Overcome This Unexpected Emotion When Caring for Aging Parents


Open, honest communication between adult children and their aging parents can help both cope with the emotions and stress of evolving roles.

If you were to list the top 5 emotions you experience when caring for aging parents, what would they be? Maybe you’d first think of feelings like love, compassion, and in some cases, even stress or frustration. Would anger make the list? In many cases, though family care providers wouldn’t wish to disclose it, the answer is a definite YES.

The stark reality is that a number of adult children struggle with the fact that their parents are growing older. Growing up, our parents might have exuded strength, health, and control, giving us an underlying impression that they would always be there for us. Witnessing a decline in their health upends that idea, which could leave us feeling let down, disillusioned, fearful, anxious, and yes – angry.

As the tables turn and aging parents become the ones needing care, family dynamics may become complicated. And the negative stereotype within our culture towards aging informs us that aging is something we need to resist or deny – something which may have a direct effect on how both adult children and their parents handle age-related decline.

Add to that the compounded stress experienced by individuals who are part of the sandwich generation – taking care of children at home and aging parents simultaneously. Approximately one in three adults with elderly parents believe their parents require some degree of care as well as emotional support.

So how might you transition to a more favorable mindset?

The primary goal is to arrive at a place of acceptance. Start by developing skills to cope with caring for elderly parents. Laura Cartensen, psychology professor at Stanford University and director of the Center on Longevity, explains, “The issue is less about avoiding the inevitable and more about living satisfying lives with limitations. Accepting aging and mortality can be liberating.”

Open, honest communication is also essential. Family members and their parents should share their thoughts in regards to what is working well in the relationship, and what needs to be reexamined. In some cases, simply understanding the other person’s perspective makes a tremendous difference. For instance, a senior parent may voice irritation with being prompted to put on his/her glasses. An appropriate response may be to clarify the reason for the reminders – because of a fear that the parent may fall, for instance. A compromise can then be reached.

Embracing the quality time your caregiving role provides you with your parents, while balancing your own needs with the needs of your parents, is key. A proven effective method to achieve this goal is to enlist a trusted care partner to help. Reach out to CareWorks Health Services at (949) 859-4700 to learn more about options for home care in Mission Viejo and care in the surrounding areas. See our full Orange County service area.