Role Reversal: Caring for Elderly Parents


A recent family meeting at a rehab facility where my father-in-law is recouping after a fall has left me pondering our cycle of life.

When we are born as helpless infants our parents care for us. We are totally dependent upon them. We slowly grow and become more independent. As adults we might start families of our own and raise our own children with the help of our parents. But then a funny thing happens…


Our parents age. They are no longer the independent adults we come to for help. Instead, we become the caregivers and slowly begin to take on the responsibilities our parents once handled on their own. Instead of asking our parents’ advice, they are asking for ours. It’s not always a comfortable place to be. It can be difficult to know how to approach things like: if they are safe living in their own home, how to pay for medical expenses, who to trust if an in-home caregiver must be hired, and how to make the best decisions but still be respectful of their wants and needs.

Here are links to some resources that you might find helpful:

but if any…has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.
1 Timothy 5:4

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Role Reversal: Caring for Elderly Parents — 8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Blogging at CCA – Caring for Aging Parents | The Children's and Teens' Book Connection

  2. I am so in this spot. Have been for about four years now. It’s right. It honors. It’s unconditional love returned, but it can be exhausting. Taking time to rest and care for yourself now and then (actually regularly) is a must.

  3. I am also in this role and have the added burden of a special needs adult daughter who needs almost full time care. We’ve been living with my MIL for 2 1/2 years how. She has Alzheimer’s dementia. Right now, she can dress herself and fix a small snack, etc. but she can’t drive and we’re coming up quickly on the time where she can’t be left alone, even with a note. I can’t even describe the sadness/grief and (at times) resentment we feel. It’s the hardest way to lose a person. I haven’t found anyone in my position yet, with care-giving for both an adult child and a parent. We’re also discovering most families who are caring for an aging parent don’t get enough help/support from their siblings. We have to beg for every break we get and that’s pretty much 3 times a year. We never realized this would happen and probably would not have given up our home and moved here. Now we’re well and truly stuck. And the only way out is someone dies.

    I’m also learning what Dawn advised about caring for myself and making my own breaks so I can continue to do this. And to do it without guilt.

    I’ve been wondering why some children will care for their parents and some won’t. I think it might have to do with what they saw what their parents did with their grandparents. My grandmother had a stroke when I was in 8th grade and she came to live with us for 10 years. My mom got pretty much no help from her sister. And since I was the oldest, I remembered my grandmom whole and healthy. And I watched my mom care lovingly for her. My sister ignored Grandmom. My brother was too young to know what to do. And I can still hear my mom’s voice telling me how thankful she was because I was the only one who actually talked to my grandmom. And after I got my hair dresser’s license, I did Grandmom’s hair once a week for 3 years.

    Our children are watching us. What are they seeing?

    • Thank you for prayers.

      There is help/support, but finding the right support group for caregivers is hard. I tried one and only felt like they were pointing the finger at me. MIL’s behavior was my fault. My in-law’s behavior was my fault. My husband and I allowed them to behave the way they did. We *had* to do this or that. We *should* do this or that. If we didn’t, well then, that would also be our fault. And no one in the group had given up their home. No one in the group also had a special needs adult child. One woman’s husband was in a nursing home. She was NOT the caregiver! I left that group and have a Christian counselor who not only *gets* me, she also cared for both her MIL and FIL for a year. And she always points me back to God. I’m so thankful for her!

      • Almost forgot – hubby and I tried one together and they were having a special speaker who told us half of us in the room would end up with Alzheimer’s. THAT was encouraging. And no one came up to us and introduced themselves. One woman spoke to us and we told her it was our first time, etc. and she showed us where to sign in, but that’s it. No introductions, no thank you for being here, no this isn’t our usual meeting, so please come back.

        So, I see my counselor, and hubby & I support each other. We’re finding our way together. :)

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