It is inevitable that our parents/guardians will age and need more help eventually. The logistics and emotions involved with the caretaking of your aging parents is immense, and there are a host of resources for adult children to utilize. Articles and resources on caretaking of aging parents often focus on the details of how to logistically prepare for these transitions, or how to help your parents adjust to these big changes. This article will address how adult children can best navigate this role reversal from care receiver to caregiver as well as provide an overview of resources available during this transition period.

When it comes to navigating the difficult transitions involved with your parents aging, being proactive in handling this can make the whole process much smoother and comfortable for everyone. An article by Oak St. Health outlines several steps you can take ahead of time. Let’s focus on their first part of advice, which is knowing when to help your parents. The best way to accurately understand the needs of your parents is to spend time with them regularly so that you can notice any gradual changes over time. It could be that they are struggling with different activities that are hard to notice at a glance: let’s say they are having trouble climbing stairs, and because of this they are only using the first floor of their house regularly; Perhaps they are having difficulty focusing on more complex tasks like doing their taxes and have recently made the decision to hire an accountant. These changes are not necessarily limiting their enjoyment of life, but the underlying decline that is driving these changes could lead to more significant issues. If you are around to notice these changes as they happen, it will be easier to understand and address bigger issues when they come up. In this process, it is important to highlight that spending more quality time with your parents can be a joy in and of itself as well as have longer term benefits: Spending time together can strengthen your relationships so that when difficult situations come up, you have a stronger bond to handle these transitions.

As we enter this period of transitions, it is important to acknowledge the emotional impact of what is happening – for everyone involved. Dr. Aval Green, a Geriatric Medicine Physician, describes 5 tips when it comes to “Parenting your parents”. Of these tips, the first is to provide your parents with space to mourn or grieve the lives of independence that they are transitioning away from. This grief can be unpredictable and may come in waves. The process may be similar to the grief process of losing a loved one, with stages such as denial and bargaining. Dr. Green suggests providing emotional space for your parents to go through this process – it is also vital to highlight that it is important for you to grieve any losses you may feel during this time as well. Your feelings of loss as an adult child may be complex: This may be a process of grieving the freedom you had before becoming involved as a caregiver; it may be more nuanced, in the form of feeling vulnerable or insecure because the people who provided so much for you as a child are no longer able to care for you in the ways they once did. How ever you need to process, it is important to give yourself emotional grace to feel what comes up and work through what you need to.

During this process, taking care of yourself is essential. To care for others and show up for them in the ways that they need, we need to show up for ourselves. The article by Care Link discusses Caregiver Burnout, a term used to describe when someone in a caregiving role enters a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. This is distinct from being tired after a long day of work and/or caretaking: it means that you are feeling a chronic state of ‘running on empty’. Finding the balance between being a caregiver and other aspects of life can be incredibly difficult: About half of family caregivers report struggling with finding this balance and 40% of family caregivers reported having a diagnosis of depression, according to Care Link. Taking care of ourselves can sound self-indulgent, especially when we have so many responsibilities to juggle, but: sooner or later, taking the time and energy to invest in yourself is the key to being able to continue caring for people while also enjoying your life.

Navigating these major life transitions for yourself and your family can be overwhelming. If you are struggling with caring for your parents or would like to proactively plan how to handle this, Capital EAP is here to help. If you would like assistance with finding resources such as assisted living facilities or homecare, this service is included in your EAP benefits through EAP’s partner, CarePatrol. If you would like to talk with a counselor to work through the logistics or emotional aspects of these transitions, counseling sessions are available for you to meet with a clinician where you can discuss the important life events going on at the moment and find the best pathways forward. To schedule an appointment or access the care services mentioned, please call our office at 518-465-3813 and our intake team will be happy to get you set up. Below, please find links to the articles mentioned as well as additional resources.


By, Christopher Shepherd, MHC-LP, Capital EAP Counselor