Caring for a Parent

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Caring for an ill parent can be tremendously rewarding. Many may see it as a way of returning the favor of caregiving to the very person who cared for you. Respecting boundaries as a caregiver can be challenging.  It will be important to find a balance. Some things to take in to consideration are:

  • With a parent’s diagnosis of a brain tumor, the adult child may want to swoop in and take control. Parents, however, may resent being cared for. Proceed carefully and respectfully.
  • Ask to be included in doctor appointments and, when medical options and treatments are discussed, keep track of details.
  • If your parent expresses discomfort with you as caregiver, it is important to listen to what they have to say. They may not want to impose or it may be because the idea of you helping with physical tasks is uncomfortable. Perhaps there’s fear that it will alter your relationship.  Whatever the reason, the patient deserves to be heard and their concerns respected.
  • Talk about advanced care planning.  Even healthy parents need to have plans in place.  If your parent has not begun planning help them through the process of creating an advance directive, power of attorney, a will and any other financial or health documents necessary before their competency might be affected.
  • If you have siblings, many delicate scenarios are possible. Are you the primary caregiver by geographical default? Did you volunteer or step up because no one else did? Are the others willing to pitch in? If so, how? 

You and your siblings will need to be on the same page about your parent’s care.  Manage your expectations for help by asking them to tell you honestly what you can expect from them.  If the answer is a weekly phone call, at least you will have realistic expectations. If the answer is “I will help when I can,” figure out specific  tasks that a sibling can take on, such as providing you with a 24 hour break once a month, or taking on the role of family communications manager.


Keep the lines of communication open. If conversations usually end in arguments it may be better to stick to email or communicate with one sibling who can pass along updates.

Related Resources

Orientation to Caregiving

Orientation to Caregiving

A Caregivers Handbook from UCSF