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Adult children caring for aging parents face role reversal

On top of all this, adult caregivers are thrust into the awkward and often unwanted position of feeling like they’re parenting their own parents. “It can be unsettling to find yourself in this role,” said Richard Bitner of Visiting Angels, a national network of franchised non-medical senior homecare agencies. He points out that this reversal in the parenting role can give rise to stress for both parents and caregivers.

A recent survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the American Association of Retired Persons found that an estimated 22.4 million U.S. households — nearly one in four — are providing care to someone age 50 or older or have provided care during the previous 12 months.

As these caregivers have discovered, it takes a lot of time, energy and patience to care for an aging loved one, and often it can seem like all of these attributes are in short supply. It’s not surprising, then, that guilt coupled with resentment are prevalent emotions among caregivers.

“Caregivers’ lives have been turned upside down,” said Bitner. “Despite the fact that they love their parents, caring for a parent is a big responsibility that affects the whole family.”

Plans for the immediate future go out the window. Schedules that were already jam-packed and complicated need to be reworked. Children may resent the new demands on their parents’ time and attention.

With all these added stressors, experts emphasize the importance of caretakers looking after their own physical and emotional health. “You can’t take care of someone else without taking care of yourself first,” said Bitner. This involves getting help from others, whether it be from siblings, a support group or a health care service.

The staff at Visiting Angels understands this need. The company provides non-medical caregivers who go into clients’ homes to offer companionship, do light housekeeping, run errands, prepare meals or do shopping — all services that can provide a respite for families dealing with the care of a loved one.

“You can be confident that your caregiver is qualified and has excellent references,” said Bitner. The company hires only experienced caregivers who pass a rigorous screening process. They also look for intangible traits such as a caring personality. Many of the company’s caregivers are former hospital staffers looking for the opportunity to do one-on-one personal care.

“We work with each family to develop an individualized program to manage the daily needs of the client and then match those needs to the best possible caregiver,” said Bitner. Caregivers are then introduced to the family, who has the final say in the selection process.

Once the caregiver has been placed in the home, Visiting Angels continues its personalized contact through telephone check-ins and home visits to make sure the match is a good one.

Visiting Angels has senior homecare agencies in most states. For more information on the office nearest you, visit their Web site at or call 800-365-4189.

— Courtesy of ARA Content

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