Going Through the Emotions: What You Feel When Looking After an Older Parent

Going Through the Emotions: What You Feel When Looking After an Older Parent

May 24, 2021

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Every parent appreciates that they go through a range of emotions when trying to raise a healthy and happy child. But what they don’t tell you is that you could feel the exact extremes of emotions when trying to look after your ageing parents. When you are trying to be a carer, and give your parents the quality of life they deserve, it is usually at the expense of your sanity. There will be some feelings that are apparent from the off, but some appear later when the realities of looking after an older parent sink in.

5 Emotions You Feel When Looking After an Older Parent

Here are some of the things you will feel when you have an ailing parent and have responsibilities as a parent yourself and how you can help yourself.


You may find yourself worrying a lot more. As a parent, we’ve all had that moment of shock in the middle of the night. Either when we don’t know if we’re looking after our baby properly, or we start to worry about our children dealing with adult emotions, such as experiencing bullying in school, and all this fear can build up.

When we worry about the future, but also have that concern that our parents may be at the end of their life and how this will impact our future, one of the benefits at this stage is that we’ve got children, not just because they provide a healthy distraction, but they make us realise what sort of strength we already have inside. 

Becoming a parent yourself makes you go one of two ways; you either try to take it all on yourself, or you realise that you are only human! When you go for the latter, you acknowledge that help is the most invaluable resource you could ever have. And with ageing parents, there is always that respite support.

Providers like the PrimeCarers site can help you in this respect. It’s not just about taking on the duties yourself because you are their child; it’s about making sure that you still live your life if. Naturally, we feel scared about what will happen, but this is why we have to reach out. 

Going Through the Emotions: What You Feel When Looking After an Older Parent


Guilt is so common when we’re looking after an older parent. You might feel guilty for taking some time to yourself or feel guilty for doing something wrong or not doing enough. You might feel guilty that your parents are unwell in the first place. There are so many things that we feel guilty about that we can drive ourselves mad.

You could feel guilty for wanting your parent to be looked after by someone else. When we think like this, we must remember that guilt is a frequent emotion. We always feel like we want to do more. But sometimes we have to realise that when we feel like this, this is the emotion of someone who genuinely cares. 

The guilt of feeling like we could do more or is never easy to live with, and we will always feel there is something that we could have done better. But this is why we have to remember that doing the best we can is good enough. As parents, there will be times when we cannot give our children everything that they need because of external circumstances.

In fact, this is a fantastic example. Because if there are times when you need to go to your ailing parent in the evening, your child might think that you are leaving them in the lurch. But it’s about remembering that we have to go where the priorities are at that moment in time.

A great example is that famous scene in Schindler’s List. Oskar Schindler breaks down thinking that he could have saved more lives, and Itzhak Stern, who witnessed the suffering for himself and was persecuted, asserted that Oskar had done more than enough. Naturally, this didn’t stop Schindler from feeling guilty. You will feel guilty, but anybody who cares feels like they could have done more. 


When we get tired, we get stressed, and we get more irritable. You are pushing yourself beyond your boundaries during these situations. You know what it’s like when you need to step away from a situation because your children are bugging you too much, or you haven’t slept enough, and it’s all of these things that can become a major melting pot of irritability.

But we don’t always realise that we are exhausted or stressed until we do something out of character. And when we are frustrated and irritable, we take it out on the people we care about because those closest to us are always there. 

When we start to feel this way, it is crucial to learn how to step away from the situation. When we feel tired, it’s not easy to go for a nap because we need to be around and carry on. But there are techniques that we can use to learn how to become.

The best method for anybody who goes through stress and doesn’t know how to handle it is, very simply, by breathing. There are many different approaches, but one of the best for learning to come down is the following, which is more popularly known as the Wim Hof breathing technique:

  1. Breathe fully in. 
  2. Relax and let it go. 
  3. Do this 30 times.
  4. On the 30th breath, let all of the air out of your lungs and just sit. 
  5. When you feel that temptation to breathe, do it.
  6. Hold your breath for 15 seconds before letting it go. 
  7. Repeat this once more, and you will feel light and tingly. Surprisingly, you feel relaxed. Here is one you can follow along with. 

Because we don’t always feel like we’re able to relax by learning to visualise or meditate, we’ve got to find a way to shock our system into calming down. It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but once you take over what is called the autonomic nervous system, this is where you learn how to override your physiology.

Going Through the Emotions: What You Feel When Looking After an Older Parent


You might believe that you are in this on your own. You’ll think that there are people that don’t understand what you are going through. In one respect, this is true because it is just you, but you must remember that there are others who have gone through this. Support groups are invaluable in this environment.

One of the best things we can do is learn to talk about how we’re feeling. You may not want to talk about it, and that feeling of being lonely is, in so many ways, almost comforting. But it’s when you start to impact the ones you love that you have to learn how to get it out of your system. 

Being lonely arises even when you are surrounded by people. Loneliness comes from being unable to connect with anyone, even when you are in a crowd. This is why support groups are perfect to give you a mouthpiece for your emotions, that also that empathy and reassurance that you are not alone.


The exhaustion aspect is very difficult to come to terms with. When you feel exhausted looking after a baby, you may feel that you can lean on your parents as support. But in this situation, this feeling of exhaustion, combined with being on your own, means that you may not know how to deal with this type of tiredness.

You felt this tired before, but the emotional load of the situation also weighs heavily on you. It is important to recognise the situations when you need to step away and just recuperate in the way that you want. You may feel that you’ve got to prop up the entire house, and sometimes distractions will help, but you also need to realise when you need to step away from everything. 

There are things that we can build into the daily lives that give us time away from the situation, but also give us time away from ourselves. For example, video games is a great stress reliever and some time to yourself focusing on something else, while also exercising your grey matter, can be the thing to help you recuperate. It is essential to realise that when you feel like this that you don’t overexert yourself.

Some people love the idea of hitting the gym when they feel like this, but if you have to exercise, make it light exercise. You don’t want to dig deep into your well of exhaustion, especially if you feel like you cannot sleep at the moment.

The fact of the matter is that when you have an unwell parent, and you have to be a parent yourself, you cannot do everything. As you can see, there are emotions you will go through you have felt before, but they will not feel the same way now. You cannot prepare for the situation of looking after an older parent, which is why you’ve got to learn to look after yourself, as well as the people you care about.

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