Are old family wounds making your caregiving a huge chore and a daily reminder of old hurts? Taking care of an older loved one is a challenge in the best of situations. Chances are they are struggling with health issues and a loss of independence. We all know that just the thoughts of having to depend on others can cut like a knife. If you add old hurts and wounds to the mix, it affects you as the care giver and your loved one as the recipient.
So before the regrets, this is the best time to just forgive and let go so both of you can heal. Sometimes it helps to weigh the love that has been given to you. Yes, perhaps there were times when your parent favored one of your siblings over you, or that’s the way it seemed to be. Maybe there were times when they let you down, but how about all those times they were there for you. Do you remember those times?
Forgiveness is a magical thing. It allows us to think about our own failings and actually forgive ourselves as we let go of the old wounds of childhood and even adulthood. Wiping the slate clean means a new lease on life especially when we’re giving care to our loved one. You can love deeper. You can enjoy each moment left — each one is a gift.
I consider my own now grown children and when I talk to them about their childhoods I hear that each one experienced the family dynamics in such a different way. When one child was struggling it did seem I gave that child more of myself. I can see that. It wasn’t my intentions to neglect the other two and just telling them “I’m sorry” lets them know how much I love them. I don’t want their wounds to fester. I want them to heal.
Accentuate the Positive
Your struggling, hurting loved one will not always be in the best of moods. Do your best to not take it personally when they’re out of sorts and perhaps say hurtful things. Shake it off and keep an upbeat spirit. Remind them of how much you do love them and that you realize they’re having a hard time. Thank them often for everything they’ve done for you. Gratitude is also magic. Many say it’s the key to happiness. All attitudes are infectious. Your upbeat attitude will have a positive effect on your loved ones.
Give Them Respect
Perhaps the best gift you can ever give is respect. Sometimes in our efforts to take care of our loved ones we takeover too much. What they can do, they should do. It will make them feel useful and give them a sense of purpose. Ask their opinions on anything you can. They appreciate being asked even if you don’t use their suggestions. It makes them more a part of life and the daily routines.
I have found that my role in the family has changed many times throughout the seasons of my life. When once I was the child and seen things through childish eyes, I now need to look back and see it as an adult. Once my parents were in control of everything; I now need to step up and at times take the reins. It’s not a comfortable transition but I have grown into it. To my surprise, my parents have too!
If I live long enough, I will also go through this challenging phase of late life. I hope I’m being a good example for my children — not only for their sake, but for my own.
(This article was reviewed in January, 2024.)