You Shouldn’t Feel Stuck in the Middle

Being an adult child raising your own children while caring for your elderly parents feels a bit like a game of tug of war. Raising children is one thing but the role reversal can be a challenge. Some parents are reluctant to enter this new dynamic with their adult child being involved in their care. They feel like they are losing their autonomy. You need to set goals and define roles if you have siblings who can help. Without setting realistic expectations, caring for an aging parent can have a negative impact on your relationship with them and your own family. Worse, it can have long term effects on your own health from the added stress.

Whether you are the only care taker or you have siblings that are willing and able to help care for your parents, the first order of business is decide what type of care they need based on their mental, emotional and physical health. Of course, as their mental or physical health declines, this list needs to be revised and updated. Determine how much support you and your siblings can provide. Be honest with yourself and with one another. There is nothing worse than over-promising and then under-delivering.  Some things to cover about providing care for your parent should be:

  • What is their overall physical health?
  • Who will attend doctor’s appointments?
  • Does your parent have a HIPAA Authorization in place so doctors, nurses and hospitals will give you access to the important details regarding your parents’ health?
  • How will much needed medicine be dispensed in safe and timely manner?
  • How is their mobility?
  • Does the home need modifications for safety and convenience?
  • Are there any cognitive issues? You should have a Health Care Proxy in place should your parent become incapacitated, so you can speak on their behalf as their advocate.
  • Are they able to maintain personal hygiene? Do they need help with bathing and toileting?
  • How much interaction are they getting?  Are they alone much of the time and depressed?
  • Are they still able to cook?  If not, how will meals be prepared for them or delivered?
  • Who is going to be responsible for their finances?  Does your parent have a Power of Attorney in place so you can pay bills, call lending institutions and creditors? A Power of Attorney allows you to make legal and financial decisions once it is enacted.

It’s also important to keep your own children in mind.  Depending on their age, they have their own set of emotional needs. You still need to be a parent for them and not sacrifice their childhood either, so it is important to set aside time for them, too. Involving your child can be both helpful and a beautiful time for both. Younger children tend to be quite entertaining and engaging for older adults. They tend to be chatty, cheerful, loving and inquisitive which makes aging loved ones forget about their own ailments… at least for a little bit. Older children, like teens, can take a more responsible role such as snow shoveling, mowing the grass, running errands or just hanging out with Grandma or Grandpa to make sure they are OK without the elder feeling like they are being babysat. It is also a great bonding and learning opportunity.

With honest lines of communication with your family and the proper documents in place, you can make a stressful situation and turn it into a viable solution for everyone involved. It takes having open  dialogue with your parent(s), sibling(s), spouse, children, and most of all, yourself.  Know your limits. You cannot be everything to everyone at all times and you cannot pour from an empty cup.

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street,   Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems