Parental Role Reversal Is Not Comfortable

Parental Role Reversal Is Not Comfortable

Young woman holding senior man hands, closeup

{Read in 4 minutes} So many friends are caring for their parents now, struggling to balance work, family and the needs of their folks. One study I read recently suggested that 3 out of 4 employees are caring for an aging family member. It’s about more than time — it’s the mental and emotional energy that goes with it. To top it off, some worry that caregiving demands will have a negative impact on their careers.

People in that squeeze zone, the “Sandwich Generation,” are working, raising a family and caring for their parents. As time goes on, many of us also struggle with the role reversal of parenting our parents, which, combined with the stress of taking charge of another “household” on top of your own, is a real juggling act.

Coming to grips with changes in a parent can be daunting. I think of it like stages of grief:

1. Denial

Well, the house is grimy, but she’s doing OK — she was always a little forgetful — “hand me that …whatsis, and whosis — you know, what’s her name called.”

2. Guilt

I should be doing more to help.

3. Anger and Bargaining

The help I offer is rejected — What can I do? My sister can do it.

4. Depression, Reflection, Loneliness

OMG, this is really happening and I am so not prepared. Is this going to be me in the future?

5. The Upward Turn

Hey, I think we got this — at least the Living Will and Power of Attorney are done — and I’ve got a caregiver in there. But my sister is complaining a lot.

6. Reconstruction & Working Through

So we had a family meeting — OMG, my folks are going broke… we need a plan!

7. Acceptance & Hope

She’s my mom (or dad) after all, and, jeez, I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

A helpful book recommended to me by my friend Andrew is Parenting Our Parents: Transforming the Challenge into a Journey of Love. Author Jane Wolf Frances turned her experience into a terrific resource and website for anyone beginning the journey of caring for aging parents.

Fern Pessin, another friend and former board member of SilverSource, moved to Florida to be available to her parents. Her book I’ll Be Right There: A Guidebook for Adults Caring for Their Aging Parents will crack you up as you recognize familiar scenarios, and it is full of handy lists.

My days of caring for my mom are over, but one memory of her calling me “mother” comes to mind these days. She had suffered a stroke, and retrieving words was hard. One day, she called me “Mother,” and I said, “I’m your daughter,” and she said: “Mother.” Eventually, I said, “OK, Mother,” and she smiled and said “Daughter.” As I reflect now, I realize my mom was saying — it’s up to you now, you’re in charge. Imagine giving your child responsibility over yourself? Wow.

Fortunately, there is an increasing number of caregiver support groups popping up. My friend Nancy May started an online Facebook group called Eldercare Success. She’s created a group that is available in the palm of your hand. Nancy is bringing her considerable talent and network of professionals online to support others, who share information, experiences and useful ways they found to deal with challenging situations — like caring for a loved one long-distance.

Balancing your own needs while caring for aging parents can take a toll — but you are not alone. There are resources available to you. If you or a loved one needs help, call SilverSource at 203-324-6584. Our expert staff can provide assistance and connect you with the support you need.

Founded in 1908, SilverSource is an independent, nonprofit organization that provides information, financial support, and other services that positively improve the quality of life for people over age 60 while serving as a resource center and referral source for older adults and their families in lower Fairfield County.

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