Navigating the Middle: When You Find Yourself Between Your Adult Children and Aging Parents

First task is to shift your perspective from being overwhelmed to being grateful. Try to accept this new phase with gratitude instead of obligation. You get to help care for your parents or aging relatives; the people who cared for you as a child. You get to help care for your grandchildren. You get to pay it back and forward. Shift the perspective. Focus on finding joy in being able to care for the people you love.

Having trouble shifting the perspective? Do it for your health! Caring for your loved ones can help improve your mental and physical health. According to an article in Science Daily, two studies show spending time with loved ones can help enhance feelings of well-being, which includes purpose and positivity. Research by the Cleveland Clinic indicates that grandparents who help care for their grandchildren may live longer and other studies demonstrate they may also have a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.

However, babysitting and caring for others may leave some feeling a sense of self-neglect. Because of this, setting boundaries with family members can be very important. You do not have to say yes to every single thing that may be asked of you. Prioritize your needs with the needs of others. Trust that it is okay to say no if you are not happy about doing something because these no’s when necessary will help enable you to ultimately be the best caregiver you can be.

Use a planner and schedule time for yourself. Make self-care priority along with any other commitments. Self-care can be anything which fills you with joy and energizes you- mentally, physically, and/or emotionally. Try making plans with loved ones in advance, so you can be sure to work self-care in every day. Define your non-negotiables for self-care and do them first thing in the morning. Maybe it is a daily run, reading, painting, or even just sipping a cup of coffee alone. Whatever it is, if you do it first thing in the morning, you have made the time to care for yourself. With that accomplished, you will be ready to face the day and those included in it.

If you are overwhelmed, ask for help. One of the hardest decisions to make is whether or not to encourage loved ones to consider senior living -- if or when you realize that your parent, relative or another adult requiring your assistance and care begins to need more than what you alone can provide. For many, assisted living can be the best decision possible for all, particularly when  a reputable, well-established senior living community is selected. Whether it be independent living, assisted living, memory care, a continuing care retirement community, home health, hospice or skilled nursing – you’ll want access to options at every stage. Just plain knowing that fresh and healthy meals are covered in an active community can add to more peace-of-mind – and greater health for everyone.

Navigating the middle is not always easy but remember you are lucky – not only to be surrounded by loved ones, but also to have options when you need to explore ways to help caring for your parents and relatives. Always ask for help when you need it, because help is there when you know where to find it.

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