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Memory Care Insights: The Challenges of Parent-Child Role Reversal

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Memory Care Insights: The Challenges of Parent-Child Role Reversal

“Providing memory care for an aging parent is an increasingly common concern today for adult children as medical science continues to make it possible for us to live longer, and more older Americans deal with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia,” says Steve Carney, Wellness Administrator of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA.

“While memory care authorities such as the Alzheimer’s Association® and the Mayo Clinic® offer useful coping strategies for many of the physical hardships and mental challenges that at-home caregivers endure, there has been much less information offered for one of their most significant emotional challenges – parent-child role reversal.”

Memory Care and Parent-Child Role Changes

When you are providing memory care to a parent with Alzheimer’s disease, your relationship with them will inevitably change. Caregivers spend a lot of time with their elderly parents and are often involved in taking care of their basic human needs such as feeding, bathing and hygiene. This juxtaposition of roles can cause serious distress for the adult child caregiver.

As noted in the article, Role Reversal: Should You 'Parent' Your Parent?, it can be difficult to love a parent with dementia for what they are now, rather than constantly wanting them to go back to what they used to be, but it is essential to try – both for your well-being and theirs. Your parent may have difficulty relinquishing control to you as well – because even though they are now at least partially dependent on you, they still think of you as their child.

As a caregiver, however, you may need to take control of the family finances and the day-to-day running of the household, among other things. It is essential to have a frank and honest discussion about money, changes to the home to make it safer for an elderly parent with mobility issues, and expectations for the future.

Caring for an elderly parent can be particularly challenging because of the complexity of the relationship and expectations between parent and child, and how those roles change as both grow older. Constant communication is important, as well as a change in your expectations. Be careful not to see your new relationship as one of parent and child, with you in the parental role.

It is important to remember that your loved one is no longer responsible for their outward actions and behaviors as a result of their dementia, but inside they are still the loving person you grew up with and who now deserve your caring, empathy and love.

Coping with the Emotional Side of Parent-Child Role Reversal

Says Barbara Schuh, a senior care consultant and columnist, “It becomes important to first come to terms with the idea of role reversal, as you become the ‘parent’ to your parents. The psychological impact is not to be taken lightly. For many of us, we have never seen our parents so vulnerable. The pain of watching them deteriorate is real.

“Take time to speak with a friend or therapist if you need help coping with the feelings that arise. Join a support group for adult children caring for their parents. Have family meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Valuable Tips for Dealing with Role-Reversal in Memory Care

In addition, memory care experts strongly recommend taking the following steps for legal, financial and resource support when you are faced with becoming “the parent of your parent.”

  •  Make sure there is a durable power of attorney in place before your loved one’s health and mind deteriorate.
  •  Identify an Elder Care Attorney, a legal representative who knows all about caring for parents and estates.
  • Communicate with Medicare and Medicaid about coverage options, the latter of which may be able to pay Medicare monthly premiums.
  • The VA has money for veterans who need help in the home or assisted living. Contact your regional office for more information.
  • Contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Every county in the country has an AAA which oversees all the state and federal programs on aging.
  • Other resources are available at the Alzheimer’s Association®, which provides education, information and support groups for the many forms of dementia.
  • Many local senior centers provide classes and support groups for adult children caring for their parents.
  • Consider 24/7 specialized memory care at a recognized leading memory care community such as Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr.

Based upon her own memory care experiences with her mother, Elizabeth Cohen, Spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America® offers some very personal advice for other caregivers who are experiencing with the physical and emotional challenges of parent-child role reversal.

“Caregiving is so taxing and arduous that we are told often the caregiver dies first. If I could pass on any word of advice to others, whose parents may someday need their care, it is this: Take care of yourself, too. Give yourself presents, no matter how small. A walk in a park, a cup of coffee and a magazine by a window, take in a first release movie, get a massage. Have lunch with a friend. Seek others who are caregiving too.”

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog on memory care and parental role-reversal, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5404 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.