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Relationship with an Elderly Parent


Elderly family and friends visiting together

Family dynamics may be changing, but your parent is still your parent. As you take on a new role, tread softly. Even though they may seem suddenly older, this aging process took time, and further aging will also take time.

Depending on your parent’s age and their health, you might realize that it’s time to talk about their wishes as they age, both for housing and health. Powers of attorney should be assigned. Discussions about whether they want to age in their home or consider retirement living can become part of normal conversations so that when your parent needs help, the topic isn’t a shock to anyone.


Don’t expect to suddenly have a perfect relationship emerge if that is not your history with your parent. However, do consider the possibility that past issues could use some smoothing over.

Most likely, you love your parent, and they love you. You both have flaws. It’s now time to see if you can let those flaws take a back seat in the relationship and try to make love the overriding factor.

Enjoy this time with your parent. Yes, they are getting older, but getting older is normal. They haven’t become incapacitated yet. They haven’t suddenly become incompetent. Celebrate in your heart that you can watch your parent grow old, even as you may grieve witnessing the loss of some of their vitality.

Our parent’s aging can bring along a role reversal, putting you in charge of caring for them instead of them in charge of caring for you. Along with this are a variety of feelings that you may experience, some of them good…others not so good.

When your parent starts in any way depending upon you, the world has turned upside down. Be prepared for that radically new concept. Old roles may not apply; old methods may not apply; old feelings may not apply.

Taking care of an elderly parent is generally a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t rush it. Both you and your parent are in unfamiliar territory. Let the process reveal itself to you. When you start taking care of your parent, they lose the one thing they’ve always had over you: authority. That’s not going to be easy for them to give up. Expect them, in one way or another, to lash out about that loss. By offering your parent options instead of orders they continue to feel as if they, and not you, are running their life. Let them decide everything they can about their care and situation.

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