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Reversing Roles with COPD  

Most of us know about children who care for aging parents, and how we switch roles later in life. In our case, reversing roles with COPD came early. It was a bumpy transition as we worked through every phase from diagnosis, to treatment, to long-term care. We learned a lot about each other, and also learned some valuable lessons along the way. I hope my tips help you maintain healthy relationships during this phase.

It’s a Process

Very rarely does COPD lead to a quick downturn in health. Instead, it is a stage of life where a person is gradually unable to take care of certain details in life. Initially, mom was able to take charge of most everything. She set personal health goals of quitting smoking. She lived in our childhood home and began cooking more nutritious food. She was able to pay her bills and keep a budget. Over time, cooking and cleaning became difficult. With planning, she was still largely in charge over the next 20 years, and we gradually took on more and more responsibility of caring for her.

What is Really Best for Everyone

Some families go along with a “Whatever makes each person happy” mindset. It may be healthier in the long run to look at what is realistic. By assessing the parent/child relationship, everyone can know what role they will play. I was more administrative, so decision making was my forte. My sisters and brother had different skills. One had a lot of time freedom, one was a great cook, the other lived close by. These types of things are important to know. I was not going to be the one to call when she ran out of denture cream. I was definitely the one to oversee doctor’s appointments. Looking at what was best for every family member brought some relief. We weren’t all bumping heads.


If one person is not able, or willing, to help out, they should speak up. Otherwise, there is a chance of resentment or passive-aggressive behavior to begin. This kind of communication ends up hurting everyone. Make room, and accept that each individual in the family will help out in the way that is best for them. Setting high expectations, or telling someone that they “should” do something, may end up causing them to make excuses. Instead, allow them to tell the truth about how much they can contribute.


We sometimes think of respect as something we give to someone who has earned it or deserves it. Mom had earned our respect simply by giving birth to us. Every human is worthy of respect. Hopefully, the family unit can find a way of working together at this stage of life. If there have been any problems, they will certainly arise. Our family had more than our fair share of them, and we worked it out.

Reversing Roles with COPD

When a parent becomes helpless, everyone may be able to pitch in and do their part. It’s much like the helplessness we experienced as children. Our parents took care of our needs, and we get to return the favor. It became part of our lives as we began reversing roles with COPD to help mom out.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Sashabear
    1 year ago

    Very nice story, but it is not a reality for so many.

    I cared for both a sick mother and a sick child. Both my children are working, married and have their own lives.

    There will be no care for me nor would I ask. My children did not ask to be born, so it is a different situation. I was responsible for my child, and my mother taught me from birth that I was responsible for her. Not doing that to my children.

  • Karen Hoyt author
    1 year ago

    I hear what you are saying and like Barbara, hear your independent voice. Each family makes their choices about care based on finances, family culture, personal choice, and many other factors.
    When I got cancer and called a family meeting, it was clear that I did not expect my only child to care for me. I made other arrangements from the beginning – before the chemo even started.
    Each story plays out so differently. Finances, family ties, expectations, and degree of health all come into play.
    You’re smart to set your expectations and plans out ahead of time. I’m hoping that others reading this will begin to think about it also. With mom and COPD, we had to make it up as we went along.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and starting the conversation. xo Karen

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    1 year ago

    HI Sashabear, Your independence comes through loud and clear. Good for you that you have chosen a path that suits you and your children. We are all different and have different needs. Glad that you have had your’s met.
    Barbara (Site Moderator)

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