Caregiving: 15 Ways to Avoid Role Reversal

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Watching a parent lose his or her independence can be traumatic for an adult child. As children, we saw our parents as the smartest, strongest people in our world.

Now, you not only take care of your parents’ finances, you might actually have to help them walk, eat and use the toilet, much as they helped you when you were young. The change is difficult for many to comprehend

“We’ve witnessed our parents’ decision making our whole lives, important decisions about us and themselves. Then their decision making becomes impaired and we end up making those decisions for them. Even if we rarely doubt ourselves when making decisions for our own children, making decisions while caring for elderly parents remains inherently ambiguous,” explains geriatric internist Dr. Elizabeth Kiyasu.

Experts maintain that our behavior toward our aging parents should differ from how we treat our children. Howard Gleckman, author of Caring for My Parents, says that treating your aging parents like children is a big mistake.

He and other experts offer advice on the best ways to interact with your parents to get the most from your altered relationship.

15 Ways to Avoid Role Reversal

  1. Put yourself in the position of your aging parent. Unlike your child, they’re not gaining new skills. Instead they’re slowly losing their independence. Try to maintain this perspective so your communications are received in a positive way.
  2. Keep your parent involved in decisions about their care and finances.
  3. Don’t argue. If your parents are being stubborn because they fear change or loss of independence, consider bringing in a third party, such as clergy or a physician.
  4. Bargain to determine their priorities. If they want to stay at home, but you believe they need Assisted Living, bargain with them about the terms under which they can stay at home.
  5. Use your status as their child to persuade. Frequently, our parents won’t do things for themselves, but they don’t want to cause their family any pain. If you tell them you worry so much about them that you can’t sleep, they may be more willing to take action than if you pointed out that they may be injured.
  6. Don’t call them names or make accusations. Statements such as “You’re acting like a child” do nothing positive.
  7. Don’t nag. Nobody likes someone who nags them.
  8. Remind them of your limits. You may be so accustomed to showing your parents you’re a capable adult that you forget to tell them when a situation is too much for you. Admit it.
  9. Stop whatever you’re doing if they become agitated. It’s just human nature to resist when you’re upset.
  10. Always treat them with respect. They’re your parents.
  11. Do not threaten. If they refuse to do something, don’t threaten to call adult protective services or refuse to bring food or take away their car keys. Threatening may irreparably damage your relationship.
  12. Don’t remind them of what they’ve lost.
  13. Remind them of their strengths. For example, if you’d like your parents to move to a senior living community, remind your dad that he can help you with your car like he did when you were a kid because you won’t have to spend time mowing the lawn or maintaining the house.
  14. Don’t discuss your parent with others while they’re in the room. That’s rude.
  15. Reassure them that you will always be there for them and always love them.

By avoiding role reversal, you can prevent damage to the precious relationship between a parent and a child.

 

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