Help for Senior Caregivers: How to Identify with an Aging Parent

affordable home care, elder care in Minnesota, At Home Caregivers, companion home care, private pay home care, respite for caregivers, home care services for seniors, home care companiesAccording to Wikipedia, empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another individual.

We all have the ability to empathize; however, when it comes to our aging parents, it becomes difficult because our lives tend to be polar opposites.  We work; they are retired.  We have children at home; they are empty nesters.  We drive; they need to rely on others for transportation.  The list is endless.  Despite these opposites, it’s important to remember they once had our same position in life.

If you are giving care for older people and find them to be quiet, withdrawn, less positive, or even cantankerous, try to empathize and realize they have experienced many losses.  If you are struggling to identify with their losses, here is a simple exercise that may help:

List 10 things that define you (i.e. mother, wife, volunteer, businesswoman, tennis player, etc.).  Look over the list, and then take two of them away . . .  then take two more away . . . two more . . . two more . . . What are you left with?  Those are the losses your elderly parents are experiencing.

My father was a vibrant businessman who played golf once a week, was president of the Chamber and Rotary Club, was on the church and school boards, and was involved in all of his kids’ activities.  After a lifetime of that involvement, he now has a very limited social and active life.  In aging, losses come slowly, quietly, and usually with a tremendous loss of purpose.

To help build a bridge for you and a purpose for your elderly parents, here are a few suggestions:

  • Focus on listening to their stories and history
  • Help them identify their talents and abilities
  • Address and acknowledge positive emotions
  • Acknowledge stressors, losses, and fears about the future
  • Believe in them!


Carol Hauser, M.A.

February 1, 2013


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Comments (1)


  1. Joe says:

    The exercise Carol shares about listing the things that define you and taking them away is a great one.

    Photos are a great way to open up stories and learn about a person’s history. Much easier to point at a photograph and ask about it than to say, “Tell me about when you were a kid.”

    But what if your parent or elderly relative lives far away? How can you share photos that way over distance?

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