When You Find Yourself Parenting Your Parents


I have a few friends who are now entering a new phase of adulthood which is when you are now charged with parenting your own parents or elderly family members.  It happens to many of us as we reach middle age.  My friends are just at the beginnings of that journey and I am glad to be here to help them and to help anyone else who needs it.  Because, I know how hard it is to watch the changes that occur as our parents get older.  Sometimes it starts sneakily and at others, it feels as if the drastic changes happen overnight.  But not matter how it happens, it’s hard for all involved.

The reversal of roles from child to parenting our parents can be a rocky road to navigate.  Some parents have a tough time relinquishing control to their children and fight the aging process with acute belligerence.  I can imagine how hard it is to realize even a little bit that we aren’t as ‘with it’ as we once were, that we get confused at times and that our children are telling us what to do when that was our job.  It’s a slippery slope to navigate as a child who now needs to parent our own parents.  We must be patient as the changes occur and be kind, even when our best intended and even wise suggestions are met with disapproval.

It’s hard to realize that our parents aren’t as healthy, mentally and physically as they once were and that we cannot rely upon them as children anymore.  It’s a tough realization, but very necessary.  There’s a mourning that comes with that realization for ourselves and our parents if they can realize it.  Bumps in the road are certain as this next phase begins.

Perhaps you’re realizing that your parents are weakening mentally and physically.  They aren’t as spry as they used to be and need help walking or doing their normal routines.  Perhaps you’re noticing that they are getting a bit confused at times or forgetting what they once readily knew.  Or perhaps they are slurring their words a bit or not able to remember to pay the bills on time or to take out the garbage or to eat routinely.

Please, come from a place of love and kindness as you navigate this new phase.  Be helpful and try to keep your frustrations outwardly to a minimum.  Hold your parents closer than you may have in the past and give them love.  Let them know you are there to be helpful and not to take over entirely (unless it’s now truly needed).  Find ways in which to help them as these beginning stages unfold.  Keep a keen eye on things as it progresses and be aware that subtle changes can grow quickly into full on tragedy if not monitored.

I am not trying to scare you, but I need to warn you.  I have seen it happen.  Trauma can exacerbate the the changes more quickly and speed up the need to get more help for your parents.

You may even see personality changes occur as they decline mentally and physically.  Agitation is common as their frustration levels increase (and yours do too).  It’s normal, so please take care of yourself and them with kindness and patience in your heart, mind and actions.

I’m here if you need a friend.  I’ve been on this path for quite a long time with several family members.  It’s not easy, but when you understand that you are not alone on this journey, it helps to ease the pain.  Being supported by someone who’s been there helps and I would like to give back in honor of those who helped me through the journey, so I’m here for you.

Shine On!



27 thoughts on “When You Find Yourself Parenting Your Parents

  1. Thanks, Yvonne. You describe one aspect of my current reality. My problem is that I live almost 700 miles away from them. My sisters and I have stopped trying to get them to understand that we want to help, but they “don’t want to burden you”. We will watch and pick up any pieces as they fall about the place, but we are not going to force them into anything they do not want to. . .until someone gets hurt, then we will need to take charge. I remember before my grandfather died in 1981 and my father was so upset because his dad wouldn’t share any information with him, making it harder to pick up the pieces. My dad is doing the same thing and gets irritated when I gently mention he is doing exactly what his dad did. Its frustrating for me, but I call them every day and talk about fun stuff. Now the goal is to get them down here in two weeks for the wedding of their first granddaughter. Plans are in place as long as they stay healthy enough. Holding my breath.

    • I live about 900 miles from my parents too Ray and my Mom has been dropping subtle hints that my Dad is having more trouble than he used to. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable process we all go through at some point. Thanks Misifusa for great post.

    • Sending you all the best Ray that their trip goes smoothly. Take tons of photos and videos of them to remember how joyous the occasion is! I remember how hard it was for me to put the pieces together and I don’t envy you. Baby steps. Perhaps they will realize when they spend time with you. I’m sending up prayers. Congrats by the way on father of the bride in 2 weeks! 🙂 I can’t wait to see all the photos!

      • Yes it was hard my husband spent two years travelling certain nights of the week 70 miles to sit awake in the night to watch over them.. The whole family tried their best for them as long as they could, Until a rest home was found for them both to have a joint room.. It was harrowing and hard at times, Yet joyful at others, as we would engage my Mother in law in her past loves, and memories, which often she would relive.. And we would spend lots of time looking for a pair of lost gloves she had when she was young.. 🙂 But we had smiles too..
        So my heart goes out to you Misi too.. unless one experiences, it we do not really understand..
        Sending all the best for 2018 to you.. Love and Blessings xxx

  2. Excellent post, Yvonne. I watched my mother’s decline in her late 80s, until she became totally incapacitated by Alzheimer’s and then subsequently died from cancer. Now, my mother-in-law is in her late 80s and is showing signs of confusion and lack of judgment. However, while my own mother was accepting of the situation (at least while she still had her mental capacity), my mother-in-law is fighting the aging process every step of the way. She even says she hates living in the senior apartment complex with “all those old people” and adamantly refuses to give up her car or to move into one of the assisted living apartments instead of the independent apartment she’s in now. We worry every day that we’ll get a call that she’s fallen (again) or has gotten into a car accident. I thought once my kids were grown and on their own, my life would become stress-free, but now we have the aging parent problem. Your post really nailed it.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am sorry about your own Mom and now about your MIL. It is hard to navigate these parts of our lives for sure. I understand the fighting the aging process as I had an aunt who felt similarly and life got messier for us all because of it. I wish you all the best in 2018 with your own family and MIL. ♥

