It’s not easy for parents to ask for help, and it’s not easy for kids to accept the possibility of a role-reversal. I know this first-hand because I’ve been confronted with an ever-looming possibility that I might need to step in and offer some assistance very soon. Yet, knowing my own parents, I have to do it graciously or else be chided for interfering in a matter I “don’t understand.”

So it comes to how do I offer my assistance without offending my parents or making them believe I think they’re “losing it?” As a reasonable person, I’ve realized I can offer logical solutions that they either choose to try, or not since they still are capable of making these decisions on their own. In my own case, I’ve come up with possible solutions to problems:

Problem: The yard is too much to take care of – An acre didn’t seem very big 20 years ago but now the overgrown “back forty” is out of control.

Solution: Hire a gardener to help with the overwhelming parts of the yard.

Problem: The house is too large to care for – A four bedroom house over 2,000 square feet seemed like a dream home when it was new, now it’s just become a burden to clean.

Solution: Hire a cleaning service to help out with the main areas of the home.

Okay, so many of my solutions so far require spending money. Thankfully, my parents are in a situation where they can afford help – the problem is if they are willing to part with some of their income to improve their quality of life. I’d offer my own help, but honestly their house and yard are too much for even me to handle.

Not all of my solutions require money, however. One such problem requires elimination.

Problem: New pet is causing havoc around the house.

Solution: Sorry, Charlie, but that pet needs to go. I know, I sound cruel, but the truth is they selected a large, energy-filled breed and it’s been knocking my mom down on a daily basis. (It stands over 5 feet 2 inches on it’s hind legs and is not full grown yet). My parents are too old to train it themselves and they really don’t have the patience for it. That poor beast would be happier in the long run in a younger couple’s home. If I had a yard, I’d take it home myself. But there’s no way it could live in a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 cats.

With that said, offering a list of possible vendors in a non-threatening way will hopefully give them the ability to choose and feel in control of the situation (while I subtly suggest other ideas that will help them out!)

This is also a good time to discuss end of life events (death, obviously) and their last will and testament. We’ve not had this conversation, but since I may have to assist them with these issues in the near future, now is also a good time to discuss this with them. Asking an outside vendor might also mitigate any tension they might have about sharing the nitty-gritty details and LegalZoom reviews wills making it easier to swallow.

The blur between parent and child eventually gets fuzzy as parents get older and it’s hard to navigate when it’s time to call the shots. I know my parents aren’t at that point yet, but I feel it coming and I need to begin preparing myself for it. I just hope I don’t get into a struggle of wills.

Do your parents need assistance? Are they willing to let you help? Have you sat down and made some plans together? If you have experience with this, share what has worked for you.


  1. Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter Reply

    My parents are still doing ok but my grandma is starting to slow down. She is getting better at accepting help but she still isn’t great. I have to really admire her strength and independence. I can only hope I can be so lucky.

  2. Good point. At first big houses may seem heavenly but when it comes to practical managing then task becomes a matter of struggle!

  3. Smart Military Money Reply

    My parents are still doing great. Grandma on the other hand needs more assistance. She’s open to it in certain circumstances–such as admitting her mobility is diminishing–but she won’t tell us other things that we discover when we visit her. Last time we visited she hadn’t done dishes or cleaned her apartment in weeks.

    So it’s almost as if she’ll tell us the cause (less mobility), but not the effect (filth?). My mother has been helping her a ton as of late, just like you’d expect of a loving daughter. I suppose the silver lining is that my grandma is financially comfortable. She doesn’t need my parents’ help paying for anything!

    -Christian L.

  4. My wife and I made the decision to downsize when the children were grown. I think parents need to make changes when you can versus when they have to. I remember a traumatic situation with my mother when we told her she had to give the car. A very independent person just became dependent! When it was time to move into assisted living, it was easier.

  5. Financial Samurai Reply

    It will be one of my greatest honors caring for my parents when they need me. It is the least they can do for caring for me for 18 years!


  6. @Miss T – My parents are definitely independent still, but they are slowing down. The unfortunate thing is one of them recognizes this and the other doesn’t. I’m just not sure how to navigate this without it breaking into a “your on her side” type of deal. Strong will is great, but sometimes it can hinder progress.

    @Smart Military Money – On my last visit, I helped out by cleaning a bit, but since I live a couple of hours away it’s hard to accomplish very much in an afternoon. I’m hoping that my plan (offering potential service providers) will alleviate this problem.

    @Krantcents – That’s very true- making changes when you can rather than out of necessity is the smart way to go about it. My mother sort of understands this, but there is a power struggle going on in that household and she doesn’t have the final say – making matters difficult.

    @Sam – You’re a great son to be willing to take on that responsibility. I don’t mind helping out my parents, but often I’m still looked at as the “child” and they don’t listen to my suggestions. Maybe it’s different for men.

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