How to Best Help an Older Parent

Many adult children take on the role of parent to their own parent. They believe that they now have to take the reins of life, just like their parents did as they were growing up. While this may seem like the best thing to do when an older parent needs your help, it’s not. There’s a way to help an older parent without being a parent to him or her.

helping handsWhat You Need vs. What Can I Do for You?

If you’ve been caring for your older parent for a while now, you’ve probably said one of these statements once, twice, or many times.

  • What you need is to…
  • You should do…
  • Do it like this…
  • Don’t do it like that…

While you may have thought you were being helpful, your parent may have thought you were being rude. No matter how old you are, your mom or dad will always view you as his or her child. When a child speaks to an adult in that matter, it pushes a button.

What occurs is that older parents begin to think that you devalue them. They feel as though you believe you know more than them, even though they have been living life much longer. They feel as though you are trying to take control of their life.

They don’t like it.

If you take a minute to think about it, how would you feel if someone said statements like those to you? It’s likely you would be offended. You feel as though that person is being bossy. That’s exactly how older parents feel when their children do it to them.

Now that you realize what those statements do, what is it that you should do instead?

You need to help your older parent. While he or she may not request the help, it is needed. You can try to ask what is needed. Open it up, so that gives your mom or dad a platform to lay it all out.

You can then work with what is requested. It may be hard to understand why your older parent is asking for help with certain things, but take it for what it’s worth. Your older parent is asking for help for the things the he or she feels is needed. The more help you provide, the more requests you may receive that will start to make more sense.

If your older parent doesn’t offer any suggestions on how you can help, go ahead and find ways you can help. For instance, if you see your older parent struggling with cooking meals, you may want to bring a meal over right before dinner time. You don’t have to say it’s because he or she can’t cook or anything like that. Treat it as just doing something nice, and your older parent may show you how much it’s appreciated by finishing all of it then asking for more.

The emotions that come along with caregiving can be overwhelming. To help you through this difficult time, contact Kendall Van Blarcom. He can help you sort out some of the feelings you are having about helping your parent. It is a transition and doing it successful will keep you much more healthy and happy.

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Kendall E. Van Blarcom, Psy.M. Licensed Psychotherapist (Retired)


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