Trading Places: 5 Tips to Parenting Your Parents

What do you remember about your parents?   Their strength and ability to endure; keeping things together regardless of the circumstance; and always knowing the right answer? Regardless, they did a great job raising you!  As an adult your life is filled with responsibilities, a demanding career, children in college, and looking forward to the day when it is just you and your spouse-no parental responsibilities-the good life.

 Then…you get THE call from a neighbor or the doctor about your PARENT/s!  The conflict begins whether the issues are medical or memory; you are thrust into a new arena of life “Parenting your Parents”.  It is not a science but an art form like doing the tango.  There is no step by step blue print that can be followed to make the job easy.  This is On the Job Training at its best!
These are issues that cannot be avoided.  The issues may be met with some resistance but the reality is we can not ignore the elephant in the living room.

Now What?

  1. Anticipate an immediate or near future living situation change. Don’t beat yourself up if you choose not to be the caregiver.  Be the best family member you can be and visit often.  If they are able to live independently encourage the investment in a first alert system.
  2.  Learn all you can about the illness your loved one is experiencing.  This will help you understand what to expect.  Join a support group.
  3. Have the TALK…it is a must to talk about the hard stuff like a Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, burial arrangements, who gets what, finances and financing their care.
  4. Listen and allow your parents to express their fears and concerns. Trading places is not easy for them either.  Acceptance of their feelings will bring you into a closer relationship with them.
  5. If you have become the primary caregiver, remember to take care of yourself.  You are only as effective as your health allows.  Remember on an airplane when the oxygen drops, put your mask on first so you can help the one next to you.

Trading places is not easy and can be inconvenient at times.  Remember it is not forever.  As your parents did the best they could for you, be the best you can be for them.  Finally, allow others to join you on your road less travelled as an effective and loving caregiver.

Submitted by Valerie Taylor, RN, BSN, Senior Placement/Referral Specialist for South Texas Alternative Choice, LLC.  She can be reached at 210-239-1167 ext. 801 or visit her on the web at

(March 2012)

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