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Watching Our Parents Age: A Shift in Roles

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

I recall a real moment of clarity. I had an admiration for my mother while she applied her face cream and dressed for a doctors appointment. A vibrant woman who was once younger and active, aging and facing issues of old age—it worries my sister and I.

"However, we need to deal with that anxiety head on." I said to my sister

If there’s one thing that I do remember about my mother, it is that she did it all! From managing household chores to helping us out while also maintaining her professional life—and still not sweating the small stuff. I've witnessed my mother rip and run from one place to another without much thought and slipping from one role to another easily.

I failed to realize that one day old age will one day catch up with our multitasking mother, and to be perfectly honest I didn't see it coming. Aging is a part of life, and the child in us will suddenly feel anxiety. But my sister and I began to understand how to deal with it. We needed to surrender to what was really happening and because our mother has been our support system all of our lives it is now our turn to make sure we’re there for her.

To deal with this conundrum, was we had to acknowledge what was causing the anxiety. It was ten times worse due to the pandemic but we find that when we used each other as a soundboard, and emotional support the load was much lighter. We try not to burden our mother with the small stuff similar to what she did for us. We never knew any of her burdens, she managed to maintain a stress free home no matter what she was going through at the time.

She made our childhood memorable and fun and that is exactly what we want to do for her during her golden years. While I was in Highschool I would wonder how so many children survived without their mothers. Their mothers may have passed on, were absent due to drugs or simply didn't want them. That was hard for me to accept. My mother became their mother and even more so I felt obligated to be there as a friend, their sister and remember being creative while helping them to not hide from, deny, avoid, or soften the pain with those very same things that they may have feared.

I had a plan, and the best way to handle this was to avoid temporary relief on both ends. Their end and your end, but the stark reality of life going on without our parents can be hard to face. Here are a few things that I am doing to cope and assist with the transitional levels of aging. The most pivotal moment for me was adjusting to the aging period. Fact is, we are all aging with time and no matter what is happening around us it is never going to stop. At this point you will need a calm environment to ease the anxiety. Most importantly, this will be a large part of developing your parents trust. Due to the fear that they may feel with you and your siblings shifting and reversing roles. They will probably be comfortable with HOW you will show up for them if it is done gradually.

Our transition worked because we discussed exactly what needed to be done and who was going to carry it out.

Here are 6 ways to help your parents adjust to the changes..

1. Accept how the life cycle works

Where there is life, there is also the end of it. It might be a painful truth but it is definitely something we need to acknowledge. Summon the courage and strength to embrace the cycle of life. We get to live and we get to die. Losing a parent is part of the cycle of life.

2. Be a good caregiver

Our parents have looked after us all our lives. From the sleepless nights they spent when we were infants to being the emotional support when we experienced disappointment in our lives; they’ve ensured our physical and emotional health stays on track. It is our turn to be excellent caregivers to them.

There is nothing like the present. Becoming competent caregivers is extremely important. Hold, nurture, reassure, protect, and love your parents with dignity and respect when they can no longer take care of themselves. They may have wiped your butts a thousand times as kids, so now it’s time to wipe theirs. Don't forget about when you needed them and they didn't think twice but to be there for you.

3. Venting is important

The anxiety of seeing your parents age coupled with the helplessness of not being able to do anything about it may cause a deterioration in your mental health. And so you need to vent once in a while and let it all out to clear your system. Venting when necessary is one way of dealing with this anxiety. Trust me, whether it is signing up for a boxing class or screaming into a room filled with other actors during a monologue class, it’s a cathartic experience which can help you maintain your calm in stressful situations.

4. Celebrate them while they’re with you

You might be feeling anxious about the fact that your parents might not be there one day, but you need to concentrate on the ‘now’. Remember that we need to honour and celebrate their lives while they’re here. “Give the full measure of your love, compassion, forgiveness, and affection to them, expecting nothing in turn.

5. It’s time to get to know them better.

When we’re young, we view our parents as all-knowing beings who are our authority figures. We often don’t realize that they’re also human with their own sets of aspirations, hobbies, and life experiences. Now is the time to get to know them at a more human level. Get to know them even better. Tune in to what’s going on in their world. Don’t project your own feelings, interpretations, or assumptions onto them. Ask open-ended questions, and then listen to them.

6. Just be there for them

Our parents might never say that they require our help but it is important that you’re there for them when they need you. BE there for them when they need you. Wait for them to ask you for advice before giving it. If they have trouble asking for help, give them a few multiple-choice options to select from.

They’ve been strong for us all our lives. Now, we need to be strong for them.

Nicole S. Norton-Evans is the Editor n Chief for

Make sure you reach out to her for your first ZOOM Introduction call to become a writer today!

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