Role-reversal: When parents are relying on you

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)


As your parents get older, your whole family will be facing lots of changes. Supporting them during this time can be challenging, with lots of choices to be made. Get some tips to help you prepare for this role-reversal without it becoming a burden or a cause of family conflict.

In the later stages of life, many seniors want to stay independent for as long as possible, but there usually comes a time when theyneed more support. So how can you do more for your parents to keep them safe and comfortable, without taking away their sense of independence and dignity? Here are some practical tips to guide you through the process and minimise stress for everyone involved:


Talk together as a family

Instead of waiting until one, or both, of your parents are facing a crisis with their health and/or finances, have a family meeting to talk about what they would like to happen. While it may be a tricky subject to tackle and one the whole family can feel quite emotional about, being prepared to care for your parents as they age can make it a lot less stressful when there’s a change in circumstances. Even if your parents are in the best of health now, that situation can change overnight, quite literally, if they were to have a stroke or a fall.

Facing ageing and mortality are pretty tough so there may be resistance – from your parents or siblings – to confronting things head on in a formal meeting. So it’s well worth reminding your family that it’s in everyone’s best interests to get ready, emotionally and practically, to do what’s best for Mum and Dad. Have a box of tissues and lots of patience at the ready in case people get very sad or angry and above all, be ready to listen to what family members have to say.


The question of care

How your parents want to live out their days and what they can afford are really the two important questions to address. Answering the following questions can help you determine the best way forward for your parents as they become less capable of looking after themselves:

  • Do you plan to stay at home as you age?

The answer to this question isn’t always yes, but many people feel safe and comfortable in a home that’s familiar. The idea of moving somewhere new later in life can be pretty intimidating so wanting to stay put is a natural and very popular choice for seniors. In the 2018/19 budget, $1.6 billion was allocated to providing 14,000 additional high‑level home care packages by 2021/22[1]. So if your parents are set on staying in their home, talk to them about the possibility of seeking the extra help they might need, from a government subsidised service, family members, or both.

  • How well are you coping at home?

Some parents may say theydon’t need any helpwith day-to-day living at home. If this is the case, you may need to do some sleuthing and check if they’re showing any signs of actually needing assistance. Seeing things that are out of character – like a messy house or garden, not cooking or shopping as often, wearing dirty clothes – could be warnings that they’re stru