When It’s Not Camelot

Do you feel like you are the odd one out when your friends talk about how sweet their elders are, about how they feel so connected to their aging parents? Wondering if you are the only one with grumpy elders?

Don’t worry. It’s not Camelot for everyone. Sometimes the relationship wasn’t good to start with, so why would it be wonderful now? Sometimes your parents have gotten grumpy and irritable. Sometimes they have gotten grumpy and irritable with you, but not with anyone else.

As we start the New Year, it’s important to have a clear assessment of the status of your relationships and to clarify your intentions going forward.

So here are 3 tips for you if your relationship with your aging relatives can’t be described as Camelot:

• Come to terms with the situation. The relationship is not great; in fact, you might not really want to hang around longer than it takes to do whatever caregiving you have to do. That’s ok. Don’t try to make a purse out of a sow’s ear. Not all relationships are going to be peachy, even if we want them to be.

• Tell your elders that being grumpy, irritable and unkind do not productively help the relationship. Let them know that you expect them to treat you with respect. You would appreciate their kindness and civility. Ask if you can do anything differently that would realistically change the relationship. My husband told his mom that she should start thinking good thoughts about him once in a while (it helped).

Set expectations with your elders of how you expect to be treated, how you plan to treat them and what either of you should do if those expectations aren’t being met. Hold them to it.

• Know that you are not dreaming. Many of us experience tough times in the relationships with our aging parents. It’s hard to age gracefully and many folks don’t. They take out their frustrations on the people closest to them. Knowing this and accepting it can feel like a huge stress reliever in itself.

If it’s not Camelot now, it might not be that way forever. As people age, some get nicer to those they love. No guarantees, but it does happen sometimes.

If not, you already know what it’s like. So, give yourself a hall pass and go get a massage or treat yourself to a long walk after you visit with your elders. If you can laugh at any part of the situation, indulge in it. Laughter helps. You are not alone. Caregiving in any form is hard. Caregivers need to acknowledge this and take the time needed to care for themselves too.

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