For adult children attending doctor visits with their parents, the dynamics can be tricky. Here’s advice from the experts.
My parents are getting older and their medical needs more complicated. They now need me to take them to their doctors’ appointments, but what is my role?
The Bottom Line
This role reversal is a challenge for both parents and adult children. Sometimes parents are fine with it. Often, though, they are ambivalent at best and oppositional at worst. They may want or need the help but at the same time struggle with pride, fear and the prospect of lost privacy and independence. Add in a third party—the doctor—and the situation gets even more difficult. It’s best to recognize the tricky dynamics and plan ahead.
The situation is often uncomfortable for both parent and child. The first step: “Name it. Be upfront about it,” says Dr. Brian Carpenter, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and president of the Society of Clinical Geropsychology. Ask how the parent feels about having you come along. Acknowledge that you are feeling awkward too. Take time to listen, he says. Ask open-ended, nonjudgmental questions. Many experts encourage this kind of dialogue early. An important step is “not waiting until a crisis to establish a line of communication. It’s like a line of credit. You are building trust.” says Dr. Ken Druck, an expert on aging and family psychology and author of “Raising an Aging Parent, Guidelines for Families in the Second Half of Life.”
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