The parent-child relationship changes continually throughout a lifetime. Parents morph from heroes to role models to mentors to confidants, but the strength of our bonds can undermine the relationship’s final metamorphosis: the role reversal of becoming a caregiver for your parent. The transition may start with helping them arrange and attend doctor and lab appointments, but could soon mushroom into managing all their healthcare needs. It happens gradually, without any hard checkpoint when children must assume responsibility for their parents’ life needs. The process can involve excessive, intense emotions and will require inner strength to get through heartbreakingly fulfilling moments of the relationship.
Cluelessness will be lurking around every corner on this journey with your parent. The uncharted territory is daunting and overwhelming, with duties like figuring out medication, scheduling appointments and making sure your parents are well-kept and comfortable. No one starts out with all the answers, and there are plenty of sources to ask questions and talk about the process of taking care of your parents. Whether it be online or within the community, you should be able to find and speak with other similarly situated individuals who can help you ease the feelings of losing control that often come with this new stage of the parent-child dynamic.
An overwhelming amount of guilt and doubt may accompany these tough times as a caregiver. Patience is the universal key to getting through it. Frustration can lead to anger and eventually to guilt for your perceived inadequacies as a caregiver. Such feelings are painful, but normal when trying to provide the best support for your mother or father.
Fear is closely related to guilt in this way. When it comes time to contemplate hiring an aid or moving a parent into assisted living, the associated distress can be overpowering. Imposing such life changes on parents is an extremely difficult process with which to cope, and the resulting self-doubts can be deafening. “Did I do enough?” “How can we afford assisted living?” “Am I giving up?” “Is this what is best for my mother/father?” Conversations with other family members can be just as difficult and may test those close relationships as well. However, the comfort and quality of life drives every single thought a caregiver has, and every decision that a caregiver makes. Whether a parent is taken in by the caregiver, moved to a nursing home, or has a live-in aide, the emotions associated with caring for them are relentless and overwhelming.
Acting as a caregiver for parents can be the most emotionally draining, physically difficult, and mentally trying time of one’s life. Providing the same amount of love and care that our parents gave us when we needed them demands enormous inner strength and determination. When your world seems to be crumbling around you, it is imperative to find the motivation to remain strong, because your functions not only are essential to your parents but can be incredibly rewarding to you.
The new light that shines on flipping responsibilities in the child-parent relationship can bring so much love and appreciation to both parties. While extremely challenging, the caretaking process which transforms the relationship features a profound amount of shared love. The appreciation of the caregiver, whether acknowledged or not, will always be present and can bring a new level of closeness between parent and child. Getting past the fear, doubt, guilt, anger, and frustration will deliver a life-changing satisfaction and reward from knowing you were there when the ones you love most needed you.