Why Parent Care is not Child Care


Most of us find it difficult to know when to step in and provide parent care.  We are used to seeing our parents as capable.  It can come as rude shock the first time we realize that they are vulnerable and need our help.

Some people talk about this transition as "parenting" your parents.  This is a perspective that I don't agree with. I think it's wrong to approach your parent care responsibilities as if your parent is a child. While you may be providing care that parallels child care, like making decisions, providing personal care, having them live with you, child care and parent care are very different.  Your parent no matter how dependent, is still an adult.

The hardest part of providing parent care can be accepting that your relationship with your parent is changing.

Ways in which Parent Care is not like Child Care

  • Your main tool is persuasion.  It's your job to guide your parent by influencing her decision making not by exerting authority over her.
  • Your parent is on a path where she may become more dependent as time passes. Your parent care role will likely grow.
  • Your parent has fully formed opinions and preferences and you must take them into account.
  • Your parent is an adult. Your efforts are to support your parent not to help her develop, change or grow.
  • Even if they act in a childlike manner, she deserves the dignity accorded to adults.

Four Tips as Your Parent Care Increases

  1. Move as slowly as you can.  Many times an elder care emergency is why children step up their parent care.  This makes it hard to take things slow.  Resist the temptation to make lots of changes at once.  Prioritize changes to slow down the transition.
  2. Encourage your parent to participate in as many elements of the eldercare decision making process as she can to show respect for your parent's adult status.
  3. Don't expect your progress to be a straight line.  Expect both progress and set backs.
  4. Entering into active parent care is a highly emotional time for you and your parent.  Make sure that both of you have someone to confide in and offer emotional support.

What has been the biggest challenge of taking on parent care responsibilities?

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--Janice Wallace


3 Responses

  1. Oh my. I do seem to parent my mother who has moderate Alzheimer's. I call her by her first name to h elp me as I find myself in this caregiving role I agree that providing this type of care does parallel child care. I so agree that my main tool is persuasion; I agree that my little mother has fully formed opinions and preferences and I acknowledging such is simply respectful. My reality is also that in many ways I parent my little mother.
  2. admin
    How long has your Mom had Alzheimer's?
  3. She was diagnosed six years ago. We had moved to NC one year prior - actually next door to my mom and dad. Being with her most every day, I could tell something wasn't right but thought it was the comotion of renovation and family dynamics. I recall when I was sure and scheduled the first of many doctors apts the following day. We were have a dinner for friends and my parents at our home. Everyone was around the table talking and laughing and I looked over at my mother. Her expression was totally blank. I watched her later follow social cues, smile only, and say brief words. Three years ago my father died so care responsibilites intensified. Since reading your post I have continued to think why I feel I parent her. Maybe "parent" isn't the correct word. I do know I feel tremendous responsibility to keep her safe, in her home, a quality of life that's as pleasurable as possible, see that there is food prepared or help her prepare food, help with baths and of course medicaitons and doctor appointments. And there is help. We have a very nice lady who comes three afternoons a week for three hours, a sister who comes one or two mornings a week, a brother who comes by once a week or so, and my husband is in and out. I work four days a week so I have my mother Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. While it is exhausting at times, we most usually do have fun being together. She does well going out to one store and then to lunch. My little mother still has the sweetest spirit and a sense of humor that I never knew while growing up. I don't argue with her and usually don't even correct what she thinks is right. Therein lies the most frustrating aspect of this disease - you can't rationalize with her at all. She loves loves loves Andy Griffith and Murder She Wrote so those are the only shows we watch nightly. Whew, a lot of information there! Visit the blog and you will see pictures of Chrissy. Judy.
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