Caring for mum and dad: coping with 'parentification'

As our population ages and the social care system continues to suffer from underfunding, caring for parents can become a worry. Gemma Dunn looks at the options

There may come a time when children find themselves needing to care for their ageing parents

FOR many of us, there comes a time when the roles reverse, and children find themselves needing to care for their ageing parents.

Caring for your parents in old age may be one of the most challenging, complex and emotional tasks you ever have to undertake.

Not only are you trying to balance their needs against yours and your own family's, you're also coming to terms with the 180-degree role reversal – dubbed 'parentification' – between the elderly parent and child.

Yet with the population increasingly ageing – one in 12 people will be aged over 80 by 2039, with the number of centenarians projected to rise nearly six-fold to 83,000 – it's a reality many of us are likely to face up to.

So, at a time when councils are warning that the social care system is in "grave danger of falling apart" due to underfunding, what are your options should you find yourself in this predicament?


If a line of support means your elderly parent can remain in their own space – in surroundings they recognise, feel comfortable in and are able to manage in – home help may well be the best option.

The type of help available, however, will vary across local authorities.

While it usually takes the form of homecare worker visits in the morning and evening, the extent to which care is given depends on your relative's mobility and how easily they perform personal care tasks, such as getting up, getting dressed and cooking a meal.

You can find out more at:


Alternatively, if you're considering caring for them yourself and having them come and live in your home, you might want to take into consideration the points raised by charity Carers UK (

This is not an option for many – but if it's a viable solution for your family, ensure you consider all aspects before making the move.

For example, do you have the space without putting a strain on your living conditions?

Moving an elderly parent in could cause tension if you need to adapt a ground floor room or provide access to specific equipment, to meet mobility needs or otherwise.

One point to note is moving your relative in won't affect your eligibility for support. You're still entitled to a carer's assessment and any financial backing and benefits that may arise as a result.

Have a read on the government services website, where you'll find information covering benefits such as Carer's Allowance, Carer's Credits and Community Care Grants (


For some families, the above options might not be viable. It's true you can only be a good carer to your parent if you are fit and well enough to do so, and other circumstances may also come into play that make it difficult or impossible.

If that's the case, and if looking after your parent at home is proving overwhelming, you might want to consider placing them into a care home.

This is a case of looking for the one that best suits their needs: do they need nursing care, or standard personal care? What can certain homes offer the residents? Are you happy with what you've seen or heard about the home?

Whether you're looking at privately owned homes or those run by charities, your best bet is to consult the Quality Care Commission website ( where you can read advice, search a directory and swot up on inspection reports.

Alternatively, sheltered housing – smaller, easy-to-manage homes, where quite often a 24-hour warden lives on site – might appeal. Find out more at

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