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Role Reversal: Adult Children Caring for Aging Parents

When an adult child begins to care for a parent, this reversal of roles has a deep impact on all involved. Here are helpful strategies for navigating this transition.

Sep 4, 2022

Role reversal is a complex dynamic that can be difficult to navigate.  Every parent-child relationship has its own unique history, and with that comes a variety of emotions and shared experiences.  When new caregiving needs are added to the existing relationship dynamic, even under the best of circumstances, it adds a layer of physical and emotional complexity that can be tremendously stressful, especially for the caregiver.

It is difficult for adult children to observe the image of their parent change from one that was once strong to now weak or one that was independent to one that is increasingly dependent.  It is natural to want relationships to stay the same, but the reality is that relationships change over time as roles evolve and needs change.

Here are a few tips that can help you navigate role reversal:

  • Strive to involve your parent as much as possible in the decision making process.  You are much more likely to have by-in when your parent(s) play a large role in shaping the solutions.
  • Create a checklist for difficult conversations that need to be addressed.  If possible, set up a family meeting to discuss these items together. Your hospice social worker can also support your family and help facilitate important conversations.
  • Listen and validate at all times. Making a space for your parents to talk about their fears, concerns, feelings and wishes is important and helps keep communication open.
  • Seek professional guidance and help when it’s needed. Your hospice social worker can be a valuable resources as your parent’s care needs increase.  They can also connect you with local, professional resources.

While caring for a parent, it is important to practice self-care strategies, which will help you better care for your loved one as you take care of yourself.  We encourage you to follow this link and watch a short video that includes practical tips and strategies for incorporating moments of self care.

Additional self-care recommendations include:

  • Seek professional counseling to help you process the changes going on around you and the grief associated with it.  Our Grief Counseling Center can be a helpful resource as you navigate anticipatory grief, or grief that occurs before a loss.
  • Build healthy choices into your daily patterns.  Try incorporating exercise (even 15 minutes can have a positive impact) and healthy eating into your daily routine.

Adapted from Sound Options.  Click here to read the full article.