We all wished not only we could stay young forever but we feel the same thing about our parents. It's hard for us to watch them grow older and eventually having to rely upon us to give them the help and support that they once gave us. It's not that most of us are being selfish, it's just that it's a hard thing to cope with when you know that life is becoming a challenge for your parents. It makes it even more difficult to deal with if it is compounded with the fact that your elderly parent is also difficult to handle.
The most important thing you need to remember when it comes time to taking care of an aging parent is that you learn to take care of yourself first. If you are not in good health then it's going to be a lot harder for you to be able to care for your parent. Too often you will find the children of aging parents forgetting about their own health in order to take care of the needs and the demands that a difficult parent might be putting on them. The high emotions one may feel a lone can be quite exhausting and draining at times let a lone the physical demands that will be put on you. Make sure to visit your doctor, get a check up and let him know what is going on in your life. Doctors are a great resource for helping you cope with most any situation in life.
Make sure that you also take care of what your needs are spiritually. If you are a member of a church then make sure you attend church often and even reach out to your minister, priest or your rabbi for guidance and advice. They are there to help you and guide you to where you might find even more support in the community. Ask people to pray for you and your parents, this can bring both you and your parents much needed comfort in times of stress.
Get some sort of support from those who are professional caregivers. Get information from AARP with regards to senior issues and needs. Contact your parent's doctor and as them if they know of any groups that offer support for caregivers such as yourself. If you can't find one locally then consider starting your own support group. You might be surprised how many people will show up to the first meeting.
Sit down and contemplate all of the emotional issues that your parent or parents have as well as your own. Try to understand what this time must be like, how afraid they might be because they suddenly can no longer take care of themselves without assistance. Imagine how this might feel for you if it were you that this was happening to. Try to understand the anger that lies behind all of the changes that are taking place, especially if they can no longer live in their own home a lone. You may be the only person they have to let go of this anger and vent with, so don't take it personal.
Whether you like it or not, it is not the responsibility of your parents to be educated about the aging process, it is yours. You need to learn that all of the things we've taken for granted growing up are now disappearing for the person who is coming closer to the last stages of life. It is easy for the elderly to become depressed, feel isolated because of their age, become riddled with anxieties they've never had before, higher risk of suicide compounded with illness or other ailments that are physical. All of these things you need to take into consideration when you are caring for your parent or parents.
You need to find some way to be compassionate and forgiving. You need to be able to continue to love them all the while you are now the one giving them the help that they once gave you. For some parents this is extremely hard to accept and you need to be able to understand this. You also need to understand that this phase of their life means that they are getting close to the end of their life. Now would be the time that if you felt your parents did something to you long ago that hurt immensely, that you forgive them. Forgiveness will be the key to your being able to cope with the reality that they will be gone soon and will alleviate any guilt you might have for not forgiving them when they do die.
The most important thing you can do for the both of you is to face the truth, they will soon be gone and this will be your last opportunity together on earth to make things right, this will be your opportunity to help both of you transition to the next phase, it will be your only chance to tell your parent goodbye and to thank them for giving you the opportunity to experience life.