Embrace Your Shifting Role with Elderly Parents
By Laura McElroy


It is true that time waits for no one. It marches on, things change and we all get older. Time has away of shifting the roles between parents and children to the extent that those roles are eventually reversed. How parents and children handle role reversal can make a big difference in the quality of life.


Adult children just beginning to experience shifting roles can do one of two things. They can resist the inevitable for as long as possible or embrace it with open arms. The latter is the better way to go.

Our Aging Population

Perhaps you have heard that America is getting older. It’s true. Demographic data suggests that the number of senior citizens in the U.S. will increase from an estimated 52 million in 2018 to nearly 95 million by 2060. Should estimates prove correct, senior citizens will make up 23% of the total population 40 years from now.


As the population ages, more adult children find themselves taking on the role of caregiver. They find themselves helping their aging parents manage everything from their finances to their day-to-day routines. Many go on to become surrogate parents for their own parents.

Meeting Health and Wellness Needs

So much of getting older has to do with one’s health that it often becomes necessary for children to meet the health and wellness needs of aging parents. Adult children need to know that it is okay to seek help. It is not necessary, nor is it healthy, for an adult child to take full responsibility for parental health and wellness.


Adult children can take comfort in the fact that there is plenty of help available. Across the country there are organizations that provide varying levels of assistance. From websites that help adult children find local caregivers to assisted living homes and in-home nursing services, the resources are out there.

Meeting Financial Needs

A decline of health and wellness often includes an accompanying decline in the ability to handle personal finances. It is fairly common for adult children to assist aging parents in paying their bills, for example. Some cases even require adult children to become legally responsible for their parents’ finances.


This is another role that adult children should willingly embrace. Having the opportunity to help manage a parent’s finances is also an opportunity to help that parent maintain a comfortable lifestyle in accordance with available resources. It gives both child and parent peace of mind that financial matters are in order.

Meeting the Child’s Emotional Needs

One last thing to consider is that acting as the primary caregiver of aging parents can take an emotional toll on adult children. For starters, it can be very difficult to witness the effects of age on a parent’s life. No one wants to see mom or dad decline physically and mentally. It just goes against those heroic images we attach to our parents.


Adult children should know that there are organizations, like support groups for example, geared toward their needs. Making sure their emotional needs are met is just as important as making sure their parents’ needs are met.


Shifting roles among adult children and parents is a reality of modern life. If you find yourself facing shifting roles, don’t fight it. Embrace it and make the most of it.



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