The Caregiving Parent Trap


The Caregiving Parent Trap

As many of you know, I'm part of a speaker's bureau that provides educational sessions to employers. Typically, I present workshop to employees during their lunch hour about caregiving, stress management and coping strategies.

I received a request today to present on the following topic:

Parenting your Parents: The Second Childhood/Reversed Roles

I can barely type it without recoiling in disgust. I first began writing about my concerns about the term "parenting your parents" 20 years ago and again most recently a few years ago. (Read "These Unsung Heroes Gave Up Everything to Parent Their Parents.")

Today is the first time I've heard anyone refer to the "second childhood."

I do not believe in any way, shape or form that my parents consider this time of their life to be their "second childhood." They are tired (exhausted, really, in my mom's case). They spend too much time at the doctor or calling the doctor or asking for a referral to another doctor. My mom wobbles with a cane and can't hear, even with her hearing aides. My dad often wears burn marks on his face from his appointments with the dermatologist to rid his skin cancer.

My parents haven't run in decades, don't sit on the floor to play with their toys and don't giddily count the days to Christmas or birthdays or the last day of school.

The last years of their lives are nothing like their first years. They aren't repeating a childhood but rather slowly, sometimes tragically, ending their lives.

As I support them, I do not parent them. I nurture them, I lend a steady arm, I hope to provide a calm presence during their difficult days. I have not reversed roles with my parents but simply upped my level of help.

When my dad turned 80, I asked him how he felt. "Like crap," he said. In the last six years, it's only gotten worse. If that's a second childhood, I think I'll pass.

That's my two cents. (I did take a pass on giving the presentation.)

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and reactions in our comments section, below.