This book presents a poignant and sensitive account of the challenges faced by adult children when making difficult decisions about care for and with their ageing parents in later life.
It offers new insights into the practical, emotional and physical effects that witnessing the ageing and death of parents has on those in late midlife and how these relationships are negotiated during this phase of the life course.
The author uses a psychosocial approach to understand the complexity of the experience of having a parent transition to care and the ambiguous feelings that these decisions evoke.
Chapter 1 begins with a critical account of the life course and life stage models of human development. The focus then turns to the unique challenges faced by those in the midlife period. One of the key features of the midlife is a shift in generations which sees the loss of the older generation and changes in the generation below, bringing with it an increased awareness of ageing and personal mortality. This existential anxiety is heightened when the adult child is faced with the care for, or loss of, their older parents.
This chapter highlights how family relationships can change when making decisions about care for an ageing parent. There is an exploration of the definition of ‘care’, ‘the feminist ethics of care’, and the implications becoming a ‘carer’ has on the adult child’s sense of identity. There is a particular focus on sibling dynamics and the coordination and division of care labour within family systems.
This chapter examines the experience of transitioning into long-term care. It looks at how, despite careful discussions and conflicting opinions about whether a parent should or could go into residential care, in most cases decisions to move are beyond a family’s control and accelerated due to a rapid, unexpected decline in health. Choosing a care facility often feels overwhelming so this chapter outlines some of the care options and the different trajectories that older people follow into care. It also shows that there is often resistance against going into long-term care as a result of fears around loss of agency, dependency, and end of life care.
This chapter begins by looking at the materiality of ageing and how meaningful attachments are made to objects associated with or involved with the transition into care – what possessions are taken into the home and who made those decisions about what to take, and which belongings help older people feel more connected to their past social identities. In particular, it is argued that clothing is central to personal and social expression. Having someone else choose your clothes for you, or having personal garments communally washed can contribute to a sense of disconnection, not only to the social environment of the home, but also to one’s sense of self (Twigg, 2013). In the transition into care most parental homes need to be sold, rented out, or returned to the council. The experience of sorting through a parent’s property and clearing a home is highlighted as a particularly physical and emotionally demanding task for the adult child.
This chapter explores the challenges faced by older people as they settle into their new home, and how they find new avenues of self-expression, autonomy, and friendship. It highlights the relationships that are made in the home between the older person and other residents, staff, and visiting relatives.
This chapter focuses on the loss of parents in later life, whether physical or psychological, but with particular focus on the lead-up to death following a period of care. The focus here is not on the period of grief after a death and practicalities of funeral arrangements, but instead emphasis is placed upon the feelings surrounding what Dupuis (2002) called anticipatory or ambiguous loss, which is a sense of loss felt when the death of a loved one is imminent. This chapter looks at the ambivalent feelings that are aroused by the death of parents, including feelings of grief, sadness, depression, and guilt, but also relief, opportunity, empowerment and self-development, and freedom. It acknowledges difficult parent relationships and how these losses are managed. Finally there is a discussion of the term ‘midlife orphan’ and what this means for the adult child’s new roles, responsibilities, and sense of identity.
This chapter draws together the discussions throughout the book, arguing that supporting families to care for older parents, whether at home or by continuing their role to some extent within a care setting, is the cornerstone to improving older adult care. Demystifying the ageing process and recognising the emotional struggles that caregivers face when caring for older parents are important steps in making these changes. The book concludes that social care can be significantly improved through enabling a more active, participatory, and supportive role for relatives. By doing so it can make caring for or visiting parents in a care home far more enjoyable and gives the adult child the confidence that their relationship, although changed, can still flourish and be fulfilling.
This chapter sets the social and cultural scene for the child–parent caregiving relationship, providing an introductory focus on the challenges of social care provision for an ageing population in Britain today. There is also a brief investigation into the impact that COVID-19 has had on the landscape of care provision in the UK.