Coping With Your Aging Dad on Father's Day
Father's Day gives us the chance to salute our dads and say thanks for all they're done for us. As a young girl, mine taught me how to swim, stand on my head and play tennis; as a teen, how to be responsible and accomplish my goals; as an adult how to feel cherished. As we all grow and mature, our relationships with our fathers change but the bond of love is constant.
If your dad has become more fragile as he ages, it's likely that your connection has been transformed. As more Baby Boomers become caretakers for their aging fathers, the stress of struggling with the issues this raises can be overwhelming. It's easy to become weighed down by the duties and responsibilities of caring for Dad. When you feel sandwiched between the demands of career and family, try these tips to help sustain you:
Get help. You don't have to do it alone. Reach out, create a network, hire someone to assist Dad as often as you think it's necessary. Have support systems in place, even if it's over his objections. Make good use of community interventions, respite care, support groups and adult caregiver resources.
Involve your siblings. Be honest with your family about your needs. Engage them in the problems and the solutions. Ask for practical help and delegate responsibilities. Have them set aside personal agendas and work together toward goals on which you've agreed.
Consider your present challenge as a teachable moment. Learn from the experience and apply these lessons to other areas of your life. What insight have you gained about dealing with your own healthy aging process? How can you talk to your children about your wishes when you become older?
Look for positives. Think less about what you're losing and more about the chance you may be gaining. Spending more time with your father, you'll have the opportunity to give back to him emotionally what he's given to you. And you may learn a lot about yourself and your capacity for resiliency as you care for Dad in the last years of his life.
If you're part of the Sandwich Generation, these may be especially difficult times. Rely on whatever sustains you as you search for a way to nourish yourself. Call on friends for support as well as your faith, spirituality, and sense of humor.
This weekend, if you can, let Dad know how much you appreciate the role he has played in your life. If your father is no longer alive, share stories about him with your children and grandchildren so they will know the kind of man he was. And a very Happy Father's Day to all the men in our lives.