As people age their caregiver role begins to decline, while younger relatives’ caregiver role begins to increase. Most elderly people today have children, grandchildren and siblings who provide them with care and attention. This common role shift can be a difficult transition for those involved.

As an older adult begins to relinquish responsibilities, children begin to take authority over more than health and well being. The elderly may feel they are losing independence during this transition, so it’s important to continue to act tactfully, involve them in decision-making where you can and think with their best interest in mind.

While this sensitive issue can cause self-esteem damage, it is also difficult for children to see their parent vulnerable and dependent and could arouse anxiety or embarrassment. Also, by the time children need to begin providing extra care for their parents, they usually have a career, family and social life of their own.

One of the most crucial elements during this role change is extra assistance for both the senior and the caregiver. It is important to not allow too much responsibility to fall on one person and to provide rest and flexibility for caregivers. A home-health agency can provide services such as meal preparation, housekeeping, showering and outing accompaniment just one day a week or multiple. Assistance from a home health agency allows family members to spend more quality time with their elderly parents without worrying about chores and tasks.

When transitioning roles with your parents, make decisions that support and preserve their well being, purpose and confidence. The key aspect that will continue to make them feel fulfilled is empowerment. Five values associated with empowerment are: respect, belonging, purpose, security and acceptance. Careful consideration rooted in these values, teamwork among younger relatives and decision inclusion are three strategies that can help make this difficult transition run more smoothly.


By Sally Dahlem

Sally Dahlem is a partner at Home by Choice, which provides private-duty homecare services. She and her business partner, John Markham, have more than 35 years of experience in home healthcare, assisted living, long-term care and the medical equipment industries.

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