  3. It is a big journey Yvonne, for all concerned. And a cycle that starts as a child needing that help up to being ‘the’ carer through our adult years until as a much older adult we are then requiring that help again.
    My dad died of Alzheimer’s many years ago and I can always remember my mom losing him twice. First when he no longer recognised her and the loss that this gave her, and then his death and the loss that it meant to her again. It is a cruel part of life but I can only imagine it is part of ‘our’ acceptance of ourselves in our journey down here ❤
    I hope your journey is at the least based on the love that you are discovering within my friend, in all aspects of your life ❤

    • Thank you Mark. I have lost some family members who were afflicted with Alzheimer’s as well and currently my Mom has it too so I understand. It is all a part of life, this cycle of change, though it doesn’t make it easier for us to learn to live with, but it’s necessary. I’m sorry to hear about your Dad. That must have been difficult for you too. Sending hugs to your Mom and to you as always. I feel the love within and I try to do what’s right and to help others on this pathway. We all need a helping hand and healing heart to walk with us. ♥

  4. Plutonia’s mother is also Alzheimer’s afflicted and bedridden in an unsuitable old apartment for many years now, Yvonne. Both my wife and I are jobless for equally as many years, we have been navigating through heavy family karma all our lives (although I lost my parents more than twenty years ago), and we are now both approaching fifty in this crisis-ridden Greece with very limited money and no visible prospects of any future.
    We do shine on, lovingly persevering thanks to God’s grace and the support of friends like you. I thank Heaven for your healing heart, dearest Yvonne.
    Hugs of divine courage to you and your Mom!
    Brightest blessings for the new year!

    • Leon, please know that you and Plutonia are in my prayers as you navigate these stormy waters. I cannot imagine how difficult life is for you both so please know I am sending you both healing hugs, prayers for many blessings in the new year along with health, peace, love, happiness, healing and wealth to come to you in Divine timing quickly and easily, under grace. As a 50 year old myself, I know how hard it is and you have my empathy. Your hearts shine even in the darkest days and I am always grateful that we have connected. Keep shining your heartlights. I can see them from here and shine mine back to you. Much love and prayers xo ♥♥♥

  5. Such a great post Yvonne. I read it, sighed…read again, sighed…and re-read a third time. I find myself sighing still, trying to find the words to write how this made me feel. If I’m honest, I think the sighing comes from a place of shame…for every moment of losing my temper, showing my frustration, being pulled into an argument with my mother even knowing at that moment she is only arguing because she is scared or frustrated herself. My mother’s been living with us for a little over a year now and it astounds me to look back a see how much our relationship has deteriorated in that time and I am ashamed to admit it is mostly my fault. There is so much that lies beneath the surface that I cannot express it here…all I can say is I needed to read your words, feel and understand what has come from your heart through your own experiences, and remind myself just who it is I have been given the responsibility to care for. Bless you my dear friend…for always, always, guiding your gentle light my way. You are a gift…xoxo

    • Rhonda, I wish we lived closer to each other so I could reach out to embrace you in a healing hug. Sometimes we are so hard on ourselves when we are simply doing the best we can under difficult circumstances. Relationships are tricky and the past can make it even harder to deal with the present situation. Believe me, I understand what you’ve said/not said and we have all been there. You are not alone, ever. I am here with love always for you. Begin again every day with love in your heart and be kind to yourself through this trying time. Mothers and daughters relationships are complicated. Perhaps you can leave the past behind, focus on the present gifts that you are giving and receiving and just find peace. I am sending you lots of healing love dear friend, always. xoxo Thank you for your kind words. I only wanted to help someone else on this path and your comment made my heart sing for our connection. ♥♥♥

      • I’ve read and responded to your next post, so you know how much your heartfelt words help. To this comment though, I say this…you’ve turned my sighs to tears, but tears of hope that I can do this, each and every day, with love and patience and the gratitude to God that she’s still here at all. I want every day to be a good day and I know I am in control of how these days begin. You’ve shown me a path, lit with your guiding light, and it is mine to walk keeping this lesson in my heart. I’m so glad you are in my life. xoxoR

      • I am so glad that we connected so many years ago. You have helped me in infinite ways as well so it’s only fair if I can help to bring you peace as well. xo You’re right that it’s in the gratitude for our elderly loved ones in being here at this moment in time because you and I both know the despair when they pass on – my dad and your superman dad. I remember Rhonda. Yes, it’s you who chooses everyday and at every moment. I feel for you as always and I know we have already walked this path before and walking it now even with the experiences of past knowledge sometimes makes it easier and sometimes makes it harder. However, dear friend, you do not walk alone. Take my hand. I understand. Be kind to yourself. You have a huge healing heart of love inside of you and I have seen your heartlight shine! Keep shining! I am grateful we are connected in this lifetime xoxo

      • Thank you Yvonne. For the hand that’s always there and the light that always shines. I arose this morning and the first thought I had was that this day begins with love. No joke, it’s the first time ever I’ve opened my eyes with that specific thought on my mind. What an empowering feeling. xoxo

      • My heart is singing for you Rhonda! Thank you for sharing with me. Keep that feeling empowered in your mind/body/spirit! You are a loving heartlight shining! xoxo

  6. This is a kind and compassionate post. My parents were both dead by the time I was 35. I now look at my children and wonder how they will find it looking after me and my husband if need be. I will try to behave myself and not be an obstreperous old woman! Happy New Year to you!

    • Anne, I am sorry for the early loss of your parents. How difficult for you! I hope that your children will continue to embrace you! Behave as best you can, but don’t lose your spunk! Happy New Year to you as well! xo

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