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Role Reversal: Caring for your Elderly Parent

Blog July 3rd, 2015

When you become the caregiver for your elderly parent, it changes how your relationship works because you make the decisions for them. Growing up, your wellbeing was the responsibility of your parents, but as they age, the responsibility falls on you.

No matter your situation with your elderly parent, this is not an easy role-reversal to manage. Parents are inherently authority figures – the models for our moral compass, values, and knowledge – so when they suddenly need care, it can be disorienting to say the least.

In large part, this is why we always say everyone senior is different. Depending on the type of care necessary and your relationship to your elder, going through this is never the same. Some adult children view this as an opportunity to give back to their parents, to ensure that they have a gracious retirement. Others view it as their parents’ comeuppance, a lesson in karma. And then there’s everyone else.

For Elders with Dementia

If your elder is suffering from dementia, then although you should explain to them what is happening, you need to accept your role as family caregiver wholly. Because your elder’s is constantly fight a mental battle, their judgment comes into question, so although they may be saying, “I don’t want to move to an assisted living,” it may not be the soundest decision.

But rather than get overwhelmed, think back to your elder before dementia, and try to honor those wishes. This isn’t easy, but it’s crucial since it’s the only way you’ll be able to take care of them and be true to their character.

For Elders in Need of Care

If your elder needs care, but is not suffering from memory or mental problems, then your role is a bit more complicated. Obviously, you don’t want to force your elder into anything, but they may need more care than you’re able to provide and your parent may guilt you for that.

It’s understandable, but especially when you’re the sole caregiver for your elder, you have to consider one thing in particular: they resent the situation, not you.

We all have experience being angry, frustrated or disappointed, and we may not always manage those feelings in a healthy way. It’s why it’s so important to have some perspective when you overhear a customer in line for coffee snap at a barista. Of course, they shouldn’t have snapped, but chances are there’s something going on in that person’s life that’s a lot bigger than a cup of coffee and the best thing we can do is offer an ear – or in the case of the barista, just give them what they want and get out.

When we start caring for our elders, they’re going to be upset at their loss of independence, but you have to remember that it’s the situation, not you, that they’re frustrated with. Hopefully that assuages the guilt, making you capable of the tough decisions.

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