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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Role reversal: Children often end up taking care of parents

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

BENTON -- It's been about three years -- and an eye-opening accident -- ago since Karla Russell's mother decided to quit driving in Sikeston.

"My mother and one of her friends used to take turns driving to Sikeston to go grocery shopping," Russell recalled. "One time when her friend was driving, they had an accident after they hit another car in the parking lot. Ever since then, they quit driving to Sikeston."

Although Russell's mother and friend weren't injured, the accident caused enough alarm for Russell's now 84-year-old mother, a Benton resident, to only drive short distances -- something both Russell and her mother feel is best for everyone.

As many aging parents and adult children find, their roles are often reversed when placed in certain situations. And sometimes it's difficult to take on another role, especially if a parent has always been the leader, said Tina Hartlein, Missouri Delta Medical Center Senior Lifestyles program director.

"People who have mothers and fathers who have always lead the way often have a hard time stepping in and making suggestions to their parents," Hartlein said. "These are people who have never had their judgment questioned or anything and then all of a sudden they are making impaired decisions. It's very difficult for children to handle."

Driving privileges and proper nutrition are just a couple issues involved with aging parents and adult children. Some parents and children can suffer from depression, Hartlein said. A large percentage of the elderly have some form of dementia, she added. Many times medical attention is required.

"The No. 1 primary characteristic of the older generation today is that they never complain," Hartlein said. "So if something is ever wrong with them, you may not know."

Being a child who becomes a caretaker requires a lot of patience and understanding, Hartlein said. Children also need to know what questions to ask when they accompany their parents to their primary physician.

Other than high blood pressure and a recovery from a fall last September, Russell's mother remains in good health. Even if parents are in good health, there is something they all should do, Hartlein suggested.

"One of the most important things older people need to do is have their wishes in clear writing by drawing up a will. That way their wishes are known and will get carried out," Hartlein advised.

Russell said her mom has already made funeral preparations. Russell's mother has a will and has named a power of attorney, Russell said, admitting she wouldn't know what to do had her mother not done it.

While Russell doesn't necessarily consider herself a caretaker since her mother is in good health, she does admit to assisting in her mother's daily activities.

"I pick the newspaper up from her driveway and take it to her so she doesn't have to get out in the cold weather and walk up and down the stairs," Russell said.

Russell's husband even built a landing on the concrete steps that lead outside her mother's house so she can get outside easier, Russell said. She also talks to her mother a few times a day to see how she's doing.

When Russell had a temporary job, her schedule was more flexible and she was able to take her mom to the doctor. Now that she has a full-time job, a woman from church is driving her mother to her doctor's appointments.

"She recently started receiving the Meals on Wheels," Russell said. "So at least she doesn't have to operate the stove when she's by herself."

In 1999, Russell, her husband and daughter moved back to Benton to be closer to her mother. But if she wasn't living near her mother, Russell said she'd definitely be worrying about her mom constantly. And one role that hasn't changed is the mother always worrying about her daughter.

"She calls me quite a bit," Russell laughed, thinking about how often she receives calls from her mother on a daily basis. "I'm still not used to telling my mom every time I go somewhere." Russell added: "But I know she does it because she loves me."