Reflections of an Adult Child

The truth is, so long as we have a parent—and no matter how old we are—we are locked into the role of being a child. For better or for worse.

Reflections of an Adult Child

By: Guest Author, Bruce Nathanson, Advisor, Senior Care Authority 


The truth is, so long as we have a parent—and no matter how old we are—we are locked into the role of being a child. For better or for worse. 

Caregiving for a parent instantly propels us into the unknowns of aging, complete with its anxiety, frustration, and unpredictability. And, just as we learned as little kids, while we can’t always control a situation, we can certainly exert a powerful influence upon it. 

Only now, the stakes are so much higher; the pressures, so much greater.


Here is my story. While working as an executive for the largest nonprofit nursing home in New York State, I was the lead caregiver for two aging parents. They were on very different trajectories. Dad, beset with cancer and cardio issues, was physically breaking down. Mom, who held it together while Dad declined, experienced a fall shortly after his death. This resulted in a broken hip, which in turn hastened the progressive dementia. While my siblings were there to help, as the “aging specialist,” I became the health care proxy and clinical point of contact.

I learned a few things along the way.

First, have the conversation—or better yet, a series of conversations— about what really matters in the final chapters of life….and end of life. This process may take some time to get rolling. Discomfort, avoidance, and denial are always present. However, try to engage your parents as early as possible, involve your siblings, and be open to everyone’s thoughts and feelings. Listen hard to what is being said. Facilitate, but do not be too quick to put your stamp on the outcome. Consider reading and discussing Atul Gawande’s wonderful book Being Mortal, if that type of dialogue works for your family.  Evaluate all options and choices that need to be made.

Second, get your ducks in a row. Organize the things that you can control, recognizing that aging and caregiving are unpredictable journeys. Get the basics in order, including legal affairs, finances, insurance, medical care, and safe housing.

Third, don’t try to go it alone. Use professional resources that are readily available, and get trusted, third-party advice. Talk to friends, participate in support groups. At work, consider speaking with your supervisor and the Human Resources/Benefits Departments about your situation and the stresses that you face. They are there to support you and to enhance your well-being. Even with all the support from friends and family, work colleagues and Human Resources, I could have used even more help. I wish I knew then about Senior Care Authority. 

Finally, take care of yourself even as you take care of someone else. Caregiving can be all-consuming. Don’t let it be. Make time for yourself and your family. Find time to exercise—even if it’s a short walk—and eat as healthily as possible. Breathe.

After seven years of caregiving for two frail, aging parents, to say I felt fatigued would be an understatement. At the same time, I was honored to be able to help my parents when they needed it most. What was most meaningful were the gifts that they both gave me in their final years; the time spent, the stories told, the chance to be together when it really mattered. 

After all, I was still their child and that’s what parents do for their kids. Being a caregiver just made it possible.


I often wonder, in retrospect, how could I have been a better caregiver? As my parents slowed down, I needed to move faster just to keep up with their needs. I had so many questions…and hardly had the time to find the answers. What I really needed was a personal consultant like a Care Advisor from Senior Care Authority, someone experienced and trustworthy who could instantly provide guidance and support. 

Senior Care Authority answers questions like: 

  1. What type of senior living community would be the right place?
  2. How do I know when it’s time? 
  3. How do I keep my promises while making sure they get the best care? 
  4. How do we build consensus as a family so nobody feels left behind?

Fast forward to today, I am pleased to be associated with Senior Care Authority and to provide these advisory services to older adults and their families. It is my pleasure to help you navigate the maze of senior care and housing issues. If you would like assistance, please email me at, or call 914-419-1302. In Florida, contact a local advisor at (239) 300-2133 or


About the Author

 Bruce Nathanson is an Advisor with Senior Care Authority NY FL. In addition to working directly with clients, he also consults with small and mid-sized companies on a benefits program for employees who are juggling the demands of caregiving for older relatives.  The program is called EASE—Employee Assistance Solutions for Eldercare.

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Reflections of an Adult Child