When boundaries between you and your parents weren’t ever clearly defined, the challenge of deciding on care for an aging parent becomes overwhelming. Often the old conflicts with our parents haven’t been resolved. Even if we forgive our parents it may be very difficult to be with then.

As you grow and mature, you are probably trying to learn to balance your own needs with the needs of other people. Clarification of your decision making process helps you understand the old pressures that are influencing you now. It also encourages you to look at new options.

You can use this process to examine any problem in which you feel strong pressure to do things you don’t want to do.

As our parents get older, many of us must decide whether to take our parents into our homes or help them to choose competent assisted care. This is one of the most emotional decisions we will make. These are our parents, the people who cared for us the best they could when we couldn’t take care of ourselves.

As your parent becomes dependent on you the role switch is confusing for both of you. You may feel like a child again, just by being in the same room with your parents. Maybe they still try to control your activities. You may feel guilt that even if your father would be happier in a nursing home, you would still be abandoning him.

A crucial question at this point is: Are you considering having your mother move in to care for her or to avoid your own guilt?

You may also be equating being responsible for your parent’s physical care and providing a nice home to making her happy. Using all the health-care capabilities you can develop, you may be able to care for your parent physically. It is impossible, however, to control her happiness, no matter how hard you try. Taking care of her because you feel guilty will almost certainly produce unhappiness for both of you.

To clarify the best alternative for you and your parent, here are some good beginning questions:

  • What would my parent think, feel and do if s/he were in my situation?
  • What is actually happening now? How do I feel?
    How does my parent feel? How is the current situation
    working for both of us?
  • What are the available options?
  • What are the available resources?
    (This may take some research.)
  • What do I feel I should do?
  • What would I do if I could do anything I wanted
    and nobody would ever know my decision?
  • Is there a creative way to achieve a compromise
    between what I want to do and what I think I should do?

Go over your answers with a friend or a trained professional to help you design a solution that you can live with. If possible keep in communication with your parents. Treating them as capable adults will encourage them to take responsibility for their own lives. Encourage them to plan for their own comfort and happiness.

Your parents may have spent a lot of years focused on you: they need to create a balance between their new dependency and their ability to live their lives without you.

After you have done all that is realistically possible, decide to stop feeling guilty about your inability to do the impossible, and to enjoy the improvements that have resulted from your creative solution.

[tags]challenge, decision making process, trained professional, responsiblilty, creative solution[/tags]