How Roles Change as Parents Become Older

Our LA home for the aging staff take every precaution.As parents age, adult children gradually find familiar roles shifting. More and more, their elders turn to them for help, rather than the other way around.

The individual circumstances will vary. A fall and broken hip can incapacitate a parent, requiring temporary assistance at the least. Degenerative diseases can reduce mobility or vision, making it harder for a senior to drive or even venture far from home on foot. For even basic needs such as groceries or meeting with friends, they’re dependent on others. Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia can also create a need for consistent monitoring and care.

When these changes take place, there’s a greater chance of family conflict. Older parents resist  the idea of slowly losing their independence and having to rely on others for help. They often will still try to assert a sense of parental authority when in fact it doesn’t exist at all anymore. Their children themselves are already middle-aged or older, well-experienced in life. Acting out of concern, they may try to take control of the situation, sometimes creating hurt feelings as they make difficult decisions for the best care of an older parent.

Much of the problem in conflict usually occurs with faulty communication or a lack of it altogether. Parents can feel downright offended being relegated to a dependent status where they are guided or restricted in decision-making. That emotion can make it hard for an older parent to see reason. At the same time, the older child is balancing a new demand for parent care with everything else in life including raising his or her own kids, holding down a full-time job, paying the bills, and perhaps mid-life relationship issues. Their spouse’s parents may need help too, bringing another set of problems to the mix.

Under these circumstances, an adult child’s need or choice to bring up the subject of assisted living can come across to the parent as a rash decision. There is no question that most older parents would love to retain and keep their independence for as long as possible. However, as mobility and mental faculties begin to falter, the need for monitored care begins to increase. Assisted living can serve a real benefit for everyone involved, especially when adult children live a significant distance from their parents.

Regular and constant communication between an older parent and caring adult child towards each other is the key. Granted, someone usually has to make a final decision, but as long as they’re able to participate the parent should play a prominent role in the planning for their care. If adult children maintain communication and actively seek the parent’s input, they will generally feel more at ease with the transition to assisted living. But acceptance takes time. Adult children have to be patient and work with their parents as they grapple with the changes that take place during the aging process.