Some of the toughest days for families can be the initial stages of the realization that their aging loved one doesn’t need to be alone. Maybe it’s Dad’s reoccurring falls that are frightening or the scare of an ER trip because Mom accidentally took too much medication. Whatever the cause for concern, don’t beat yourself up. As human beings, the aging process is difficult. Watching our parents or other loved ones’ deal with this is altogether more trying. It becomes at times a battle of wills. It is what many refer to as role reversal. And while it may seem like you are being paid back for your hard-headed childhood days…you must be strong and use good judgment.
First, you must come to terms with the role reversal. It is hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that we are now the decision maker. Now, with this in mind…tread lightly and respectfully. We still respect our elders. But we must respect them enough to CARE for them and make tough decisions. It’s a difficult conversation when they don’t seem to want our help or don’t want to be a bother. But stay strong. It can be so trying to see our parents or aging loved ones become so vulnerable. If you have siblings try not to allow this time to be one where you pull apart or old sibling rivalries rear their heads. Pull together rather than away from each other. Regardless if you are an only child or have siblings, find a way to talk things out with a trusted friend. This role reversal is tough!
STAY STRONG! This can be hard when a parent becomes angry over independence issues but you are concerned for their safety. Don’t cave in or just put a literal band-aid on a gaping wound. Address the tough issues. Avoid letting them shut you out or try and convince you that everything is fine when you know clearly it is not. Don’t wait until you are in crisis mode before you address the issues that are at hand.
Talk to them with their physician. Go to those appointments and help be an advocate. Many parents welcome time with their children. It may be that during these appointments there is information that family members are not getting the full story. It also could be that the physician may need some information as to what is “really” going on. Your loved ones may not always remember or understand everything their physicians tell them either. As a complete CARE TEAM…you and your parent in conjunction with their primary care physician can make good sound choices.
Role reversal is no walk in the park. But much like raising children can be so incredibly tough…tending to aging parents in role reversal can be gut-wrenching because we view them as well…the parent. Remind them how much you love them. Be nurturing and be kind. Let them know that you want to help take care of them just as they took care of you. Maybe it wasn’t perfect. But life just isn’t. Do the right thing and seek guidance from a physician and trusted friends along the way.