Becoming a Parent to Your Parent

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Becoming a Parent to Your Parent

You probably did a double take after reading the title to this article, didn’t you? Yes, you read it right. How in the world can someone become a parent to his/her parent? Well, sometimes you just have to do it. You have to tell them what to do and explain what’s good for them; and that’s a fact many of us have to face as our parents get older. It’s uncomfortable, that’s true. We’re so used to our parents telling us what to do during our childhood days that the switch in roles can be confusing to some of us. And our parents can be stubborn, but no matter how old or frail your parents are, they will always remain your parents.

I went through this myself when my mother died, and I had to take care of my father and my brother (my brother wasn’t healthy himself). It wasn’t easy, I tell you. Even though my father was still healthy and mentally sound when my mother died, I was worried all the time. He was already eighty-four years old then, and he was alone all day since my brother and I have to work. I remembered thinking grim thoughts like what if he fell during the day and couldn’t get up? What if he fell asleep smoking a pipe and set the house on fire? What if he let in a stranger to have some company and there was a horrific accident?

Taking care of someone who’s used to telling you what to do is like pulling teeth. It can be frustrating, but if you truly care for your parent and want him/her to be safe and healthy, you need to do the responsibility even if you have to fight tooth and nail for it.

The role reversal is the most difficult part of being a parent to a parent, but you have to accept your new role. Embrace it. Because no one can take care of your parents like you can.

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by Rosalie H. Contino, PhD