Admittedly, facing past issues can be
very complicated and attempts to reconcile
differences may only add to oneís own personal pain
or disturb a parentís overall well-being. At this
point you may decide to NOT try to resolve issues,
do your best to provide good care, and develop some
ways of coping with your own mixed feelings. In many
cases, this is the best choice to make.
If you realize that your feelings will keep you
from providing good care and having a positive
relationship with your parents, then it may help to
sit down and directly discuss your feelings with
them. In some situations, it is better to write a
letter to your parents, followed by a discussion. In
our experience, this kind of discussion has often
led to a resolution of issues, has freed those
involved from their feelings and resulted in a much
more meaningful relationship.
The act of caregiving alone can sometimes bring
about the healing of emotional wounds from the past.
Providing direct or indirect care for a vulnerable
parent can help bring closure to unresolved issues.
Anger can sometimes be replaced by understanding,
compassion, and perhaps forgiveness. Peacefulness
can overcome bitterness, which can then lead to a
beneficial and healthy experience for both parents
and family caregivers.
Caregiving, in spite of mixed feelings, can be
accomplished successfully in several ways:
- Accept what is. Acceptance of the current
circumstances and reasonable expectations of
oneís ability to be a caregiver are crucial
- Feelings and memories can intensify during
the caregiving process. Be aware of your limits
and seek professional assistance, such as
counseling, if needed.
- Develop healthy ways of managing your
emotions. Find a release, such as a walk, a good
cry, journal writing or expressing your
frustration to a close friend.
- Ask yourself what you are realistically
willing and able to do in regards to the care of
your parents, given how you feel about them.
- Delegate other tasks and needs to those who
are able to serve in the caregiving role such as
other relatives, neighbors or friends,
especially if you are a long distance caregiver.
- Seek out community resources through social
services, churches, senior volunteer
organizations, Area Agencies on Aging and family
caregiver support programs.
- Remember that asking for help is a sign of