When a parent ages, especially one who’s quite stubborn, it can be anxiety-provoking to challenge his or her independence when you see they are reaching a state mentally and/or physically where they require more care than they can provide for themselves. They have reached a place in their life where they require a caretaker to help with some of the basic necessities of living.
Part of the pain of this transition is the change in roles wherein the needs of the parents can potentially lead the child to take on more of a parental role. The assumption of this role on the adult child’s part requires careful consideration. The role of an adult child and the role of a caretaker entail two very different hats. When an adult child chooses to take on the role of caretaker for a parent, the adult child role is often compromised if not forever changed. There is quite a difference in the relationship a caretaker has with an aging parent from the relationship an adult child has with his or her aging parent. The potential guilt the adult child has may make it difficult for him or her to see this truth and may lead them to think they are a bad person if they don’t want to take on this additional role. In this scenario, the decision of the adult child to take on the caretaker role is really about the adult child taking care of him/herself (in order to remove the discomfort of feeling the guilt) versus what may truly be in the best interest of both the adult child and the aging parent. This can become further complicated if the adult child feels pressure from the aging parent to take on this additional role. Without doubt, this stage of life for both the adult child and the adult parent can be emotionally very difficult and confusing. There’s no life manual about the course of action to take to insure the mutual well-being, dignity and quality of life for both the adult parent AND the adult child. Counseling can be a helpful place for the adult child to get support, clarity, and develop a course of action that supports the needs of all involved.