Parental roles reverse in time

Isabel Rennie (right) with her daughter Lyndal Elias at Laguna Retirement Village.
Isabel Rennie (right) with her daughter Lyndal Elias at Laguna Retirement Village. Geoff Potter

THE child-parent relationship is a long and complex road filled with difficulties and elation.

For a decade or three, your parents care for you, providing a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on the table and are always there to offer advice and support.

But what happens when the tables turn? What happens when your parents become older and suddenly you find they depend on you rather than the other way round.

This can be a difficult transition as you navigate the shift in the relationship and have to make decisions regarding factors such as moving your parents into a retirement home.

For Lyndel Elias, the decision to have her mother Isabell move into Laguna Retirement Estate in Noosa wasn't a difficult one.

“It was her decision,” Lyndel said. “Mum used to come up for holidays from Melbourne. After my father died, she moved in with my brother and his family but didn't want to get in the way so decided to move into a retirement home.”

Her brother suggested Isabell move up to be closer to her daughter Lyndel in Noosa where the weather was sunnier.

“So I looked around and found her a place,” Lyndel said. “I never had a problem with it because it was what she wanted and she was happy.

“The hardest thing was telling her she had to get rid of most of her furniture.”

That was 16 years ago and while Lyndel said the experience wasn't traumatic for her now that her mum is 89, the situation is a little different.

“We are facing the situation where soon she will need further care and are just waiting to broach the subject,” Lyndel explained.

“She's finding it more difficult getting around.”

Isabell now has a woman who comes in to assist with the cleaning and another who takes her shopping once a week.

“It's good. It gives me a day off and takes the pressure off,” Lyndel said. “And it makes her feel like she has a bit of independence.”

Lyndel works two days a week and every other day visits her mother for at least an hour: “I go over every afternoon for a coffee or take her out for a coffee, so she gets out and about.”

Lyndel dismisses any suggestion that having her mother rely on her might be stressful.

“I adore her! I just can't spend enough time with her,” Lyndel said. “There just isn't enough hours in the day sometimes.

“I ring her every morning at 9am and she says, ‘You're just ringing to check that I'm still alive', and I guess I am.”

Lowell Tarling, author of, Coping with Parents: 101 Strategies Whatever Their Age and Whatever Your Age, said the child-parent relationship inevitably changes.

“As poet William Wordsmith once said, although it's a little sexist these days, ‘Child is the father of the man',” Lowell said.

“In a way, they become the child and you have to house them and pay their bills and you start doing everything that they used to do for you and you go around the whole circle.”

Lowell said that often people were unprepared for the handover moment when the parent asked the child to do something they used to do for them, even though that moment would eventually happen.

“It's difficult in a number of aspects, ” he said. “There's the emotional side and the financial responsibilities.”

His advice was to keep the communication lines open and make sure you had discussions about the future early.

“The earlier they (parents) make their decisions, the more influence they have,” he said.

“Once they've lost their faculties, then they're in the hands of their guardian, which is quite often the children.

“Talk about things and stick to what you decide.”

Coping with Parents: 101 Strategies Whatever Their Age and Whatever Your Age by Lowell Tarling. RRP $9.95. Visit

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