When our children are adults with families of their own, we often feel like our parenting days are complete. The role of a parent often turns to the role of a loving grandparent enjoying activities with grandchildren. This can be a fulfilling time of life.
Stepping out of the parenting role and entering the role of an independent adult with financial freedom and time to travel is exciting, but oftentimes short lived.
At that point in life it is not uncommon for one’s aging parents to find themselves in need of help. When this occurs there is a role reversal in the family. The aging parent often assumes the role of a child who needs assistance.
Childcare is exchanged for elder care. There are often many strains on the family which can include loss of freedom and independence, financial constraints, stress and serious health concerns. This can be a difficult time of life.
Though caring for an elderly parent can present challenges and feelings of frustration, preplanning can help a family work through this time of transition. It is important to talk about aging and end of life decisions while family members are healthy enough to express their wishes clearly.
These are not decisions to be taken lightly. Each family member should be allowed to make decisions about his/her own life to the extent possible. Several documents should be in place in every individual’s life. Those documents include: a will, a living will/medical power of attorney, a durable power of attorney for financial issues and a long-term health care plan.
Though costly, it is beneficial to have long-term health insurance if possible. Many healthcare needs for the elderly are not covered by insurance or Medicare.
When role reversal occurs in a family, individuals may experience feelings of depression or resentment. These feelings may result from the loss of independence or power over one’s life. This can be a difficult stage in the life cycle.
While preplanning cannot prevent every obstacle and may not stop the roller coaster of emotions, it can help to smooth the path. We must remember the importance of family at this stage of life as in any other.
When we were children, our parents cared for us and kept us safe. When the roles reverse and parents become childlike, we have a responsibility to care for them and keep them safe.