Jul 05, 2016

When Roles are Reversed: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents

As we all grow older it’s inevitable at some stage that the parenting roles reverse. That is of-course if we are indeed fortunate enough to still have our parents with us into their later years.

The change in roles can be a challenge on both sides, the parents who have taken care of us and guided us through the years of transitioning from an adolescence to a grown up, and perhaps even a family of our own. As a mature offspring, the roles or dynamic of the family can shift, and you indeed may find yourself in a position where your relationship with your parents change where they begin to rely more on you to help make decisions and provide practical support.

What may begin as some odd task here and there may develop into a more significant, intimate role of support. The requirements may increase to the point you find yourself consider a family carer or primary carer, where without your support they may not be able to continue to live at home by themselves. This can be a challenging role for both your parents and for you.

For your parents, the dependence or reliance on you for support can bring with it a range of emotions from guilt, frustration, embarrassment and even depression. Your parents may be struggling with the perceived or actual change in independence and reliance on you and may feel they are a ‘burden’.

For you, the responsibilities as a primary caregiver is no less difficult for you. You may have your own young family, a career to work around or simply dreams and ambitions that you may need to temporarily put on hold to be present with your parents. You may find yourself in a position of having to make decisions that affect their life. Decision that maybe about where their financials, what support they need or if they need to move into aged care. Which may leave you constantly reassessing and considering “Is this what mum or dad would have wanted?”.

It’s not uncommon to question the decisions you you make along the way. You are not alone here, naturally you want what’s best for your parents. Whilst it’s advisable to have those difficult discussions about what your parents would want when the time comes and they need more assistance or what their medical wishes are. Historically, however we know most people don’t have these conversations early enough. You may find yourself in a position where your parents are unable to voice what they want, and the decision rests on your shoulders. Which is ok, but it can put more stress on you, as you consider your parents values and the things most important to them to help make your decisions. Once you have made the decision, have confidence in it and know that whatever decision you make you are doing it with you parents best intentions at heart. Your decision is based on the information you had at hand, either from professionals or other members of the family. There is no right or wrong answer.

In summary, whilst there will be changes noted over time, the one thing that will stay the same is that they will still be your parents and you will still be there daughter or son.

Please share your experience when the roles have reversed when caring for your parents.

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