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BellaOnline's Senior Living Editor

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Role Reversal or Not

Guest Author - Cathy Brownfield

Clearly, one remembers the moments when the child and parent relationship changes.

The teenager suddenly has all the answers while Mom insists (s)he doesn’t have a clue what the questions are. Then one day an adult child approaches Mom and confesses, “You were so right. You told me, but I didn’t believe you. Now I know. I wish I would have listened to you.”

But a mother’s heart knows that her children learn to stand on their own feet, become independent and self-sufficient by making decisions, facing the consequences of their actions, and growing in wisdom and knowledge. It’s not easy to watch, but Mom waits in the wings to help pick up the pieces when things don’t work out according to plan.

At still another point in time, again there are changes in the parent-child relationship. The adult child realizes that Mom and/or Dad are slipping a little, not as sharp as they used to be. And they all step into the Land of Confusion where lines of demarcation are muted, unclear.

Mom may have been targeted by someone who has gained access to her checking account. When her bank manager calls and asks, “Is this an authorized transaction because it’s out of character for your mother?” you answer, “No.” You call the “company” who is trying to access the account for several hundreds of dollars and they say, “We recorded the conversation for quality control purposes,” and they play it for you. It is your mother’s voice confirming her contact information.

The company adheres to your wishes to return funds…, which the bank already has refused to send to them. And there are half a dozen other attempts to take money from the account. You and the bank manager devise a plan to protect your parent’s/parents’ accounts:

1.) Close the account after all legitimate checks clear.
2.) Open new accounts that list you on them.
3.) Change the telephone number to unlisted, unpublished and give that number only to family members, healthcare providers, and legitimate contacts that you wish to deal directly with your parents. All others should be directed to your contact information. If it feels uncomfortable for you, remind yourself that someone tried to take advantage of your parent/parents and you are protecting them from the scum who would rob them if you were not there to help them.

The goal is to keep your elderly parents’ daily life as balanced as possible. They get so upset when little things happen in a world that grows more complex with day-to-day technology at the least and health issues that cloud reality for them more and more as they age.

“It’s time to reverse roles,” your family physician may advise. “You tell your parents, ‘All mail is to go into this basket. You will not open it. I will open it and take care of those things that need taking care of.”
But some published reports in the psychology field advise that a parent and child never should reverse roles. The parent is always the parent. The child is always the child, even when an adult child. The adult child assists her parents with decision-making; she doesn’t force them to do things her way.

It’s a matter of respect, perhaps; or having the right priorities. “I want to make sure that Mom’s and Dad’s best interests are served.” “I don’t want to bully my parents, but I have to be firm about what needs to be done.”

Additionally, it seems to be a matter of teaching our own progeny about how these things are handled so they will treat us with the same love and respect when we become elderly and frail…which we one day will.
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Content copyright © 2014 by Cathy Brownfield. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Cathy Brownfield. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Debora Dyess for details.

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