For any adult child, there are a number of changes in your relationship with your parents that can be difficult to adjust to. These changes include coming to terms with seeing your parents as whole people outside of their role as your mother or father, and eventually, finding yourself in a care-taker role for those who once took care of you.
Here are a few methods for addressing some of the difficulties that often arise in this care-taker role reversal.
Find Your Boundaries
Taking on the role of caring for your elderly parent doesn't mean that this is your new -- and sole -- identity. You may be their caregiver, but if possible it is healthier for everyone if they still try to socialize beyond you. You may have the role of caregiver, but that doesn't need to encompass best friend, mentor, counselor, and partner. In fact, it would be better if you didn't try to fill all those roles.
Find your boundaries by creating caregiving schedules with other family members or hired help. Also find ways to encourage your mom or dad socialize outside the home and ensure that some of your normal hobbies and activities can stay alive while you care for your elderly parent.
Recognize the Role Reversal
Speaking of roles, you're entering new territory. It's likely that for your entire life up till now, you have been the child and your parent has been the caregiver. They have taken care of you and your needs; you have gone to them for help and security and now they will be coming to you for those things. This is known as the Parent-Child Role Reversal, and it can be difficult to deal with. After all, you've spent your entire life with things working one way, and now they're working another! Leave space for yourself to process these changes with a friend or your own counselor. Your feelings are valid and your are not a bad son or daughter for struggling with this new role.
Have the Hard Conversations
They aren't pleasant and they may be incredibly difficult for both of you to have. But discussing end of life care, wills and estates, financial worries, and all medical concerns now is the time to do it. Not when your parent has aged past a point when these conversations are feasible.
Start the conversation in a comfortable place where you both feel space -- maybe over coffee after breakfast, or after dinner when you're both relaxed. If you aren't comfortable with the legalese behind power-of-attorney, health care proxies and the like, then be sure to also take on the confidence of an attorney for guidance.
Do Your Research
From Medicare to Medicaid; private care estates and in-home nurses; state or county assistance, the amount of research available to be done is staggering. MetLife provides a great primer on these initial topics, and your parent's health care provider may be able to help assist with other questions you have.
Find Your Support Community
Across the country, there are people in this same journey as you. Here in San Antonio, there are alliances, networks, and support groups that are designed to assist many people who are looking to find additional levels of information and support that they need for their unique situations. Accountable Aging as well as Senior Bridge provide compassion, support teams, and incredible resources. Home Instead can supply you with all the information you need on keeping your loved ones safe at home. The Alzheimer's Association here in SA is one that should not be missed, as the professionals there are very dedicated and helpful. Finally, Caring.com provides irreplaceable information and about geriatric case managers that can support many children caring for their parents.
Remember That You Aren't Alone
The "sandwich generation" -- those caring for their aging adults -- has tripled in the past 15 years. There are nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 who are currently caring for an aging parent; not a small number at all! Look for local resources that may help you; anything from a Facebook group to even a local city or county support network. Your own doctor may also be able to help you find resources for yourself when things get difficult -- don't be hesitant to let your health care provider know bout this new change in your life so that they can help you if you need it.
Have questions? We encourage you to contact us with your questions!