No matter how old you are or what you do, whether you are an aspiring artist or a CEO of a major corporation, as long as your parents are alive, you are somebody’s child. And as life goes on, the longer one gets to have living parents, the more privileged they are – because hardly anyone will love you as absolutely and unconditionally as your parents. However, when both you and your parents reach a certain age, the roles become reversed. As this shift in family dynamics becomes inevitable, you will have to face that hard and emotional question – what to do when the time to parent your parents finally comes around?
Your role as a caregiver
As your parents become older, you will become their caregiver. They will rely on your help across multiple dimensions of domestic life, and it is crucial that you embrace this role as quickly and efficiently as you can. Otherwise, your parents might feel betrayed. Now, you might feel it is unfair to ask full involvement from you starting with an arbitrary moment in time that might catch you off guard – after all, chances are you have become a parent yourself and your life is already overburdened with obligations as it is. Getting help is a good strategy to ease yourself into this role, but first, you should know your parameters of action.
As the caregiver, you are the advocate for your parents. The strategy of care will be your decision, but in order to make your parents feel responsible for their own destiny, it would be good if you talked it over with them. It will actually only strengthen your bond if you confront them with such matters and avoid going behind their back. Remember, in the eyes of your parents you will always be their child, they will always “know better”. This is something you have to accept and add to the relationship equation if you want to keep the matters constructive.
Help in other places
If you have other siblings, the new arrangement with your parents could end up being a lighter load as you divide the responsibilities. However, if you are an only child, if your sibling is uninterested or if your parents are particularly difficult, you should feel no shame in looking for helping hands. As a matter of fact, at least a small portion of your savings should be allocated to helping out your parents. Chances are they will already have money saved up in the pension fund for such occasions, but you’ll want the best help for them you can possibly afford.
If you involve professional assistance sooner rather than later, you can actually reap some benefits from such a strategy. One, the load of caregiving will be lighter from the very beginning. Two, if you get help, consider professional in-home care services from the onset, your parents will get used to the help and they will have more time to truly get to know them as people – which means they are more likely to treat them like the extension of the family and will, therefore,be less difficult. Furthermore, an elder care attorney can provide you with proper guidance for such matters, both financially and when it comes to laws and directives.
Don’t be a dictator
When your parents become too weak or feeble-minded to take care of themselves, you have to watch not to fall into traps that can destroy your relationship. One of these traps is that many children become dictators of their parents. This is not only about letting your parents provide input – as you engage into the whole spectrum of arrangements that will decide their quality of life, you will get advice from a variety of sources.
Cousins, siblings, lawyers, medical professionals and others, they will all give you their own two cents about what you can do next. If they are experienced professionals in their field, you should consider their opinions. Remember, you don’t know everything. You are not the ruler of your parents, you are their advisor and partner.
The shift of roles between the parent and the child can be difficult – in fact, you should count on it being difficult at least to some extent. However, it is important for both you and your parents to sit down and have a heart to heart. The goal is to work towards overcoming the most damaging and prevalent obstacle this role reversal has – the feeling of embarrassment. This is something both you and your parents who now require your help will feel. It will be only the first step on an arduous journey, but you can make it easier for each other every step of the way as long as you stay open and honest.