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I’m sure you’re familiar with the term ‘helicopter parent.’ This is when a parent is so involved in every minute detail of their children’s decisions that they actually prevent them from growing up, learning responsibility, and creating and preserving dignity. This often comes out of love, albeit a bit misplaced, but it comes from a caring heart, nonetheless. Well, many are starting to apply this term to the adult children of aging parents who have begun to care for them as they need an extra hand or two to complete their normal, everyday tasks.

While this act of love is perhaps one of the most beautiful examples of honor and care that one can show, it’s important to discuss what caring for an aging parent is and is not.

Don’t Do for Them What They Can Do for Themselves

This is a motto of many senior care facilities. Many adult children want to care for their parents in every way possible—this often leads to chronic worry, stress, and breakdowns. But the truth is, right care comes by way of showing dignity and respect for your elders. It’s important to remember that elderly parents are not children. They have lived a life of trials and triumphs, and they know how to make decisions for themselves. If your parent is capable of completing a task themselves, allow them to do it and don’t let yourself to descend into a helicopter child, hovering about their every move in an attempt to speed the process along or correct them on their way of things.

You may have heard this phrase: the children become the parents. This isn’t true. In fact, it’s disrespectful to the aging parent. It’s true, the parent may need your help, but that by no means implies they are incapable of performing the tasks at hand or that they do not still possess the wisdom and discernment of their youth. Don’t start a sentence with, “Mom, you have to…” or “Dad, do it like this…”. Again, aging parents are not children. They have their way of doing things, and even if it may differ from your routine, that doesn’t make it less effective.

Dignity and Respect

Remember to treat your aging parent the way you would treat your spouse or a close friend; with respect and dignity. Learn to start a conversation with them and not plow through a conversation with a list of commands. You are helping them just as they helped you – not dictating their every move.

In the end, it all comes down the respect. Honoring your Father and Mother can look different for different people, but it’s always important to remember that caregiving is first and foremost a loving relationship, especially when you are a caring partner to the ones who raised you.