What Aging Parents Expect of their Adult Children

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What Aging Parents Expect of their Adult Children

When does the role of adult child change to include caregiver? Longtime family dynamics can impact how the boundaries between adult children and their parents become blurred. When do adult children feel the need to “step in” and play active roles in managing their parents’ lives? The reality of health changes often causes adult children to feel forced to “parentify” or reverse roles with their parents. Author Claire Berman offers several perspectives on these sensitive issues in her article in The Atlantic called “What Aging Parents Want From Their Kids.” The article can be found at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/03/when-youre-the-aging-parent/472290/.

Interestingly, Berman is also the author of a 1996 text called Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents. Her Atlantic article was written years after the release of her book. During the years between her book and article, Berman and her peers have aged and have raised their own adult children. She admits in The Atlantic article that research for her book considered input from a lot of professionals, but somewhat overlooked the way parents feel about their children’s caregiving efforts. She notes that her peers dread “being badgered” by their children. And that in some situations, they limit their time spent with their children due to fear of being criticized.

Berman writes, “As parents get older, attempts to hold on to our independence can be at odds with even the most well-intentioned ‘suggestions’ from our children. We want to be cared about, but fear being cared for. Hence the push and pull when a well-meaning offspring steps onto our turf.”

Formal focus groups of older adults and Berman’s informal focus groups reveal a trend of ambivalence. “They are annoyed by children’s overprotectiveness but appreciate the concern it expresses.” Feeling a loss of control and independence is among the scariest concepts for older adults; therefore, resisting ideas and assistance from their adult children is a common reaction.

Approaches to consider when attempting to assist aging parents is to first make sure your parents know that they are loved. Avoid making your parents feel defensive and whenever possible be patient when trying to plant new ideas rather than “steamrolling.” As with many relationships, Berman also notes that extending thanks and appreciation for the role that your family member has played in your life can help limit situations in which aging parents are hesitant to ask for help.

At Weatherby & Associates, PC, our goal for our clients is positive collaboration with the family members they designate to be involved in their planning. Our life care coordinator is also a resource to discuss suggestions toward quality of life improvements for our aging clients. We strive to be trusted professionals from both the legal and social work disciplines to help limit the stress that comes with generational conflicts. To learn more about our processes, contact us at 860-769-6938.


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