Caring for aging parents can improve your relationship with them
According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, at any point in time, 6% of adult children in the U.S. are serving as caregivers for their aging parents, and 17% of adults will assume this role at some point in their lifetime. It would seem that having the added responsibility of caring for aging parents might create some resentment on the part of adult children. While this can be the case in some situations, a study from Purdue University found a majority of parents and children reported positive changes in their relationships as the parents’ health declined, requiring more care.
Although much has been written about adult children caring for their dependent parents in advanced age, this study examined the relationship between adult children ages 40 to 60 and their parents age 70 and older who were transitioning to old age but still living without major assistance. The parents were suffering from a number of conditions such as hearing or vision loss, mobility issues, arthritis, and others that required them to seek regular help with general healthcare and home tasks from their children. Research on caregiving at this stage of life has rarely been done.
Results showed that the majority of parents and children reported positive changes in their relationships because of the caregiving. Researchers were surprised when both groups reported significantly less ambivalence than they expected, stating that most parents and children reported feeling appreciated and nurtured. Parents were happy to see their caregiving child more often and expressed gratitude for the increased help, instead of seeing it as an intrusion. They also saw their child’s increased role in their lives as a demonstration of maturity and their own successful parenting.
While it was expected that most caregiving children would feel put-upon or stressed, they instead focused on the positive aspects of the relationship change, such as spending more time together, talking more, and feeling closer. According to researchers, these results give hope to adult children who choose to step into a caregiving role as their parents age that the relationship will benefit from their loving assistance. If the relationship was good previously then the love will deepen, and if it was strained it can improve during the caregiving process.
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