Home > NewsRelease > Why Managing Fears is Essential When Caring for Aging Parents
Why Managing Fears is Essential When Caring for Aging Parents
Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Denver, CO
Wednesday, January 17, 2024


Why Managing Fears is Essential When Caring for Aging Parents

The Caring Generation® – Episode 184, January 17, 2024. Learn why managing fears is essential when caring for aging parents who experience ongoing health challenges. Caregiving expert, Pamela D Wilson shares seven tips to help caregivers remain practical and positive.

Caregiving: How to Face Fears so You Can Move Ahead When Caring for Aging Parents

Watch More Videos About Caregiving and Aging on Pamela’s YouTube Channel

Have a question?  Follow and connect with Pamela on her social media channels of Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube or complete the caregiver survey on her website.
Click on the round yellow play button below to listen to the caregiving podcast. To download the show so you can listen anywhere and share it with family, friends, and groups, click on the button below (the fourth black button from the left) that looks like a down arrow. Then, click the heart to go to Pamela’s Spreaker podcast page to like and follow the show. You can also add the podcast app to your cellphone on Apple, Google, and other favorite podcast sites.

Caring for aging parents can involve a lot of uncertainty. Managing fears when caring for aging parents who experience ongoing health challenges is a learned skill that happens with preparation and success.
You might be the caregiver whose early involvement was performing small tasks like picking up groceries or prescriptions. Then, one day, the tasks progressed to taking aging parents to medical appointments and decision-making.
Complications for family caregivers and those needing care can arise unexpectedly as physical and mental abilities change. A forgetful parent may not remember to take medications or eat. Or, if still driving, a loved one may become lost.
A parent experiencing physical weakness may have difficulty walking up and down the stairs in their home or experience frequent falls. As the needs of parents increase, the stress placed on the primary caregiver increases.
Caregivers can become swept into a whirlwind of activity and begin worrying about what might happen next. When discussions around the type of care, the time frame, and the money to pay for care are delayed, caring relationships can run on auto-pilot until some event or change forces decisions.
Let’s look at why managing fears is essential when caring for aging parents from the perspective of making medical decisions attached to a health diagnosis.
  • For example, a parent who needs bypass heart surgery or who has congestive heart failure that significantly affects daily abilities is likely to have increasing needs.
  • Other diagnoses like Alzheimer’s or Parkison’s Disease also have decision points that can be temporarily put on hold, but that will require a plan sooner or later.
Here are seven tips to help caregivers remain practical and positive when managing fears of caring for loved ones.

1 Identify and understand the diagnosis from the current stage to what might happen in the future

While it’s impossible to predict the future, understanding what can happen—even though potentially worrisome—is essential to managing fears related to future care.
Let’s use congestive heart failure as a diagnosis. CHF, which is the abbreviation, means that the heart has difficulty pumping blood, which means that blood and fluids collect in the lungs and can result in significant leg swelling.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, CFS is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in persons over age 65.
The effects on the body include difficulty breathing, walking up at night trying to catch a breath, chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, swelling in the ankles, legs, and stomach, weight gain, a dry cough, loss of appetite, nausea, and a bloated stomach. As with all diagnoses, an individual may not experience all these effects.
A specialty physician, called a cardiologist, can identify the stage of CHF and make treatment recommendations. Having factual information can help in managing fears.
The causes of congestive heart failure include heart disease or a heart attack, diabetes, high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, kidney disease, body mass index higher than 30, smoking, alcohol use, and some medications.

2  Be realistic about a health diagnosis and seek information from a physician or reputable source

Because the Internet is easily accessible, seeking information online is common. However, it is important to recognize that the Internet does not have access to your parents’ healthcare records, so the information you receive may be inaccurate and fuel caregiver fears instead of relieving them.
Caregivers are advocates for aging parents, spouses, grandparents, and other loved ones. Make sure you ask questions to understand the diagnosis today and how it might progress in the future. Also, ask about recommendations for medications and treatments.
As the caregiver, ensure that the person with the diagnosis clearly understands the options to refuse or participate in treatment. While caregivers act as a support, the person with the diagnosis must make their own decisions.
When working with healthcare providers, know that information may not be easy to understand if the individual uses medical or technical terms. If this is the case, do not hesitate to ask questions.
  • For example, a recommendation to sit up after eating or taking medication for at least 30 minutes may not seem important until the recommendation isn’t followed and your loved one becomes nauseated or has severe indigestion.

