How To Take Care Of Yourself When Your Parent Is Dying
Losing a parent feels insurmountable at any age. Our series helps you face it ― from the practical logistics to the existential questions about death and dying today.
When a parent receives a terminal diagnosis, it can instantly sweep you into caretaking mode ― chauffeuring to doctor appointments, picking up medications, keeping a positive attitude, running errands and doing anything you can to keep your loved one comfortable.
But it’s important not to forget yourself in the process.
“When your family member is seriously ill, you may become so distracted by the intense process that you may forget to do simple things like eat healthy, go for a walk or get some sleep,” said VJ Periyakoil, director of palliative care education and training at Stanford Health Care in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Running yourself into a state of exhaustion will only keep you from fully being there for a parent who needs you ― and will jeopardize your own health. Brent T. Mausbach, a clinical psychologist at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California, said caregivers who neglect their own care “are at risk for depression, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.”
But, realistically, how do you practice self-care when someone you love requires so much of your attention? Of course, they’re your priority, but spoiler alert: You can’t effectively help someone without helping yourself, too.
HuffPost spoke with medical professionals and those with experience as parent caretakers to get their tips on how to take care of your physical and mental health in the face of a parent’s terminal illness.
Read Up On The Condition
Daniel Vorobiof ― chief medical director of Belong.Life, a social network for cancer patients, caregivers and health care professionals ― suggested learning all that you can about your parent’s medical condition.
“Being informed about different treatments available, and the possible side effects and benefits, will help support the patient to make the right decision,” he said.
When you know more about the disease, you will understand the possible physical and mental changes that could happen and manage them in a proactive way by giving the right advice, as well as consulting the right specialists, he added. This can help you to understand what may possibly happen and be better prepared mentally to tackle what’s to come.
Ask For Help
“Don’t try to do all care alone. No one can,” said Elizabeth Landsverk, founder of Elder Consult, a San Francisco-area geriatric care house-call practice.
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