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Dealing with Ailing Parents Requires Patience


When we reach our forties or fifties in age, it is usually the time that we have ailing parents who need assistance from us. The roles reverse. Suddenly we find ourselves being the parent to our parents. In some cases, one parent now moves in with us because they can no longer be left alone. We find ourselves giving them advice, paying their bills, following up on whether they are compliant with medications, joining them for their doctor visits, speaking with medical staff, checking up if they are eating properly, etc. and the list can go on.

This happens at a time in our life when many of us have launched our kids off to college, or at a time when we want to enjoy our grandchildren, travel more and want to experience more freedom than what we’ve had for the past two decades. Unfortunately, it is also the time when our parents need us the most.

I remember hearing my own mom say “one mother can take care of ten children, but ten children, cannot take care of one mother”. It is a time in life when siblings begin to argue and disagree on the care-taking of elderly parents. Everyone claims to have busy schedules between work commitments and daily responsibilities. This can cause a lot of family conflict, disagreement, anger and resentments. You can find yourself being the primary caregiver, whether you want this role or not. Somehow, you are delegated as the most responsible one, the one who lives the closest and the one who doesn’t have full time employment. It’s important to keep all family members involved in the process of making decisions even if siblings live far away. Everyone has an opinion and it’s important that each sibling has an opportunity to help in their own way whether it is making phone calls, managing finances, errands, etc.

Everyone in the family is affected during this transition in the lifecycle process. We all process loss, grief and illness differently. It may appear that siblings do not care, or are self absorbed with their own lives; however, it can also be that this time in life is difficult to process emotionally, physically and mentally. Being patient and understanding that this situation causes stress and tension amongst family members can help in avoiding judgments, criticisms, and resentments. Be patient in this process and do not take on more than you can handle. If you find you have no cooperation from family whatsoever, look into hiring someone to come in and help with your parent. Hire someone to run the errands. You, yourself are stressed. If you deplete yourself by doing it all, you will not be of help to anyone and at risk for illness.

Family therapy during this very challenging time can be very useful and a safe place for everyone in the family to voice their feelings, hurts and opinions. It’s an opportunity to be heard with a mediator. At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening and weekend hours to provide family or individual therapy. Call us at 908-322-0112 or visit us at

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