Managing Role Reversal When Caring for Aging Parents — A Balancing Act

Woman Taking Care Of Her Aging Mother

Woman Taking Care Of Her Aging MotherAs your parents get older and their bodies become less robust, your relationship with them changes. Where once they cared for you, it may now be the time that you start looking after them. This role reversal may be a difficult process for both of you, but you can manage it in such a way that it will not hinder your relationship.

Understanding the Challenging Realities of Decision-Making

Watching as your mother or father slowly becomes less independent is one of the most challenging realities you face as your parent gets older, according to Dr. Elizabeth Kiyasu, a geriatric physician in Seattle. For years, you’ve looked up to your parents as the strong individuals who make crucial decisions for you and the family. But now, as they grow frailer, and perhaps, less mentally sharp, you may end up making decisions for them, instead.

In this situation, you may find yourself rushing in and taking charge, especially if your parent is undergoing a health crisis. It is also likely you feel that you have a better understanding of the situation than they do. But, you must remember that all these changes can be overwhelming for your parent, as well. So, rather than seeing your well-intentioned actions as helpful and supportive, they may see your behavior as controlling and intrusive, instead. This could lead to conflict, as well as feelings of sadness and anger on both sides.

Helping Them Without Taking Over Their Lives

Role reversal between an aging parent and an adult child calls for a delicate balance to avoid conflicts that can ruin the relationship. Many aging parents feel they need to remain independent yet they need supervision, too. So, as the child, you need to understand your limitations as a caregiver.

Just because decision-making for your parent’s health is now in your hands, it doesn’t mean you should take over their entire lives. You need to take a step back from taking total charge. But, make sure to keep your role as their support system. For instance, volunteer to drive them to the grocery store, but let them do the shopping on their own.

Senior Helpers, one of the leading providers of home health care services for seniors in the US, shares that your mere companionship keeps your aging parents from feeling isolated while allowing them to enjoy their independence, at the same time, it. So, just being at your parent’s side (even without doing anything big for them) is a great help. After all, getting older is one of life’s more challenging transitions. Perhaps, what your parent needs right now is not a child who tells them what to do every hour of the day, but a friend who’s willing to understand their fears and insecurities.

Every aging parent-adult child relationship is unique. Some have healthier and more intimate relationships than others. If you and your parents didn’t have any foundation of intimacy to rely on, to begin with, perhaps, now is a great opportunity to start building one. Find the right balance with managing the role reversal, and you might see your parent or yourself in a whole new light.