Picture of Tresa Goodfellow's mother Betty Wilbee GoodfellowIn recent years I’ve had a growing interest in providing therapy for adults dealing with a parent or spouse diagnosed with dementia.

It can be a challenging journey and this new niche comes from my personal story, one of moving my home and practice to be closer to my mother who was showing the early signs of needing care.

Those of us who’ve watched a parent slowly lose their ability to problem solve and to take care of themselves share and are bonded by common, almost universal, factors. And while families have varying levels of financial stressors, sibling dynamics, cultural expectations, and geographical disparities, there are similarities that come with the territory.

We can all relate to the competing needs of our parent and our own children and work obligations. We all experience similar feelings of inadequacy, impatience, fear, and sadness. Statistics tell us that 55 to 70% of family caregivers are clinically depressed. I personally struggled with the dramatic shifts of moving from my fast-paced world, where I juggled many balls, into my mother’s environment – a snail’s pace, full of repetitions and waiting, and then back out again. Hopefully we all relate as well to the tender moments, the unexpected glimpses into a part of our parent we’ve never seen before, shiny moments that enlighten us, perhaps even reflect back to us our own gifts and abilities that allow us to stretch and grow in ways we did not imagine.

Entering therapy at such a time in your life can be beneficial and life sustaining. It’s an hour out of your week that’s just about you. It’s a place to process your conflicted loyalties, your guilt, and your shame of not helping “enough.” It’s a place to unravel the entangled threads that have woven the fabric of your life narrative, and to process the feelings and patterns of childhood that often arise when a parent’s cognitive decline moves you into a caregiving role. Therapy is an hour for you.

No one else.

Just you.

Image: Betty Goodfellow Wilbee (1928 – 2015)

Line Art of Purple Flower