By Miriam Zucker, LMSW, C-ASWCM – Aging Life Care Association™ Member
The caregiving role reversal for aging parents and adult children is never easy. As an Aging Life Care™ Specialist, I have watched this transition happen in a variety of scenarios all with a different set of circumstances. But through them all, there is a common message that parents want adult children to know - don’t forget the person your mother or father was before they needed care.
If your family roles are shifting, take these observations and strategies into consideration:
1. SEE YOUR PARENT IN THEIR PAST ROLE
Your mother or father had a profession…proudly served their country during a war…were little league coaches…won awards for their paintings…led Girl Scout troops…volunteered…played the organ at the church…lived through the Great Depression. They have lost many of these roles, often without their consent. Sometimes this makes them angry and depressed. Guess who gets the brunt?
2. WALK IN YOUR PARENT’S SHOES
Three years ago the wheels they knew were on their car. Now those wheels are on a wheelchair, which they may not even be able to maneuver by themselves.
3. DON’T TALK IN FRONT OF YOUR PARENTS
Do not assume your parents can’t hear or don’t understand what you are saying about them. If you don’t want them to hear something, step into another room. How terrifying would it be for any of us to hear unpleasant news, understand it, and not be able to reply?
4. REMOVE PRONOUNS WHEN YOU SPEAK OF YOUR PARENTS
Repeatedly, seniors are referred to as “he” or “she”. Your mother is sitting across from the doctor while you and the doctor talk as though she is not there. Have you ever heard of an illness that makes people invisible? When an older adult is in the presence of others, using nouns and proper nouns give your parent the respect and dignity they deserve.
5. IF YOUR PARENT DOESN’T THINK SHE HAS A PROBLEM OR IF HE KNOWS HE HAS A PROBLEM AND DOESN’T WANT TO CHANGE:
- It becomes your problem to figure out how YOU are going to deal with it.
- If a parent is not compelled to change, time will bring a solution — unfortunately, often triggered by a catastrophic event.
If you need help or advice about caring for an aging parent, connect with an Aging Life Care Professional™. You can find an expert at aginglifecare.org.
About the author: Miriam Zucker, LMSW, C-ASWCM is an Aging Life Care™ Specialist. She is the founder of Directions in Aging, based in Westchester County, New York.
This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.