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Caregiving and Parenting: The Same? Different? Same But Different?

hand-prints-146179_640On Friday, May 16, @G-J, who cares for her husband, and @trish, who cares for her brother, will join me at 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT, Noon PT) for my weekly video chat.

On Friday, the three of us will discuss this question: Are the caregiving and parenting experiences similar? Meaning, does the experience of caring for a family member with a chronic illness or disability have any similarities to the experience of raising children?

In preparation for our discussion, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are the similarities, if any? What’s different? How do you feel about comparing the two experiences?

And, to watch our discussion, just come back to this page on Friday, May 16, at 3 p.m. ET (2 p.m. CT, Noon PT).

Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below.

About Denise

Profile photo of Denise
I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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  1. Profile photo of LisaD

    I do feel as if the roles have reversed with my grandparents and parents. I don’t exactly feel like a parent, though. It’s kind of an in-between feeling I suppose.

  2. I believe there are many similarities at times depending upon the level of dependency; however, parents are adults and should never be treated as dependent children. They should be treated with the respect they have earned through a lifetime of achievement. They are aware to varying degrees of their dependency and like many diseases, they lack control over it. Whether they suffer from Dementia or some other chronic disease.
    They should be given an opportunity to express their views, desires and needs then an attempt to engage them in problem solving, airing toward safety.
    Parents and grandparents we care for need to be reassured we are on “their side” and our goal is to advocate for them, not manage them as children. Building trust is very important

  3. Profile photo of jan

    I fight the good fight every day with my mom, giving her respect and finding the balance between independence and security. ON THE OTHER HAND, just because she has dementia, does that mean she can rule the house with her rude behaviors? Would I tolerate a 5-year-old to get up in the middle of a movie we are watching, and start to re-organize the kitchen utensil drawer with a crash and a bang? I never tolerated that kind of behavior with my kids. I considered myself a good parent, and respecting others in the family was a big part of it.

  4. Profile photo of jan

    I was thinking alot about this very subject today. My mom’s behavior is so erratic and uncontrollable, I see myself as being housebound. It reminded me of when I was a new mom and young parent. “Back in the Day”, we didn’t expect to have our babies and then go to the movies with them at the breast, and make everyone else suffer for it. When you had a baby, you expected your life to slow down, to change, at least at first. You weren’t going to have the exact same life you used to have, but now with a kid on your hip. It’s about expectations. What do I expect?

  5. I think @Lisa puts it well when she describes caregiving for an aging parent as an “in-between feeling.” And @jan raises important questions about setting expectations and setting limits as a parent and as a caregiver of an aging parent with dementia. When my son was a little boy, I set limits on his behavior with the comforting expectation that he would learn appropriate behaviors as he grew and his brain developed. Even though it was often frustrating to have to deal with the same things over and over, I could see that over time, the process was working. And indeed, now he is 34 years old, and a wonderful, grown-up human being. When my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, I gradually came to understand that her brain was so profoundly affected by the disease that she couldn’t control her behavior. If I tried to correct her, it just made her more agitated. It was as though there were no more “teachable moments” available in her life. I didn’t learn about the principles of habilitation until after she had died, but since then I’ve realized that with time and care and new learning on my part, I can join people with dementia in their world, be with them as they are, and view their challenging behaviors as expressions of their human needs, opportunities, however disguised or upsetting, for communication and connection. Hard work, though. Incredibly hard work. And I take my hat off to all the family caregivers who work with it, day after day.

  6. Profile photo of Pegi

    After reading all the other comments it feels like I look at it from a slightly different perspective. I guess more from the caregiver aspect. There are definitely some similarities. I’ve often compared the day I brought my husband, a new paraplegic, home in a wheelchair to the day I brought my newborn son home. You look around and ask “now what do I do? Where’s the nurse?”. The day to day tasks of nurturing, safety, assistance needed et al; with a healthy child it’s joyful and blessed. You know they are dependent on you for such a short while. You love them, teach them and coddle them as you watch them grow into wonderful, self sufficient human beings. When your caree is your parent or husband, as is my case; you give the same amount of thought, attention and love as you did that newborn but the overall joy is missing. Instead of watching a bud open into full bloom as in spring, you’re watching the autumn. The end result is not joyous. It’s watching helplessly as each day leads to new challenges, more crisis and inevitably less function. Kind of childhood backwards.


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