Parenting your parents is not easy or pleasant role

“It’s not easy to parent your parents; it’s not a pleasant role.” It means Mom, Dad or both are getting weaker and none of us want to admit the role reversal has begun.

When I consult with clients I hear time and time again: “Mom doesn’t want to leave her home; Dad is not going to allow anyone else to pay his bills.” There is no need to force anyone. The name of the game is to “persuade” in an assertive, caring and respectful manner. For their sakes and yours, embrace the role.

After Mother’s decline into Alzhiemers, my brother and I were thrown into the role reversal with little or no direction. Here’s what we learned:
Accept your role. No one else can do it with your love, so embrace it and consider it an honor. But for them, you wouldn’t be here.

Be assertive. Yes, at times you will have to tell Mom or Dad (or both) what to do. Of course Mom doesn’t want to move from her home and you have to tell her (gently and politely) that she must. You explain the reasons, answer her questions and, as she did with you, persuade her that “this” is the best way.

Pay attention to the basics. Are your parents showering regularly? Are they having regular meals? Are they taking their medication on a timely basis? If not, it’s time to be assertive and decide how best to move them forward.

Insist. Or, if you prefer, be firm. When your parents resist, keep on insisting. “Dad, we have to do this, we’ve gone over it a million times; let’s not fight about it.” Again, no yelling or shoving — just gently insist.

Prepare all the financial and legal documents. Taking the helm of your parent’s finances is a daunting but necessary task. Make yourself, or your sibling, a signer on their checking accounts then have them sign a Power of Attorney for both financial and medical decisions. This must be done before they lose their mental capacity. If you don’t do this it will be much more difficult and costly when they lose their ability to make decisions.

At the end of the day, here is what you have to remember when it comes to parenting your parents you have three choices:
• You care for your parents yourself’
• You hire someone to care for your parents, or
• You allow them to enter a Medicaid facility.

These alternatives all have pluses and minuses. Most of the decisions are based on finances and nothing and no one is perfect, so after you’ve been assertive and insistent, forgive yourself — your parents did!

Frances Reaves, Esq., a graduate of the University of Miami Law School, spent 10 years as a litigator/lobbyist. Today, she Is an accomplished business woman who, when her parents could no longer take care of themselves, learned the ins and outs of senior care (or the lack thereof). She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad pitfalls and options of “senior care” in the 21st Century. If you have any questions or comments contact Frances at

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