When tables are turned: disabled children caring for elderly parents.

Every child dreads the day when they become caretakers of their parents. When young, children expect their parents to always be there for their needs. They think their parents are invincible. Parents never grow old, never faulter in anything. When visiting them, children expect their parents to greet their presence the same as when they were young.

Sadly, this vision dissipate as children grow. The innocence of having independent parents is slowly crushed as time passes by. And, it sneaks up on everyone! One moment, one discusses social topics and making vacation plans with their parents, and poof!Adult children discuss how to get their dad to his doctor’s appointment during a work day. Some parents have many offsprings to depend on, but some parents only have one or two. This can be very stressful on both parent and child, especially when one child is physically disabled.

In such a predicament, the disabled child may feel helpless. The child never had such a big responsibility bestowed upon him/her, and s/he may feel inadequate taking on such a large responsibility. But, the child understands that the table has turned for him/her to care for their parents. So, daunting as this role shift may be, it is the cycle of life. It is inevitable.

So, to ease everyone’s anxiety of caring for their parents, siblings must agree on how to handle such a situation when it arises. Siblings must include their disabled brother or sister when discussing how to care for their parents. Yes, majority of the physical assistance toward parents will fall on able-bodied siblings, but deciding what needs to be done should be a group consensus. Omitting a family member because of his/her incapability to physically care for their parents is wrong!


1. Use the disabled sibling’s strength: ex. Appoint him/her to call their parents every other day to make sure they are safe;
2. Report to another sibling , either via call, text, or email, when they think there might be something wrong with their parents;
3. Keep everyone in the loop about their parents’ status;
4. If their disabled sibling want to visit their parents, make time to help them do so;
5. Appreciation is a two-way street;
6. Do not make dramatic decisions about the welfare of either parent without considering what the disabled sibling might think.

Yes, it may be easier for able-bodied members of families to have full reign of their parents care without including a disabled sibling into the mix. BUT, they are depriving that one loved one from contributing to the family. And, no one likes being singled-out because of what they can’t do. Inclusion begins with family.

Inclusion begins within the family…from childhood to adulthood. It is throughout adulthood when reality sets in on how much of a major intergral a disabled sibling has within a family. And,, like any member of a family, their contributions matter.

©l.pokalsky 10/14/16.