Parenting and Carer Responsibilities During the Later Years

  • Christine Brown WilsonEmail author


The role of the parent becomes part of a person’s identity, and as children grow and have families of their own, this identity develops. Although different roles such as that of grandparent may emerge, a parent still remains a parent to the adult child. However, a subtle shift occurs in roles and relationships between adult children and their parents as they age. This shift in roles and relationships is more noticeable in the presence of chronic conditions. Many chronic conditions result in progressive deterioration in health at both younger and older ages. Declining function may impact an older adults’ ability to fulfil their roles as parents to their adult children or develop roles as grandparents or great grandparents. Dementia as a chronic condition is becoming increasingly common worldwide, which creates challenges for the role of parenting for both the older adult affected as well as spouses/partners and children of all ages across the family. Many of the diseases that create the condition of dementia result in cognitive impairment making the completion of everyday tasks challenging and so impact the person’s sense of identity. Additional strain is also placed on family relationships when impaired memory means that family members are no longer recognized, and short term conversations or shared events may not be remembered, that support the ongoing development of family relationships as people age. Many people living with dementia require day-to-day support from family members who often become caregivers. This situation further impacts on an older person’s identity changing their role within the family as well as the role of the person undertaking the caring role.

Caregiving blurs the life course journey with additional strains and requirements as people care for children and their aging parents. Relationships between the person receiving care and the caregiver change as the course of dementia progresses as do the wider family relationships. Although dementia caregiving is typically defined by concepts such as strain and burden, caregivers also describe meaning from the caregiving role that buffers the struggles they may have. However, for conditions such as dementia, maintaining the balance between challenges and benefits may be more challenging depending on the age and point of the life journey where people receive this diagnosis. This chapter highlights some of the key issues faced by older people and family caregivers in maintaining family relationships as roles change, as well as the issues of decision-making when a person has dementia. Understanding family dynamics and how dementia impacts on these will support the development of appropriate and effective interventions that enable caregivers to feel competent in their role within the context of family relationships while not undermining the sense of self experienced by the older person.


Family relationships Social relationships Identity Dementia Caregiving 



The authors declare that they have no disclosure.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Nursing and MidwiferyQueens UniversityBelfastUK

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