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Information about the author of this post.
tlwe223's picture Terri Weber, MSW, CSW
Elder Care Specialist
College or Department
Work-Life and Well-Being
Phone Number
(859) 218-0457
Email Address

All relationships are ever-changing; that includes the relationship between parent and child. We start out with very specific and definite roles. With luck, we hopefully move on to a more equal role, and maybe even a friendship. As time goes on, we may start to notice changes in our parents’ abilities. We start to worry about and care for them more. We are now moving into the role of caregiver.  

Your new role changes your relationship, bringing new challenges and responsibilities. This new role can bring a sense of uncertainty, fear and even guilt as you notice your parents struggling more. You may need to step in more often and help with decisions. It’s a new reality for both of you—one you both need to accept.

Your job is not to dictate your loved one’s life, but to help them stay independent and in control of their life for as long as possible. Just because you are caring for your parents does not mean you have reversed roles with them. Your parents will always be your parents and you will always be their child.  Children will grow out of their dependency and, with a little luck, become self-sufficient adults. Your parents, on the other hand, will start becoming more dependent and reliant on you for help.

This is not a case of switching roles. Think of it as developing a partnership with them so you are better able to help your parents live the best life possible. As a partner, you do not have automatic legal authority over your parents’ affairs or their finances. Unless your parents are found by the courts not to have the mental capacity to manage their day to day living activities and/or financial needs, your parents still have all the legal rights and responsibilities they always had. Your parents are adults with the right to make decisions, even if you disagree with them.

How do you know when you are caregiver?

Sometimes the transition to caregiver is gradual. You notice one day that your parents could use a little extra help with running errands or housework. Over time you realize you’re doing more and more, and they’re becoming more dependent on you. Other times, the transition to caregiver is sudden because of a crisis such as an injury or a sudden illness.
Either way, you start to think and worry more about your parents and if they are safe. You find yourself assisting them more and more with daily activities. You have made the transition to caregiver.
How do you know when it’s time to step in?

Here are some indicators that you may need to step in and take a more active role:

  • Forgetfulness (missed appointments and medications)
  • Unpaid bills, bounced checks or late payment notices
  • Hesitation or confusion with completing routine, once-familiar daily tasks
  • Temperament or mood changes
  • Hygiene issues (disheveled clothing, unkempt appearance and body odor)
  • Weight changes and difficulty preparing meals
  • Unusually cluttered, unkempt and/or disorganized home
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Unexplained bruising or injuries
  • Unexplained dents or damage to the car

Caregiving is both rewarding and challenging

Caregivers must recognize the importance of their caregiving role and realize that this is often a long-term commitment. While caregiving can be rewarding, it can also be messy, challenging and thankless. Sometimes caregiving will feel like an act of obligation or duty vs. an act of love. As a caregiver you will be called upon many times, often at the worst possible time, to make difficult decisions concerning the health and safety of your loved one. Facing these difficult, challenging situations can be overwhelming. So, make sure to invest a little time each day into caring for yourself. It will pay off in the long run.
Stay well, stay healthy, stay connected,