3 Avoid catastrophizing or reliving past trauma

Catastrophizing means thinking, worrying, or believing that the worst will happen. A tendency to let the mind run wild with worries can be challenging when managing fears about caring for or advocating for loved ones.
If you have other people in your family or a friend with a similar diagnosis and they are not doing very well, this can add concerns. Your first thoughts may be, “I don’t know anyone who has done well with this diagnosis.”
As a caregiver or the person needing care, decisions or perceptions of the future can be made based on limited life experience or knowledge. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the worst when the best outcome may be possible.
While fears are common, having accurate information can relieve worry. A health diagnosis is different for every individual. The healthier one is before receiving any diagnosis the easier it may be to recover from a diagnosis identified in the early stages.
So, when considering diagnosis and treatment recommendations, consider the health status of the diagnosed person, which includes:
  • Daily activity level, exercise, and a routine of work or social activities outside of the home
  • Approach to nutrition and other aspects of health prevention
  • History of interactions with doctors and others in the healthcare system
  • Family or friend support

4 Realize that one negative experience does not predict the future

I know many caregivers who have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). These feelings can result from a single bad experience that is played over and over again in the mind. As the experience is relived, stress levels and anxiety rise.
Recalling fears of one bad experience and translating it to the future can raise stress levels through the roof. Let’s use a typical example of travel. You took a trip on Airline X, and your flight was delayed, and your luggage was lost.
The next time you take a flight, you may have an excellent experience. Or you may never fly a particular airline again because of one or more trips that did not work out as expected.
Examples of negative experiences in healthcare include:
  • Being hospitalized and having a bad experience as the result of treatment or other factors
  • Fear of pain related to medical treatments like blood draws, IV placements, or injections
  • The memory of a loved one suffering from a health concern and then dying
With all traumatic experiences, there are choices. Like the airline example, you can choose never to return to that hospital by researching other hospitals in the area and examining their patient experience ratings.

5 Prepare for all circumstances including the unexpected

So, how do you work past common fears, realizing that things happen and not all experiences will be positive? Let’s use a medical appointment as an example.
  • Make a list of questions and concerns. Because doctors have limited time, preparation by the caregiver or the person who needs care increases the likelihood of a good visit.
  • Get to know the nurse or a social worker in your doctor’s office who can help answer questions after or between visits.
Check out this article for more tips on managing medical appointments: How to Get Results from a 15-Minute Medical Appointment.
Take advantage of these additional resources that can be of great help. So, let’s say that you’ve worked your way through all of the recommendations above. The next step may be deciding not to do anything or to follow through with a medical recommendation.

6 Choose to follow recommendations or a treatment plan

How many of you have received a recommendation from a doctor that you ignored?
  • Eliminate junk food from a diet
  • Exercise five days a week or 120 minutes or more each week
  • Stop smoking, consuming alcohol, or using other substances
  • Participate in a follow-up treatment or have surgery
The perceived difficulty or lack of a benefit in following the recommendation is often why patients do not follow through. The perceived pain from not participating is not enough to motivate a behavior change.
It may not be until you have fully considered all the options that being healthier is more important than feeling sick all the time that you decide to make a behavior change. While a behavior change may seem like a stretch or very difficult, anything is possible when you find the motivation to improve a health issue.
Caregivers face similar choices when given recommendations to set boundaries in care situations that feel entirely overwhelming. Self-care is one of the most challenging hurdles that caregivers face.
While caregivers want loved ones to follow their advice to care for themselves, see doctors, and participate in healthy habits, following their own advice proves very difficult.
When there is clarity about the benefits of the action outweighing doing nothing, change can be easier.
For example:
  • If you have CFF and reduce the amount of salt in your diet, the fluid your body retains may decrease significantly. As a result, your legs may be less painful or swollen.
  • If you need heart surgery to clear a blocked artery—the motivating factor may be returning to living a full and active life—even though rehabilitation efforts after surgery may be a challenge.

7 Daily focus on creating a flexible and positive mindset

Changing the way you think can seem like a huge obstacle to overcome if you have allowed your mind to focus on negative thoughts. If this is the case, you must tell your mind that you are in control and that negative thoughts and worries are unwelcome.
It is common to experience hesitance to believe that an experience can be better when past events have proven otherwise. It’s also common to fear the unknown. Even though others can share their experiences, until you do something yourself, it is impossible to know what it’s like.
The way to work through fears is to place your mind in a non-judgmental mode. Say to yourself, “This is scary. However, I remain open-minded to the experience and will see what happens.”
Experience is a great teacher. So, to work through fears, do what it takes to move past the obstacle to get to the other side.
You might often surprise yourself and realize the doing was not as horrible as you might have imagined. There is a benefit to being prepared and considering all scenarios.
As you prepare and succeed, your confidence levels will grow, and managing fears when caring for aging parents will become a memory of the past.

Looking For Help Caring for Elderly Parents? Find the Information, Including Step-by-Step Processes, in Pamela’s Online Program.

©2024 Pamela D. Wilson All Rights Reserved
The post Why Managing Fears is Essential When Caring for Aging Parents appeared first on Pamela D Wilson | The Caring Generation.

   Check Out Podcast Replays of The Caring Generation® Radio Program for Caregivers and Aging Adults HERE

Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA, is an international caregiver subject matter expert, advocate, speaker, and consultant. With more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, fiduciary, and care manager in the fields of caregiving, health, and aging, she delivers one-of-a-kind support for family caregivers and aging adults.

Pamela may be reached at +1 303-810-1816 or through her website.


News Media Interview Contact
Name: Pamela Wilson
Title: Director
Group: Pamela D. Wilson, Inc.
Dateline: Golden, CO United States
Direct Phone: 303-810-1816
Cell Phone: 303-810-1816
Jump To Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert Jump To Pamela D. Wilson - Caregiver Subject Matter Expert
Contact Click to Contact