When Aging Parents Feel Like Giving Up—Now What?

Help for balancing the emotional costs of caregiving.

Posted Mar 10, 2017

Source: Shutterstock

More often than ever these days I find myself speaking with individuals who are providing care for aging family members.  In fact, “Nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 care for their aging parents,” as cited in a MetLife study. The same study further reports, “The proportion of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years.” So it is no coincidence that the topic is entering the public conversation more and more.

Many caregivers tell a similar story of a family member who feels like giving up on almost everything. I was recently giving a presentation of my book, Body Intelligence—Harness Your Bodies Energies for Your Best Life. Although the discussion was targeted toward using the body’s full energy spectrum to plug daily energy drains and increase our energy gains, during the Q&A segment that followed some questions that popped up were on caring for aging parents. Next thing I knew, there was a hearty conversation emerging on the issue of caregiving all on its own. I welcomed looking at the queries through the lens of energy management. People had a lot to say—and share. One thing that emerged was the number of similarities in narratives.

There is apparently a lot of need and concern burgeoning, particularly with boomers, who now aging themselves, are finding themselves in the position of taking care of a parent or parents. It’s not just boomers either.

A New York Times article explains, “According to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, the typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for an older relative—but nearly a quarter of caregivers are now millennials and are equally likely to be male or female.” So effects and responses within and from caregivers nowadays are wide reaching.

Once the floodgate opened at my presentation more and more individuals jumped in with their own story and openness to concepts that might lighten their load. Much of our conversation evolved around the issue of energy—the caregiver’s and the aging family member’s, primarily what could be done to cultivate more quality energy with which to face everyone’s daily challenges: the caregiver’s energy for work, relaxation, joy, and ability to provide care; the need to balance negative emotions (depression, anger, anxieties and stress) both for the caregiver and parent, as well as balancing and reversing negative memories that were being generated ironically via the care itself.

Further, caregivers were concerned about their own health with all they were attempting to juggle. One individual had mentioned to me that she was so stressed with all that was on her plate that she felt she could die. “I mean this literally,” she said. These words resonated.

Perhaps you or someone you know is in this all-too-common situation.

The following are two simple energy management ideas that can help stream some gentle, calming as well as activating energies into your daily routines.

1. Let’s create two files for your cell phone or other electronic device: First, an Activation Energy File and then an Calming Energy File. The idea is that when you need an energy boost and a change in “feelings” to something more positive, which we all inevitably do, you have it at the push of a button and can carry it everywhere with you. Even if you need it in the middle of the night or at an inconvenient time during the day because you must wake up to deal with an issue that has suddenly arisen, you will have it.

You can make one (file set) for yourself as the caregiver and help your family member create one for themselves as well. In fact, doing one together can generate several feel-good energies for you and your loved one as well as create a healthy feel-good memory you can take into the future, for when you need it.

To make your activation file, we are going to use one image and one piece of music or natural sound.

Using an image—find a picture or a painting that makes you feel upbeat. For me, this may be of a waterfall or a soaring eagle or of Samoyed sled dogs of the Arctic Circle. If you can find an image that has a powerful and positive emotional connection, that is best. As for me, I used to go sledding with my Samoyed and have many shared high energy environmental memories. There is no one-size-fits all image to use. Your image will be the one that sparks vibrancy and brightness for you and lifts your energy. Start with images you already think may have this affect on you. If you have ones attached to specifically positive moments and emotional memories in your life, you may like to try one of these first. However, I suggest you continue to search for others too that may have even more positive impact.

Also, find a piece of music or recording of natural sound (like the sound of a waterfall) that generates high-quality positive “currency” for you. On a personal note, I enjoy Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, in particular the section on spring. Again, the ones that will work best are those attached to special and sparkling moments from your life.

Whenever you need a boost of energy or a turn of mood, use one of your activating files. You might even try combining them—e.g. using your sound file as a soundtrack for your photo. As you repeat the use of these files for specific situations, you will notice that you will begin to program your body to energize in this particular way on its own. Don’t be surprised if your mind and body eventually start to go there automatically, all on their own, giving you the energy you need as you need it.

2. Create a Calming Energy File. To create this file repeat the above steps for your Activation Energy File except substitute imagery and music or natural sound that has a calming effect on you.

An easy way to cultivate more high quality positive energy is to visualize and “feel” (absolutely feel into the energy) of solid values. Feel yourself being fueled (motivated) by the energies of compassion, unconditional love, acceptance, honesty, joy and peace. You can actually visualize and say these words to yourself as you interrelate with your parent and they with you. Create the memory of your operating with these thoughts and energies in your mind and body. They will make you feel good in the present moment and again in the future via healthy memory. 

Notes:   The concepts in this article are just a little something that perhaps can help you find some relief and get you started. If you wish to explore in greater depth, please check out my book, Body Intelligence—Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life.