Your aging parent is giving you fits. You are frustrated, even angry at his/her failing ability to handle things. Then you feel ashamed for being so unkind. After all, he can't help what's happening. Why can't you be more compassionate?
It would be great to maintain serenity in this situation. And, yes, his aging needs and your childhood needs do have some similarities. But there is one big difference. A parent expects to handle things for a small child (who becomes increasingly independent)whereas,when an aging parent starts to fail (and becomes increasingly dependent)the "child" in you then short circuits your adult understanding of the situation and becomes resentful. After all, aged or not, he is The Parent and you are The Child,and that's a relationship that is painful to lose.
So,what do you do -- accept your feelings as normal and go ahead and dump on your parent?
Accept your feelings as normal, but don't dump on your parent. Try to strike a balance,by trying these:
*Share your feelings with a listening, empathetic friend. This can give you a sense of support.
*Have an imaginary conversation with your parent (this is where you can dump), letting your Child reveal all the negative feelings ("You're supposed to take care of me, not the other way around." "It scares me to think of your not being here.")
*If frustration does get the best of you when you're with your parent, leave the room until you calm down.
*If difficulty persists,handle things in small doses (visit more briefly but more frequently,handle problems in stages rather than all at once).
And,remember,when the Child in you has difficulty accepting the reality of your parent's decline,remind yourself your parent will always be your parent and you have all your childhood memories
to prove it.
Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.
How to handle an elderly parent