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Coping with Role Reversal

For most of your life, you have likely assumed the natural parent-child relationship roles, whereby you, the child, are cared for by your parents. However, if you have found yourself on our website, odds are you have found yourself trying to cope with a new role: that of caregiver to your adult parent(s). Here, we define role reversal as “a situation in which two people have chosen or been forced to exchange their duties and responsibilities, so that each is now doing what the other used to do.” In your case, you have chosen, or been forced to become the caretaker, while your parent(s) have become people whom you must now take care of. While the definition may be concrete and simple, the significance of such a definition may be more abstract and arduous to come to terms with.

One of the first concepts you may struggle with is independence versus the need for help. You realize that your loved one needs help, but your loved one may be stubborn and put off by the idea of someone helping them. Like children, many elderly people have an “I can do it myself” mentality, which can strain your relationship with them, and could even potentially lead to them harming themselves.  Here are some steps to take to address the increasing needs for care.

  • Be sympathetic. Ask yourself how you would feel if suddenly someone told you that you were no longer allowed to care for yourself. If you can empathize, you can offer support and encouragement.
  • Discuss, don’t preach. Most people appreciate honesty and it will go a long way when you have an honest and forthright discussion regarding future care needs with your loved one. Avoid making it seem as if it’s your way or the highway.  Words like “we just want to make sure that you are safe and cared for, even if that means you may need a little extra help” may be helpful.
  • Start slow and gradually build. Any time a caregiver begins working with your loved one, it’s a life changing event.  Suddenly, they are now spending several hours every day with a new person.  It’s often helpful to start out with a few hours of care each day, even if more are needed, just to introduce the change.  Once they realize more coverage is necessary, the conversation to increase hours is much easier to have.
  • Seek professional input. Sometimes parents will think their children are being overzealous about their needs/safety. Having a Primary Care Physician or Care Manager provide a second opinion can prove beneficiary.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to give the most independence to your parent(s) as possible, while also creating and maintaining the utmost safety within their own environment.  If you have more questions or need additional input, please let us know.

Enjoy this beautiful New Year with your loved ones!

-Colby

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