When the Child Becomes the Caregiver!
I want to take you back to your eighteenth birthday. Remember waking up, the whole world at your finger tips. You were legally an adult. You could leave your parent’s house, open your own bank account, and forget that curfew you were in charge….well sort of.
When we turn eighteen the law recognizes us as adults. For many this does not simply mean we pack up and move out and no longer require any help from our parents, but for most eighteen year olds, you are grasping to gain that independence and not follow anyone else’s rules. (Let’s be honest at any age there are rules and laws to follow, but at eighteen not mom and dad’s so we hope). Our parents hope that they have taught us well. That we understand laws and morals and that we are sent out into the world to survive and do good things. At this point our parents can only advise us and while they may still be providing financial support they have no legal control over you following the law, staying out of debt, or surviving in the real world. You can do as you wish, but with adulthood comes responsibility and consequences when the rules are broken. And if we are perfectly honest with ourselves we aren’t usually ready for that at eighteen years old.
Now fast tfoward to your parent’s golden years. Mom or Dad aren’t as young as they use to be. Mom may be a little bit more forgetful then she use to be and Dad keeps falling. And driving has become quite the problem. Neither one should be driving anymore, but everytime you broach this subject it almost causes World War III! You are afraid they are going to leave the oven on or fall and break a hip and you can’t even think what might happen if they continue to drive. The doctor is recommending lifeline or home PT but Dad keeps refusing insisting that he is an adult and he will not be told what to do. Mom says she has been cooking for 60 years and why should she stop now.
Even with the unfortunate steady decline you see in your parents the doctors do say they have the ability to be making their own decisions still (even if they are poor decisions).
Now remember back to that eighteenth year again when you may have fought with your parents and probably uttered the words “but I am an adult.” I bet now you ask yourself “when did I become the parent?” That feeling you had when you were eighteen and your parents tried to tell you what to do, well that may be the feeling they are having about now as they grasp to that last bit of independence the same as you grasped the first bit of independence.
That reversal of roles can be scary and frustrating for everyone. The goal is to respect your parents’ independence the same way you wanted your respect back then. We had the right to fail at eighteen and at eighty our parents have the right to fail.
So what can we do? We support our parents and we offer to help and involve yourself as much as you can. Ok…so it’s not that easy, but I hope this blog may provide you with some tips and tricks to make this process a little easier.
Written By Hope Heller, LCSW-C
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