Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

What does it look like when the children care for aging parents?

March 3, 2022

As Heart2Heart has expanded to become a respite agency, I’ve been reflecting on how the relationship between parents and their children changes over time.

The old saying “Once a man, twice a child” continues to apply today. Maybe it’s even harder today, when the responsibility to care for aging parents falls to just one son or daughter, without a network of other family members nearby to help.

It’s an honor to care for an aging parent – but it can be a real challenge.

Growing up involves the parent teaching life skills that increase independence and self-determination. But at some point, the scales tip in the opposite direction.

Adults who have been directing their own lives suddenly need help. Maybe their minds have begun to deteriorate, and they forget the basics of caring for themselves. Maybe they need help walking and moving around. They might even need adult diapers.

Your parent is not asking for you to teach them new life skills or new motor skills. They’re asking you to support them where they are.

When the child becomes the caregiver, it can be frustrating for both parties to navigate the transition. The parent doesn’t want to think of themselves as needing help. And often the child would rather not take on the mantle of caregiver.

I’ve learned that patience matters as you learn to care for aging parents. Kindness matters.

Your parent is not asking for you to teach them new life skills or new motor skills. They’re asking you to support them where they are.

The difference in mindset is subtle but important. For example, instead telling your parent, “Take your medication,” a kinder, more patient approach is to ask them, “Have you taken your medicine yet?”

Next week, we’ll talk about how we honor our parents and support their independence. But for now, I just want to communicate a message of encouragement for caregivers in our community:

The patience and love you pour into your parents as they age is so powerful and so important. We know you don’t always feel appreciated, so we want to remind you that your work matters. We believe that our God sees and honors the time you take to care for your parents.

We see you, too. We appreciate you. You inspire the work we do at Heart2Heart!

And if you need our support, contact us about inviting a Relief Companion to help your parent so you can take time for yourself.

What advice would you offer family caregivers navigating their new role?

Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida. He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master's degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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