Don't Become a Parent for Your Parent

Megan Ray  |  August 15, 2011

Mother and daughter huggingPaula Span recently wrote in The New York Times that she was worried about her 88-year-old father. It wasn't his health that was the issue, though, it was his social life. He had moved to an independent living community and Span had carefully arranged for him to sit with other men his age at lunch. The problem is that they rarely talk to each other.

She was first concerned that she should move her father to a different table, but then reconsidered. Caregivers may be familiar with the situation - you start feeling like a parent for your parent.

However, that doesn't mean that you should assume an authoritarian role. Instead, discuss your concern with Mom or Dad as two independent adults. This can make relationships less tense and ultimately lead to a better understanding. Span's father says that he's fine and - even if she disagrees - it's still not her place to intervene with his lifestyle.

"The line between being a forceful advocate for your parent and being an intrusive busybody can be difficult to draw," Span writes.

Likewise, caregivers may have a problem when parents are still offering advice to you when you're trying to take care of them. Neither party should be the boss of the other, even if it's hard to adapt to equal roles and responsibilities.