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When Parents Become Children and Children Become The Parents
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Debbie Henry
December 25, 2020

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When parents become children and children become the parents, we are forced to turn our minds to the future and the decisions that will need to be made.   Aging is such a tender topic and we can never be fully prepared for assisting our parents with the next season in their lives. That being said, this also becomes the next season for our own life.  From one who works in the senior care field,  at times, I think I have seen it all and then a different situation arises.  I think this year has been particularly difficult for aging parents.  By aging, I mean those who are at the point in their lives where they are the ones who may soon need attention with care.  There are many different angles we could take on this topic. For example, how do you care for parents who live far away or what do you do if your parents do not have money for someone to care for them?  The list goes on.   However, for the purpose of this blog, I want to talk about the responsibility of transitioning to take over the care of your parents.   This topic is not just a “daughter thing.”  It needs to be both daughters and sons who take on this responsibility.

Sons are also responsible for parent talks.
Sons can also “start the conversation”  

We all want our parents to live as independently as they are able, but when the time comes, it is up to the adult children to navigate the emotional and mental aspects of our aging parents.

The responsibility of caring for our parents begins with having an early conversation with them.   Having a conversation does not necessarily mean that decisions made will happen immediately,  it means that when the time arrives, as the adult child, there will not be as many guilty feelings around the decisions that are made.  When we are young, we never really think our parents will reach the point where we will need to care for them.  But it is inevitable and as the one who is guiding the decisions you will know the intent of your parents. Should there be a decline of their cognition, you will know what their wishes are.

When should this discussion take place? If you are an adult child, it is never too early.  I often hear the adult child say  “I really need to talk to them, but it is too early.  They are independent and I don’t want them to think I am trying to “put” them somewhere.”    It is never too soon.  Aging will happen and it will become apparent that it is time to make some tough decisions.  If these decisions have been made earlier, as a partnership, it will be easier.

When this conversation occurs, there are various topics that need to be discussed.  What are the living arrangement possibilities? Will the parent age at home?  This may mean alterations to the house that with an early conversation could be planned for.  Will one or both of the parents move to an Assisted Living or Nursing Home? What would be the location preference for this?  Are there finances in place for this type of move? Will they live with a family member?

Watching parents age is not new. When this occurs, it is unchartered territory for both you and your parents.  Prepare yourself for this time. Check on benefits ( that may be available. The earlier you can educate yourself, the more you will be able to help your parents.

Don’t let the time pass.  Get the conversation started. There are resources, books, communities who support those who are assisting parents with these decision.

I would be remiss if I did not touch the topic of planning for yourself.  Learn from this experience.  Be the one to start the conversation with your adult children.  Although it is bittersweet, everyone involved will benefit.


Area Agencies on Aging

Aging In Place Resources



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