When the leader of our Parents Supporting Parents support group, Sarajane Turley, was growing up, her family members did everything they could for her aunt who was impacted by mental illness and developmental delays.
“I know how stressful helping a loved one in need can be on a whole family,” Sarajane said. “I saw what caring for my aunt did to my grandparents, and, later, what it did to my own mother when she had to become my aunt’s caregiver. Through it all, though, we loved my aunt and wanted to have a wonderful relationship with her.”
Back then, Sarajane’s family struggled on their own, but Oklahomans who care for adult children don’t have to feel alone anymore.
Our Parents Supporting Parents support group in Tulsa and Oklahoma City is for caretakers and parents who are supporting a loved one impacted by mental illness, substance abuse and other challenges.
As a mental health professional who leads the Parents Supporting Parents group, Sarajane’s role is to facilitate conversations. She also listens, remains objective and offers advice free of judgment.
“I am so grateful to lead this group of amazing and courageous caregivers,” Sarajane said. “The people who frequent the group come even when things are going well for their families because they know how important it is. They are always there for each other to lend support for those who are struggling.”
As we celebrate November is National Family Caregiver Month, we asked Sarajane to give us tips for how caregivers can better care for themselves.
“November is the perfect time to celebrate National Family Caregiver Month because the holidays can be exceptionally difficult for parents caring for an adult child,” Sarajane said. “During the holidays people are constantly being barraged by everyone’s perfect vacation and perfect family on social media. The important thing to remember is that not everyone’s family is perfect and that’s OK. We’re all here for each other to talk about our struggles and work out problems and find coping skills together.”
Tips For How Caregivers Can Better Care For Themselves
- As hard as it is to do, you cannot let your whole life revolve around the problems your adult child is having. It really comes down to that you simply cannot care for them if you let your own mental and physical health deteriorate.
- Take little breaks to enjoy something just for yourself. You deserve it.
- Get out of the house and enjoy some physical activity. It will do wonders for your mind, body and spirit.
- Whether you attend a support group or not, you want to build and maintain a social support system. It’s critical that you can talk to people about all aspects of your life — the good and bad — to counter-balance your level of stress.
- Rely on people who “have been there.” Together you can guide each other on what worked and what didn’t work. This is an excellent way to learn about services in the community, such as independent living programs and job training programs.
- Maintain strong boundaries. You can be loving and helpful but you don’t want your loved one to become completely dependent on you. That fuels despair for everyone involved.
- A family shares the good and bad, but it’s important to maintain a healthy parent-child relationship with your other adult children. Try to limit looking to them as someone to vent your frustration to. This will ensure you don’t cause stress in your other family relationships.
- Don’t ever lose hope. We’re here for you, so I can’t wait to see you at the next Parents Supporting Parents support group!