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Unresolved Issues in Family Caregiving

By Kristine Dwyer, LSW and
Douglas Heck, PhD

(Page 2 of 3)

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 steps.
  • 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 strength.

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