When Bad Health Causes Role Reversals Between Parents and Children

by GregP_WN

There will be a time in your life when your role as your parent's child will change to being your parent's caregiver. 

Caregiver Love

From the time you are born until you take off on your own in life, your parents are there for you. When you're a baby they take care of your every need, feeding, bathing, changing, and any other need you may have. That's the way it is. Even when you're an adult, they are still looking out for you, checking up on you and making sure you are OK. 

There comes a time in our lives that it's time for a role reversal between parents and children. Usually, it involves one or both of your parents and a serious health condition that makes it necessary for them to have around the clock care. Our family has been through this 3 times. It's a humbling experience, but oddly it's also a gratifying experience. 

None of us wants to see our parents in bad health, in need of anything,  or to be in pain. At some point in your life, you could find yourself being in the position of being the caregiver for one or both of your parents. This turn of events can turn a family upside down. Lots of questions come up when this happens, it might be a good idea to look at the "what ifs" in your own family before it does so you have a plan in place.

Things to Consider When Caring For Your Parents

Who is available? Are you the only one that is available to care for them? Do you have siblings that can help or any other family members that are willing to help? It's a great idea to have this discussion long before it ever comes up so that you know what you will be dealing with if the time ever comes. If you or your spouse work, how can you take care of someone? Is 24/7 care going to be needed or just someone to check in on them daily? Their requirements will dictate what you have to do, and be aware that those requirements will change and be more and more as time goes on. 

If there are siblings available to help the conversation needs to be about what if Mom and/or Dad needed 24/7 care, what would you do? We were lucky enough to have 3 Brothers and thier Wives to trade out taking time on duty to take care of them. It is a big job for one person and it gets harder the as more care is needed. 

Where would they be cared for? What would be best for everyone involved, to keep them in their own home where they are used to living and probably most comfortable? Or do you move them in with you? Is there room for them at your home, what provisions do they need? Wheelchair or walker accessible? Some people at the end of their life require beds, walkers, lift chairs, bathroom assist equipment, oxygen, and more. All of these needs need to be thought about beforehand. 

Is Being A Caregiver Harder Than Being A Patient

In some cases, if money is available to pay for it, an assisted living facility is a good option. It depends on money, number one, and the person's own wishes about where they want to live. Lots of people will adamantly say that they will NOT go to a nursing home. However, many of us say we won't do lots of things until we are faced with having to do it. Life will do that to you.

What will happen to their own home/property? If there are several siblings that will be involved, a discussion needs to happen with everyone and the parents to have a plan. Will the property be sold to help pay for their care, is there money in savings to help with costs? What insurance is available? Several years ago long-term healthcare insurance started being sold. Lots of people have purchased policies to take care of these expenses, be sure you know if they have done so. Nursing home care or assisted living care gets expensive and eats up savings quickly. Finding out exactly what is available before the time comes will ease some of the stress of this transition. 

In some States, if the person has no real property, and little to no money in savings or checking, some facilities will accept them for long-term care and take their social security check and possibly any retirement checks they may have coming. These are also things to find out. You might find out by asking your parents if anything ever happened to require them to be in a facility where they would like to go. Then contact that facility to find out exactly what the costs are and how different scenarios will work out. 

You should be aware of the fact that if a transition to a skilled nursing facility is needed and their money to pay for it runs out, the home and any property or assets could have to be sold to pay for it, or in worse case scenario, the facility could force an auction to pay for their services through legal channels. Thinking ahead can keep this from happening. 

Even if they are in a facility, some people can be in serious enough condition that they still require someone to sit with them most of the time. This can still be a difficult thing for some families to do. We had to have someone with our Father when he was admitted to a nursing facility for hospice care. Even though they had the staff there for most of his medical needs, someone still had to sit with him to do everything from assist him in eating, getting him something to drink, being sure he was rolled hourly, helped to the restroom, and in his early days there, to keep him from crawling out of bed and trying to leave. He got up and fell one night early and that led us to see that we would have to be there 24/7. 

Do you have enough available family members to have someone there 24/7 if needed? Now is the time to be finding out, when it gets to the time that people are needed, sometimes people disappear when needed. Put a plan together now, and then plan for a few "what ifs" just in case.

Will changes need to be made to the home? Some people go from being able to walk and climb stairs to not being able to do either one in one traumatic health event. Even the ability to get to the toilet. All it takes is one stroke, a bout with seizures, a progressing chronic health condition like cancer or heart disease, or any of a couple dozen more conditions to put them in the position of needing someone for every single need they have. 

If this happens, will you need a hospital bed, a walker, a wheelchair, a walk-in tub, etc? Is their home on one level or are there stairs to climb? You might find yourself in a situation where even having a place to adequately care for them is a stretch. A suitable home for their care might be at your home, or another family member. 

Medical care will be needed. How will they get to the doctor? Again, the "who is going to do it" question comes into play. Not just who, but who has a vehicle that the loved one can get in and out of? We experienced this too when our Mother progressed to the position of not being able to walk. She could barely stand, and getting her up out of the bed, dressed and ready for the doctor and get into the car was a three-person job. And then, can you get them out the door, down the sidewalk to a car to get them to their appointments? A wheelchair ramp may be needed. These can be rented in some cities, or if someone in the family is a handyman or carpenter, they can be built. 

Wheelchair Ramp Rental

When an elderly person loses strength in their legs and can't climb into a high riding vehicle like a truck or SUV, then just getting them to the doctor becomes an issue. 

When the time comes to take care of one or both of your parents because of declining health or a traumatic health event, your role of being their child reverses to be their caregiver and they are basically your child. All of a sudden you are responsible for their every need throughout the day. Getting them a simple glass of water is something that they may need. Being sure they get their medicines on time, and the proper dosage will be your job. Cooking for them and possibly even feeding them will be your job. 

Just think back to the time that you were a baby, or when you had children of your own. Almost everything you were required to do for your own children is what you will now have to do for your parent. 

This situation can tear a family apart, or bring them together, that all depends on the individual family. But one thing I can say for sure is that while it's a trying time, frustrating, puts you at your wit's end, and even financially hard on you and your family, taking care of your parent in their time of need will be one of the most gratifying things you ever do. 

In our case, we absolutely hated to have to be in that position, nobody wants to see their own parents suffer in pain or have to be taken care of. But we were all thankful that we were able to be there to take care of them when they needed us. You probably never thought you would be changing your parent's diapers like they changed yours when you were a child, but you might have to. I often replied to people that asked how one of our parents was with "it's like having an 80-year-old, three-month-old baby.

When the time comes, you will find that you will do whatever it takes to care for them, because that's what they did for you.

Other places to get help.

Most churches have people that are willing to stop by and check on members when they are in need. Some will even bring food and help do a little cleaning around the house. 

Your local office on aging - Some Counties have a department that is responsible for helping the elderly get the help that they need. They won't come out and do things for your (most of the time), but they will have lists of resources where you can apply for help.

Medicaid - If you qualify financially, Medicaid may be a resource for your family. 

Social Workers - Most Counties will have an office that helps the elderly or those with different needs, they may have something that will benefit you. 

The main thing to keep in mind is to be prepared for when the time comes. For most of us, it will come at some point. Certain health conditions make it easier to care for than others. Your parent's physical condition will also determine how much help is needed and how hard it will be to provide it. 

Make plans now, plan for the worst, but hope for the best. We hope that you never have to find yourself in this position, but we know you will do great if you do. And don't be afraid to ask for help. The WhatNext Community is a great place to ask questions, vent, get your frustrations out, and learn some valuable information about taking care of a loved one. 

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