Work Affected by Caring for Elderly Parents

I am a litigation attorney in a mid-size firm and have been in practice for several years, in good standing with the bar, with no client complaints to date. I feel fortunate in that I generally like what I do and have been relatively successful. My current concerns have more to do with issues around aging parents than legal practice issues. My elderly parents want to relocate to Boston to be closer to me in their advancing years. This is a mixed blessing – it makes visiting easier but also increases my sense of responsibility for their welfare. I am not sure how to handle that, as I am already feeling overly taxed by personal, family, and professional responsibilities. Both parents have medical, legal, and psychological needs that require some management, matters that we’ve never discussed. As our roles reverse and I become, in essence, their parent, I find myself feeling uncomfortable and guilty. I am an only child, meaning that there are no siblings with whom to share the decision-making. My wife is as helpful as she can be, but it is not the same kind of connection or burden for her. Lately I’ve noticed that I am more easily frustrated and distracted, not sleeping as well, and getting into more arguments with my wife. My work is also not up to its usual level; I almost missed a filing deadline yesterday on an important case, and that scared me. Do you have any suggestions on dealing with all this?

First and foremost, you are not alone. You are now in a stage of life where many of us must confront these issues, and it is normal to experience the type of anxiety that you describe, especially in dealing with these pressures for the first time. It is certainly true that, as the only child, your responsibilities and reactions to them are intensified. We wonder, however, whether you’ve really let other family members and friends know how overwhelmed you are feeling. Often, they can be wonderful supports.

In addition, there are many private and community resources available to help both you and your parents by providing support and information, as well as relieving some of the pressures. We would suggest that you call LCL and make an appointment to meet with a clinician, who can further evaluate your particular questions and needs, put you in touch with various resources, and develop a strategy for negotiating your new role with your parents.

NOTE: LCL’s Spring 2003 newsletter (“briefings”) focused on these concerns, with more specific information. Quite soon we expect to have our old newsletter archived on this site (maybe already, by the time you read this) — please look for that issue.

preload preload preload