Parenting your parent

By Audrey Wise

November 14, 2013 Updated Nov 14, 2013 at 11:43 PM CDT

Your parents took care of you for years, but for thousands of people here in Central Illinois those roles have reversed. Suddenly adult children are finding themselves parenting their parent.

"It is an awesome thing to be able to give back to your parents what they gave to you and know that they're being cared for the way that they cared for you, the way they loved you," said Maria Sommerville.

Sommerville took in her 80-year-old mother Bonnie just a few months ago, after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

She said, "There's days that she can do everything on her own from writing a check to getting dressed, but there's days and they're getting shorter and shorter for those things to occur."

The move came with some adjustments. Sommerville was able to switch jobs and work evenings, so she can be home during the day, while her husband is home with Bonnie in the evenings.

Sommerville says there are challenges, like time management and communication. "You can look at your parent as a child, but their not," she said. "You have to make you sure you treat them as, number one, an adult and as your parent. Now, as far as caring for them and making sure they get things done, that may be looking at it like a child's point of view."

Sommerville says the joys far out weigh the bad, and her faith gets her through.

Meanwhile, two years ago Ann Troyer and her husband uprooted their lives in New York to move back into her childhood home to care for her father, who has Parkinson's disease.

"He could stay in the home. We could be right here in the home with him and help with whatever needs came up," said Troyer.

She said when they first arrived it was heart-wrenching to not see her father as the man she remembered. "My dad was always, and I think for all of us kids, he was always our hero," said Troyer. "Somebody that we always went to for advice and encouragement when we were down."

Living so far away, Troyer wasn't able to help her siblings with her dad's care, and now she is able to be there for him, like he was for her.

"I think as we've been here his needs have changed some. There have been issues that came up that made it very apparent that it was good that we were here," she said.

On a personal level, this hits close to home as I'm just learning what caregiving means. My dad has also been diagnosed with Parkinson's, and as the disease progresses he needs more and more help...from three generations of caregivers, myself, mostly my mom and my two grandmothers.

It's estimated that almost 60% of caregivers work while providing care.

With all of that it's easy to get overwhelmed, but there are organizations that can help.

For example, the Central Illinois Agency on Aging provides many services from help with budgeting and legal questions to support groups and respite.

For more information on the Central Illinois Agency on Aging, visit their website

The National Caregivers Library has extensive resources

For access to a free download of the book "Juggling Work and Caregiving" visit

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.