How To Help Your Aging Parents Without Taking Over

Forever Young

Whether you’re a baby boomer, a Generation Xer or somewhere in between . . . if you’re visiting this site you’re also part of that highly-stressed out group called the “sandwich generation.”

Why are we called the sandwich generation? Because we’re stuck right in the middle of caring for our children and our aging parents – and like any good sandwich it feels like everyone wants to take a bite out of us!

The sandwich generation isn’t new

This situation is really nothing new – every generation has dealt with these demands as the most able-bodied folks care for the youngest and the oldest generations.

Of course, this task was infinitely easier back in the days when Grandma lived in the same neighborhood or even the same house. Combine that whole dynamic with a busy work life; a little bit of time for our spouses and friends; and maybe even a minute for yourself… and well, life gets pretty hectic and anxiety-ridden. After all, we just want our family to be happy and healthy. And if you’re like me, the only way to get all this done (and maintain your sanity) is to stay focused, be proactive and take charge of the situation.

Why a take-charge stance doesn’t always work

Now this take-charge stance sometimes works with the teenagers because you at least still have some say over what they can and can’t do. But when it comes to Mom and Dad? Not so much. Very few grown-ups want to be “taken care of” all the time. And our aging parents are still (hopefully) capable of making most of the decisions that affect their daily life.

What right do we have to swoop in and take over? This balancing act weighs on me every time my sister or I step in to help my parents.

Respectful and loving communication is the first step

But many times there are concrete, time-sensitive issues that have to be addressed – in our case it’s keeping up the house maintenance because my parents still live in the big, old house we grew up in.

Every fall the gutters need to be cleaned; the lawn raked; the old storm windows put on. They can’t handle the workload, aren’t ready to move, but don’t really want to hire anyone else to do it.

So, it’s left to us to help them along . . . and we’ve found that the first step in happily accomplishing these goals is to talk with them beforehand and develop a plan that gives them lots of input.

Oh, believe me, we tried the sneaky way at first and hired a handyman who just showed up to do the work . . . only to have my Dad send him on his way immediately. Lesson learned on our part!

So now before we “take over,” we talk it out – and that is not always so easy when you’re dealing with difficult issues and a pair of proud, independent parents.

But what we’ve found is oftentimes, they want to discuss things but aren’t really sure how to bring up the issue. And once they know that we do respect their opinions and do not want to overstep our bounds as the children . . . well, the conversation gets going and usually opens up into other areas of concern.

I guess this is just payback to us for the awkwardness Mom and Dad felt when it came time to have “the talk” with us as teens.

Things really do come full circle, don’t they?

Photo: Forever Young by felixtsao, on Flickr



  1. says

    It has to be a tough road for those in this generation caring for both parents and children! We recognize their dedication and our heart goes out to them. We are giving away a one year subscription to our medical alarm service. On 12/23 we are drawing a winner from among those who write us at and tells us a bit about their story. A year of medical alarm service can help to free up some time and alleviate concerns!

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