Daughter/son or caregiver: who do you want to be?
There may come a time in your life as the adult child of an aging parent when you may have to slow down or even stop your caregiving. While historically grown children had to live up to the expectation to step in and take care of their elderly parents, we are now fortunate to live in a time and country where high quality services are available. Integrating such services into your lives might actually preserve your relationship and allow you to enjoy each other's presence as long as you can.
Taking care of elderly parents is so ingrained in our minds and we may have such conflicting feelings about our parents’ aging process that we may not even stop to consider our options. Not only does considering your alternatives not mean that you are the stereotypical bad child “dumping” your parents off to someone who will mistreat them, but the experience might actually be quite positive for all parties involved. Have you considered that perhaps finding a senior living community with providers who are excellent might actually help to preserve your relationship with your parents? Have you considered that perhaps your parent, who took care of you all of your life, might not feel comfortable with their child taking care of them if other wonderful resources exist? Most of us aren’t even aware that there exist retirement communities which are far from the stereotypical “nursing homes”- places where the term “nursing home” itself is considered taboo because the values espoused by retirement communities as so far removed from those of “nursing homes,” which are portrayed so negatively by the media.
Have you considered that perhaps it might be better for you and your parents for you to maintain the role of child and for them to maintain the role of parent, instead of you turning into their nurse, financial manager, cook or social worker? It is time for grown children of parents who are retired or considering retirement to have a frank talk about the kind of relationship that they want to have with each other as the parents age. You might think that your parent wants you to take care of them forever, and they might think that as well. While it could be a perfect arrangement for your family, it is important to have options should you find that either of you is becoming uncomfortable or frustrated with such a deal, or if circumstances change and become more difficult.
Consider that while you may be the best at your particular job, that you may not be the best caregiver for your aging parent's’ needs, whether they be social, dietary, health, or other and that you may both breathe a sigh of relief once you stop trying to deliver services that specialists, trained thoroughly in the implementation of such services, could better provide. When you really think it through, you may even choose to never step into the caregiver role at all. And that may be more than okay.