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Taking Care Of Your Mental Health While Supporting An Elderly Family Member

4 months, 3 weeks ago

2845  0
Posted on Feb 28, 2024, 1 p.m.

Whether the decision is based on financial or practical reasons, choosing to take care of a senior family member is often a natural course of action. While it can be incredibly rewarding and reassuring to know that they’re getting the support they need, there are also a lot of negative emotions attached to these circumstances. If you’re bringing a loved one to live in your own home permanently, it isn’t just your mental well-being you need to consider – life will change for the entire household. So how can you make sure that their support doesn’t come at the expense of your family’s mental health? Here are three things to keep in mind.

Give yourself a break 

Caring for a family member can be a 24/7 job. One of the most important ways to look after yourself is to step away from your duties every now and again to give yourself the space to focus on your own well-being. Whether you ask another family member to step in for a day or request some respite care from local authorities, there are a few options available – when you feel like you need a break, it’s reassuring to know there are people who can help

Dedicating every ounce of your energy to your caring responsibilities can feel like the right thing to do, but ultimately this isn’t sustainable, so make sure you commit some time to taking care of yourself. Whether you maintain a favorite hobby or simply practice good mental health techniques such as mindfulness, don’t lose sight of the things that you enjoy and know will benefit you.

Speak to someone

Caring for a senior family member full-time can invoke so many different emotions. From frustration and sadness to potential guilt about the impact it has on other family members, dealing with these different emotions can take its toll psychologically. And underlining it all, you’re constantly faced with the grief of mourning the loss of the family member you lost as their independence waned.

Sharing how you feel can often be the best way to understand your emotions and take some power away from the negative ones. This doesn’t have to be a therapist or counselor if that feels too overwhelming – speak to a trusted friend or family member to help take some of the weight off your shoulders. And, as important as it is to seek external advice, remember to also lean upon your closest support network at home. As difficult as it can be, try to encourage open and honest communication between the family members directly affected by your decision to care for a senior family member. 

Don’t neglect your other relationships 

Similar in many ways to looking after a baby, senior family members who are entirely dependent on external support can become the center of attention at all times. When all of your energy is focused on one person, other friends, and family members can sometimes feel neglected. As well as taking time for yourself, make the time to maintain those other important relationships.

Different family members will have their own coping mechanisms to handle the emotions they experience during this time. For children, the default position can often be to spend more time on their own, perhaps locked away in their room to try and distance themselves from the situation. However, this can make their world feel incredibly small, and over time this can take its toll on their mental health and ultimately put a strain on relationships in the house. 

Healthy relationships are a pillar of good mental health, and when they break down – especially with our closest family members – it can only exacerbate any negative feelings and emotions that you’re bound to be experiencing. 

Making your own mental wellbeing a priority during this time will not only help you to manage your own emotions, but it’ll also help you to deliver the best care possible.

This article was written for WHN by Hannah Williams who is a consultant, researcher, 

digital content creator, media blogger, and health advocate. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Content may be edited for style and length.

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