101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents # 6

How do grown-up children react from the point at which their elderly parent/s become frail? This is a question to which there are many answers and around which there can be much conflict.

It has to be borne in mind that the  older grown-up the children are, the more life experience they will have had and, in many cases they will now be parents themselves. It is also essential to remember that each grown-up child will have a unique relationship with his/her parent/s and may well perceive the parents differently from their siblings.

One of the most interesting approaches that I have come across in relation to understanding grown-up children’s approaches to their elderly parents was that presented by Professor Kenneth Doka, the world renowned American writer on issues relating to death and dying.

Professor Doka introduced me to the different roles that people can play in a death and dying situation, using the DLR acronym:

D = Doers ~ those who get on with practical activities, including those relating to personal care;

L= Listeners ~ those who are excellent listeners and in whom the elderly parent/s may be most likely to confide;

R= Respite  People ~ those whose strengths lie in organising the essential ‘time out’ from talking about illness/dying.

Professor Doka also spoke of the the X Category ~ those who are destructive and who should be avoided/removed from the situation.

Crucial to all this is that grown-up children recognise and bring out each other’s strengths rather than assuming that each perceives and can support the elderly parent/s identically. 

To what extent does this approach resonate with you?

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

7 thoughts on “101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents # 6”

  1. Hi again I noticed a lot of what Professor Doka said is true. Obviously I did not realise at time being too caught up in the process. My eldest sister found it hard and after my dad’s death she became reluctant to visit the family home and remained so even after my eldest brother bought it and changed it beyond all recognition. She wanted to simply attend and listen to what others had to say. She handled my mothers 11year decline and death the same way. My brother J, helpped and guided by my husband was the doer. My eldest brother froze and was incapable of making any decision unless forced to by his wife. His twin sister was a loud talker but did nothing though to be fair she was overseas. The second eldest sister is a doer in every sense, she being a nurse. I am a lead doer … I follow my husband’s lead.
    Talking of my husband his mother is 94years old in May he is the youngest of three he does all practical things for her we have her over to us weekly we take her out regularly she thinks nothing of my husband he wants nothing from her but recognition but she is too busy point scoring off of her daughter who never visits her but rings every day. She constantly sings her other sons praises all he does is drop in her paper every day and occasionally take her to bingo or out to lunch very rarely. Sorry getting Angry. Oops better stop before I write too much. Be well be happy be blessed. Xx

    1. Hi Willow, I’m glad that Professor Doka’s work resonated with you. Your experience certainly shows the complex family dynamics that can be involved when parents become frail. Thanks for sharing. jx

  2. Oh, I so hear you Willow!
    I wouldn’t consider my father elderly when he passed away at 70 – so many are so full of life way past that age! However, during his illness, each of us (we are three girls) took turns with him, ensuring one of us was with him every day (along with his spouse). Near the end we were all there for him. It’s funny, Lisa, the middle child had a “butt-heads” Relationship with Dad in the past 15 years or so but that all disappeared when he fell ill. Tracy, the baby, always had a special Relationship with him, more the listener than any of us; and I, the eldest, used to fight with him all the time when I was younger (even a knee-touching at supper could cause a fight!) yet we were close.
    It’s funny how illness can either break or fuse relationships. I am happy to say, in this case, we all shared in the listening, doing and “respiting”!

    1. Hi Dale, many thanks for writing and highlighting the way in which illess of parents can ‘fuse’ relationships. It’s interesting read that you three shared the roles of listening, doing and ‘respiting.’ I wonder is that sharing a key to fusion?

      1. I would think so. We three sisters are really close and we each had a different Relationship with our father so we just all became much tighter.

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