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Thursday, 02 August 2018 13:00

Role reversal - being the parent of your parent

While the term ‘’role reversal’’ may be common terminology used throughout the caregiving world, what does it really mean for the status of your relationship with your parents and how does it affect your mind-set?

The truth is that if caregivers rely on these common catch phrases to describe the type of care they provide, it’s likely to colour their feelings and attitudes towards their role and their parents. The effects are not always positive and can, in turn, work to negatively affect a relationship between parent and child.

Yes, you may need to assert your authority in certain situations, block credit cards, hide the car keys, remind your parent to visit the bathroom and so on. But does this really take away from the fact that your parents were once young and have lived an entire life before they became reliant on you?

A concept that implies switching roles between a child and a parent, such as ‘’role reversal’’ can negatively affect your ability to preserve your parent’s dignity and sense of control as they deserve. It’s difficult enough to set boundaries and care for your parents without them feeling patronised or devalued in any way. The concept of role reversal can only work to compound these difficulties.

How should the idea of role reversal be treated?

The interpretation of this concept is largely left in the hands (and minds) of the caregiver. It’s important to remember that your parents are your parents, and no illness can ever change that

You are their child and they worked to care for and raise you as best they could for most of their adult lives. None of that important history can ever be wiped out just because you have taken over the role of caregiver.

The difference between caring for children and elderly parents

While this may seem obvious, it’s so important to remember as a caregiver that there is a stark difference between caring for elders and children. Children are just starting out in life, they are learning day-by-day and will eventually outgrow their dependency.

As a parent you make decisions based on the best interest of your child, hoping they will grow to be the decent, self-sufficient adults you’ve taught them to be. Once you have taught them what they need to know, children must be set free to make their own way in life - this is a natural part of being a parent.

Be so much more than a popularised phrase

On the other hand, caring for an elder may be similar in some respects, but the overall end-goal is vastly different. The reality is that elders suffer losses, day in and day out, as they age or become increasingly ill. They are aware of these losses and the life they had before. For a senior, there is no way of ‘’growing out of’’ of a situation or illness as their dependence on others only becomes increasingly necessary.

In order to maintain the parent and child dynamic throughout your caregiving journey, try not to hold onto popularised catch phrases which don’t actually do your job as a caregiver any justice.

Remember that your parents have lived – they have experiences and memories and stories to tell. As such, they may struggle with allowing you to take over control when needed. Be patient and respectful of this and both you and your parents can enjoy a loving relationship for as long as possible.

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