A Role Reversal with Aging Parents

F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is a story about man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences. The movie that came out in December 2008 was loosely based on Fitzgerald’s story. Many who saw the movie, including me, thought that aging backwards is probably the way it should really be.

Well, it’s not the case, and your children are no longer the only parenting role you have. It now includes the care and decision making for your own parents. Role reversal for aging parents is difficult on all concerned. If you need a dose of growing up, elder care will make it happen whether you're ready or not!

This is the day you thought would never happen. Your roles in life are reversing. You are trying to make decisions for yourself and your Aging Parent. What will be best for them without altering your life too drastically? How do you keep up the pace and ultimately please everyone around you? You are not alone in life; you have a family, significant other, and a career to think about. You want to balance everything, to keep everyone happy and for life as normal as possible. Think again! Those once a week visits or daily phone calls may not be enough anymore. Your parent needs care, the real kind.

The care includes making sure they eat, that they take their meds, that their money isn’t being floundered away on TV shopping. You have siblings that think Assisted Living or Nursing Facilities are awful and they don’t want to put Mom or Dad in one even though they also don’t want to help out. How do you cope? How do you deal with this situation without alienating every member of your family?

Please understand, it’s not about you. What I mean by that statement is that it’s not about guilt and what some think is the “right thing to do.” It is not about hanging on to someone that they used to be. They are an elderly person in need of constant care and attention. If you need a dose of growing up, this situation will make it happen whether you’re ready or not!

Start with their doctor. Have an appointment to discuss the health of your beloved parent. Between the doctor and senior care advisors, you may be able to determine the types of help and living style your parents current status requires. Keep asking until you have the best situation for all concerned.

It may not be as simple as a caregiver visiting a few times a week to help with showering, dressing, meals and meds. Their health may need more than that and the visiting nurse or doctor’s office is the place to apply the concern. The best word to learn to help an elder parent is the same as if your infant child were being cared for and that is SAFETY. If safety is not at the level necessary, keep pushing until you get the help you need. Keep on insisting the area of SAFETY.

It may take you time to uncover everything available to your parent to help with this care process but trust me, it will be worth it in the many years elder care can stretch out to be. It is best to discuss with them all their health and medical, financial and personal situations before that day arrives.

When they are older the best thing you can give them is you. Spend quality time instead of stress time. Have them over for a day and dinner instead of needing to pawn them off on someone else. The resentment builds if you do this alone and there are many really good options out there to take that burden off your shoulders.

Safety and honesty is what makes those later years a good memory!

Frank M. Samson is Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma and also hosts “The Aging Boomers” on KSVY 91.3 or can be listened to live at www.ksvy.com, every Monday at 2pm PT. The company provides free assistance to families in helping them find In-Home Care, Independent and Assisted Living for their loved ones. He can be reached at 707.939.8744 or e-mailed at frank@seniorcareauthority.com. The company website is www.seniorcareauthority.com.