I remember the year that my parents came to the realization that my grandmother probably shouldn’t be driving anymore. After hitting a stop sign, getting confused and driving away, my grandmother opened the door to the police, who were there to investigate the incident after it had been reported by a passerby who had jotted down her license plate number. I also remember the reaction from my grandmother when my parents discussed their concerns about her driving abilities with her. The term “not very pleased” comes to mind. Generations ago, aging parents often lived with their children to enjoy their final years. Three, sometimes four generations of a family were all huddled in one house. Both of my parents had a grandparent live with them for part of their childhood. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and in-home care for the aging population were not the norm several decades ago. With the extension of life span for older adults (on average, 76 years old for men and 81 years old for women), children of aging adults are now faced with more involvement in caring for their parents, or at the very least involved in decision-making where parents are concerned. The term “role reversal” is often used in conjunction with adult children being involved in the care and well-being of their parents. Most often, the source of help is an adult child (or children) who may not be in a position to satisfy all the physical and emotional needs of an aging parent (or parents). Advanced old age can create a role reversal: children who once required a nurturing parent must now nurture their parents. Moral obligations to assist one’s parents are often felt. This can create many levels of struggle within an adult child, and within the family unit as well. Depending on the way that adult children were parented, this can impact their desire to be involved in caring for an aging parent. If an aging parent is critical, demanding or has unreasonable expectations of their child, this can impact the desire to care for a parent, as well as the quality of care provided by the adult child. Adult children who have parents with declining physical, cognitive or mental health may experience a range of emotions. Some examples: • Fear, when you realize that the roles have reversed and that you may now have to care for your parents • Grief, as a once-robust parent’s ability to function independently declines abruptly or little by little • Anger, frustration and impatience, when a parent’s needs interfere with your life, or if they do not understand your wishes for them • Guilt, in response to the above feelings or because you are unable to spend enough time with your parent because of distance or other life demands Experiencing these emotions is not wrong, and they do not make you a less-devoted child. Acceptance of these emotions as normal reactions to the realities of your parent’s aging process is key. Ken Druck, a clinical psychologist based in San Diego and author of “The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life’s Terms With Your Own,” urges adult children to act out of love, not guilt or resentment, and to “live and give within your limits.” To avoid burn out, make an honest assessment of what you can and cannot do, then “lovingly” communicate your limits to your parent. Experts do advise that promising your parent that you will never put them in a nursing home is not wise. Circumstances change, finances may be a factor and it may be the only option available for their safety and well-being. Considering including a social worker, doctor or other objective professional in conversations with your parents is also important. They may sometimes be able to help you and your parent reach a compromise and avoid an argument or fracture in the relationship. As the quote says, “Growing old ain’t for sissies;” there are many issues that arise when a parent ages. If you are in need of support, resources and information, visit the Area Agency on Aging through the Mid-America Regional Council at marc.org/community/aging. You will find information on Medicare, in-home services, support for caregivers, and senior centers. Until next time…be well. Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.