Parent-Child Role Reversal: Helpful Tips for Caring For Your Elderly Parent

Take it slowly making sure to give your loved one space,
freedom and decision making.
One of the hardest things about watching your parent’s age is the reversal of relationships that occurs. Once it was them looking after you and now it's your turn to provide care-giving for them. Firstly, and most importantly, it's vital to remember that it is okay to struggle, and to be unable to manage being a full time caregiver for them. If it gets too much for you, it's okay to ask for help or even organize alternative methods of care-giving for your parents. Following are X practical ways to manage care-giving for elderly parents.

Take it slowly. One thing that can make everything else much easier is to take it slowly. Reversing the way your relationship works is something that will take time to get used to, and if you try and force it quickly it almost certainly won't work out. Instead of swapping everything at once, it's best to take things one step at a time. Take over certain small tasks from them, and build up gradually.

It's almost certain that you'll have to deal with arguments, resentment and anger as you get used to the new dynamic. Remember what it was like being a teenager, when you were trying to express your freedom and agency, only your parents kept stopping you? That's what this is like, only it's you being the 'parent' this time. Going from a state of complete freedom and agency to one in which they are dependent on another is scary, and it's unsurprising if they lash out. You should stand your ground, but be understanding – it's a difficult time for both of you, so try to deal with these things firmly but kindly.

Give your parents as much space, freedom and decision making as possible. If possible, try to give your parents as much freedom and space as you can. Whilst it can be tempting to want to make sure they're okay by micro-managing every aspect, this can harmful in the long run for a few reasons. Firstly, it'll increase the afore-discussed resentment, but it can also do harm to their health. If you limit how much activity they participate it or take challenging tasks away, you reduce their ability to work out – both physically and mentally. This is vital to them staying healthy.

5 signs of emotional caregiver stress
Giving them space will also give yourself space and time – and that's something you need. It's easy to accidentally end up neglecting other aspects of your life, and you'll need to actively work to ensure that you don't fall into this pattern. Check in regularly with your partner/siblings/friends and make sure both your own and their emotional needs are being met. No matter how much your partner loves you, they're your parents and there won't be quite the same level of bond there. Checking that they're okay with the state of things, both within your relationship and their relationship to your parents is just as important as keeping an eye on your parent’s health.

It might be that it gets too much for you to cope on your own, and other family members aren't available. Don't be embarrassed or ashamed if this happens – it's completely okay. You might feel guilty because they cared for you growing up, but it's important to be aware of the differences. They're adults, and that makes your job significantly harder! If you get to this point, reach out to your local health services. Here is a resource that you may find helpful – the Caregiver Resource Library – the most comprehensive one available with verified links for over 1500 easily searchable resources. 

You'll find there are a lot of options available to you. You might be able to get home help a few times a week, or have assistance with them leaving the house. If it comes to it, you may need to find a residential home for them. This can be a challenge for both you and your parents, but remember: their health and your health are both equally important, and sometimes the best way to look after them is to realize what your limits are.

Home delivery of supplies such as incontinence products will ensure you won’t have to worry about running out. The nice ladies at The CareGiver Partnership can help (800-985-1353) or you can visit their website.

Caring for your elderly parents can be a real challenge, but it can also be a blessing. As long as you don't place too high expectations on this, it's possible for it to be a time of emotional closeness – a time of reconnecting with each other in a new way. It can also be incredibly rewarding, feeling like you're paying them back for everything they did for you.

By Edward Francis and

Further Reading: 

Elderly Caregiving. Choices and Challenges. 

Caregiving for Aging Parents: When Only One Sibling Steps Up To the Plate
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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visit to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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