Caring for Elderly Parents: Stress and Emotional Effects


No one is ever really ready for their parents to get older. While many people are able to remain independent well into their golden years, there often comes a day when extra help is needed.

Caring for elderly parents often brings forth feelings of stress and new emotions. Here are some helpful tips for dealing with the common side-effects of caring for elderly parents.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a term many senior care marketing agencies use to highlight the benefits of a senior care facility— but it’s a real thing.

Caregiver burnout is when someone starts to reach their breaking point juggling the many responsibilities and stresses that come with being a caregiver. It can start to manifest mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s similar to the burnout people experience from a challenging career or from raising young children without assistance. And, unfortunately, most people don’t recognize the signs until they hit rock bottom.

Dealing with Financial Stress

Many people who end up caring for their elderly parents are still employed outside the home. Advanced care needs often result in the need to leave work for an indeterminate amount of time, resulting in a loss of income. This experience can also mean higher out-of-pocket expenses to help with their parents’ care.

Financial stress is common for people who care for their elderly parents. This stress can manifest in a number of ways, and often has no end in sight. As a result, caregivers start to feel hopeless and overwhelmed, leading to depression and long-term health issues.

Dealing with Role Reversal

Shifting from the role of the child to the caregiver is often challenging for everyone involved. For the caregiver, it’s a complex, emotional experience to see one’s parents struggle. For the parents, yielding that sense of being the adult (even when the children have long since grown up) and giving up their independence can feel humiliating.

This role reversal can lead to arguments and tension that add to the stress of the situation for caregivers.

Sleep and Dietary Changes

Stress and emotional turmoil often manifest physically. Sleep and dietary changes are common for caregivers who don’t feel as though they have time to take care of themselves. This manifestation could present as insomnia, under-eating, over-eating, or substance abuse.

Tips for Dealing with Caregiver Stress

Fortunately, there are ways to ease the stress and emotional turmoil of the caregiver situation.

Ask for Help

First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Treat your requests with the Bystander Effect in mind. The Bystander Effect is the assumption that someone else will call 911 during an emergency. As a result, no one calls. When asking for help, be specific about what you need from whom.

Additionally, look for support groups with people who are going through the same experience and can empathize.

Set Self-Care Goals

Set small daily self-care goals to put your health and wellness first. When you go on an airplane, you’re always advised to secure your own oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. Small goals surrounding healthy eating habits, mindfulness practices, and simple exercises can help you feel grounded and manage stress productively.

Use Community Resources

In addition, to support groups, there are often various resources available to help you as a caregiver.

This could include an income supplementation program to help you stay afloat while out of work. Look for local lending programs that let you borrow medical equipment, such as walkers and bath chairs. Take time to research community grants for installing ramps and senior-friendly accessibility. Finally, look into community respite programs to have someone help while you take a break.

Know When to Set Limits

Finally, know when enough is enough. Many caregivers hate the idea of sending their parents to an assisted living facility. However, making this difficult decision often results in a better life for all— parents included.

Caring for elderly parents is challenging for all involved. Remember to take care of yourself and reach out for support.