@STRUGGLING: Hi, Singlestalk. I am the remaining single person in the family. My two other siblings already have a family of their own. I’m now in my 40s, fulfilled seeing them succeed in life after having to finance their education. Both of my parents are still alive and are with me. At the risk of sounding like a bad daughter, becoming extremely difficult is getting into my nerves. They are strong-willed and cruel at times. No caregiver lasts. My mother once threw a glass of water at her caretaker. Now I am tasked to once again take over. It’s been draining emotionally.

DJ: You are a good daughter. You helped your siblings finish school. You’re taking care of your parents. My sister and I are also in quite a similar situation. Like other children with elderly parents, we’re managing being accused of stealing which can be hurtful. Every help from us is being pushed back, too. Worse, a couple of relatives and the Karens around our hometown are riding on the situation instead of looking for a solution. But we are determined to get to the bottom of the reason behind so we can extend the right support. Somehow, I have a glimpse of what you are going through.

Are your siblings helping you? Dealing gently with stubborn aging parents may not come easy. It’s quite common for older adults to develop complaints and worries which appear to be irrational or absurd. Engaging your siblings is a good tactic to cope with the stress. If they are based somewhere else, regular communication with them is important so you all are on the same page with the moving forward steps. And since they are their parents too, your siblings can be a good source of advice for troubleshooting common problems like where to keep frequently lost keys, medicines or documents in order.

Consult a professional. If they have possible underlying dementia, getting a diagnosis sooner rather than later can help you. Are they taking medications? Is their behavior a side effect of these? Discover the cause in case you observe delusions, paranoia or hallucination. These might be indicators of a mental health issue. While claims can feel like a personal attack, do your best to distance your parents from the behavior. I know it is easier said than done. But it’s worth the shot. It’s also for your peace of mind.

Take respite to give you the break you need and deserve. It’s not about being selfish. It’s necessary. Just make sure they are safe before you go. One time, I could not sleep for three days because I’d be awakened at around one in the morning every day and was kept awake until around six to pacify a parent’s anger. Because I had crucial meetings at work on the fourth day, I checked in at a hotel the night before that to have a good sleep. I made sure, though, that household help was there, equipped and prepared to solve the gaps. We cannot give what we do not have. It is okay to charge our batteries. Then we can re-enter the role with a renewed perspective.

Set the boundaries. Don’t count on your parents changing. They also have the right to make their own decisions. Even if you don’t like their choices. However, not all battles are worth fighting for. Differentiate the matters that truly need to be addressed and those that are worth compromising. In my case, I’ve accepted if relatives are talking behind our backs. That’s already beyond my control. Know also what you will and will not tolerate. I can take verbal abuse thinking that it’s no longer the person but the mental well-being that’s driving the behavior. But I also need a breather. Understanding your limits will keep you from being overwhelmed when they are acting up and to still be able to speak from a place of care.

Don’t forget to practice self-love. Have a high regard for your happiness, too. Take care of your needs. Don’t run on empty. Check in with yourself emotionally.

These will keep you able and willing to practice reassurance and emotional connection. At the end of the day, no matter what a person’s age or mental condition, we all generally respond positively to feeling heard and loved.