It has been customary for an adult child to worry about their aging parent’s health. But what if the reverse situation has occurred? Instead of failing health on the part of the parent, it is the adult child facing significant health setbacks. How do we handle when the adult child caregiver is facing health setbacks?
AARP‘s Lynn Friss Feinberg explained we often think of an adult caregiver being in their 40s or even early 50s. However, “it’s now common for people 20 years older than that to be caring for a parent in their 90s or older.”
When an adult child’s health is declining, it can have a big effect emotionally on the lives of all those involved.
Richard Schulz, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, confirms “emotional distress can aggravate this vulnerability.” He cited his study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
“If older caregivers have health problems themselves and become mentally or emotionally stressed, they’re at a higher risk of dying.”
Likewise, an aging parent may not be equipped to take care of themselves. They need the help of their adult child, facing the split emotional stress of having to be caregiver and patient.
Caregiving at an older age can put savings in jeopardy. Experts say pensioner children will be caring for two generations, yet will be expected to work longer and save more for their own old age.
Yvonne Kuo, a family care navigator at USC’s caregiver support center, reported assisting an 81-year-old woman caring for her 100-year-old mom. The mom had vascular dementia in this situation, yet no other family member was helping with payment, causing the caregiver to use up both savings for paid assistance.
When the adult child caregiver is facing health setbacks
Many adult children are reluctant to open the door to the conversation for fear they’re going to offend their parent. Our vision of the natural flow of life is that our parents’ health will fail before ours, and we’ll take care of them to the best of our ability.
But not planning, or even sitting down to start the conversation, is what results in crisis. Then the children are at a loss of what their options are, siblings have different ideas of what mom or dad would want them to do, and it’s downhill from there.
“What happens if I can’t be here for you?”
Talk about that. Clear communication will lower anxiety, and talking about it will help you understand each other.