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Caring for a <br>Difficult Elder

Forgiving Your Parent for How They Treated You in the Past

Every caregiver has a family history. Some of that history may be unpleasant, disappointing or even abusive.  A caregiver's experience of abuse, neglect and addiction leave lasting scars. Moving beyond the past is never easy. But what happens when someone in your family becomes ill or incapacitated and you are called upon to care for them? What is your responsibility, based on their past treatment of you? How do you take care of your parents or spouse when they didn't take good care of you – and in fact may done have you harm?

Many caregivers struggle with the huge responsibility when it is suddenly – and usually unexpectedly – thrust upon them. They are in a quandary, because they know society thinks they should care for their parents or spouse. Some of them have religious issues about "honoring their parents," no matter what. However, many feel that they just cannot give the emotional and physical care their family member needs.

If you are caring for an elderly family member, but feeling resentment and anger about their past actions, remember, healing can happen when emotionally destroyed families find a way to forgive. If you would like to let go of anger and forgive, but are stumped with the question of how to forgive, here are tips that might help.

Focus on Today

Study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurts. To be a mindful and effective caregiver, focus on today. You can forgive, without forgetting. Don't waste your energy and spirit on events that cannot be changed. It is unhealthy and counter-productive. Make it a goal to stop judging family members for past behavior, and extend forgiveness for failings.

Build a New Relationship

We've all heard stories of estranged families who reunite years later, forgive the past and go on to have healthy and fulfilling relationships for the rest of their lives. Parents or spouses may not change, but future family dynamics still can. You can do your part to forge a new, different and better relationship with your family member. To break the cycle of your childhood experience, let go of whatever neglect and inattention suffered, and begin a new era in your family's history. Forging a new family dynamic can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. It's not easy, but the end result is worth it.

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