These Heroes Gave Up Everything to Parent Their Parents


These Heroes Gave Up Everything to Parent Their Parents

rocking-chair-604136_640Recently, I've seen these two headlines about caregiving that have made me cringe:

"The Unsung Heroes Who Give Up Everything To Take Care Of A Sick Partner"


"Parenting Your Parents: When Roles Become Reversed."

The first headline appeared in a series published by Huffington Post during National Family Caregivers Month "to highlight a few of the remarkable people around the country who put their own lives on pause to tend to friends and family who have fallen ill."

This makes me crazy that we're celebrating that people have to put their lives on hold because of caregiving! This is the problem--people have to put their lives on hold--which we're trying to solve. We don't want anyone to stop or pause their lives! Unfortunately, many family caregivers have no other choice because there's not enough help, options and resources. This a societal problem we need to solve not a sentiment we want to continue. We need to help family caregivers have what they need so they can continue to live during their life of caregiving. Because when family caregivers can keep their lives, they have a chance to keep financial security, their career and their own well-being.

The second headline gnaws at me because caregiving isn't parenting. I am not my parent's disciplinarian--I'm their safety net, their support system, their resource. They will always remain my parents.

I understand the genesis of the term. I get that caregiving moments happen that ring familiar as a parent. When I'm driving my parents, I wait for my dad to buckle up in the backseat. It reminds me of waiting for a seven-year-old to do the same. And, yet, how I deal and cope with my dad is nothing like how I do with a seven-year-old. On a regular basis, I take care of a seven-year-old. On a regular basis, I am yelling at that seven-year-old to buckle up. I would never yell at my dad, even when I'm suggesting he take allergy medicine for his never-ending sniffles.

When the time comes to button my dad's jacket as I would a four-year-old, I will feel very different emotions. When I will help my dad with personal care, I will feel very differently than when I helped a two-year-old. And, when my dad dies, I will feel very differently than I did when a baby was born. I understand the parallels of the moments. I feel the difference in their impacts. Both experiences turn on love and yet the emotions laced with that love differs for each. I feel love and sadness and grief and empathy for my dad. I feel love and hope and possibilities for children. I see the sun rise with children. I watch the sun setting with my dad. Caregiving is heartbreaking. Parenting can break your heart for completely different reasons.

It's disheartening that the term "parenting our parents," which I've been rallying against for just about 15 years, remains in our vocabulary. When headline writers say we are "parenting our parents," I believe they sell us short when they categorize the miracle of what we do now with our parents as parenting. Parenting is a whole other miracle all together.

I understand that papers and websites need to sell readership. Let's sell readers on the importance of funding help and support for family caregivers. Let's lure readers in with the powerful stories of the difference services and support can make in the lives of family caregivers. Let's educate readers about the reality of a caregiving day's nuances and challenges.

Caregiving is its own life experience that needs those living it to be as well as possible.

That's my two cents. What do you think?

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Hero? I have lost a house, my money, my income, three years of my marriage, retirement money that would have gone into my 401K, any chance of vacations, time that could have been spent making memories with my other two children, etc. etc. etc. Instead of saying \"you're a hero\" why doesn't someone say \"Here is access to specialized daycare so you can continue working\"??? \r\nAnd after witnessing how my father was treated in the hospital leading up to his death, I was appalled at the arrogance we show in dealing with the elderly. Professionals talk about them like they're not even in the room, but God forbid you're not in the room when they come in for updates, you have to jump through hoops and get a little too assertive to find anything out. \r\nIt seems my mom and my daughter are the same \"mental age.\" I have to prompt them to take care of themselves, help them bathe, remind them to change their underwear and wash their hands, help them order in restaurants and keep extra napkins on hand for them both...but I have to be careful not to treat my daughter like a baby or she will never develop any kind of independence (it kills me to not jump up and help her make a sandwich like I'm the worst mom in the world for making her feed herself!), and as far as mom in concerned, I'm not going to treat her like a child because she deserves to keep her dignity! I am not her parent, I raised my kids! I make sure she knows what medicines she's taking and what her sugar counts are every day. I won't keep desert from her or refuse to put whipped cream on her sugar-free jello is that's what she wants. I won't yell at her when she doesn't change her Depends on time and wets everything. I will never make a decision without asking her first. I explain situations to her and make sure she has input. We ask before we spend her money on anything. We make sure the doctor talks to her and gets input from her instead of looking to us like what she says doesn't matter. When we do have to make a decision we explain it and wait for her to agree instead of telling her what's going to happen. I don't ground her when she doesn't do what I need her to or take away TV time when she won't shower or eat \"on schedule.\" I never, ever forget that she is a grown woman who does not deserve to be treated like a child. \r\nThese articles do, however, finally shed light and bring awareness to a situation that has been largely ignored and is reaching a crisis point. It may have been \"easier\" financially in the past (not for everyone, I know) when a husband could work and support his family with his income, but in this day and age when you NEED two incomes just to buy gas and groceries for the month, knocking one person out of the job market and cutting an entire income from a family, AND adding the expense of special needs, is tearing families apart and affecting their own ability to retire and be taken care of. But it's nice of them to notice, right?

Lillie Fuller

I don't like the parenting your parents thing either. My dad, even though he had dementia and acted like a child sometimes, I never ever treated him like a child, I treated him with love and respect, like I always did! He was my dad, there was no changing it. His doctor once told me, in front of him that I had to be the parent now, my dad said, BULLSHIT! With my mom it's the same. I help her bathe, help her dress and even wipe her bottom but I DO NOT TREAT HER LIKE A CHILD. The way I care for my grandson and the way I care for my mom are two different worlds completely!


I've never liked that term \"parenting your parents\" either. I feel like so much of my parenting with my son is teaching - when he was younger, I was trying to teach him how to behave with others and control his impulses, now it's about how to deal with relationships with friends and teachers. But I'm not my mom's teacher - even though I'm her auxiliary memory and I explain things way more than I should. But I'm not there to help her learn and grow and develop. It's a completely different thing. And I'm sure you can't discipline a parent - especially with dementia, there's no more learning happening, so discipline would be meaningless and cruel.\r\n\r\nI appreciate your point about not celebrating caregivers who give up everything! Much better to change that. But how? One of the things I'm looking for here - everywhere - is how to be a good daughter and caregiver to my mom and STILL HAVE A LIFE.


I wish I COULD parent my parent, my mother. I wish I had the same power, the same control I had over my five-year-olds when they were children. Now my mother acts like a very ill-mannered, disobedient five-year-old and I have no recourse but to keep her in her own house where she can't create any havoc for anyone but me. I see your point in that what I'm doing is much more complex than parenting and is different from parenting but it JUST PLAIN FEELS LIKE BAD PARENTING. The daily caregiving part is not like that but the normal disciplinary actions you would take to moderate behavior feels like it. None of it is parenting, really. The daily caregiving isn't, and the behavior modification can't be, so the term is really off base.