Home #Hwoodtimes Appreciating the Changing Relationship With Your Older, Fragile Parent

Appreciating the Changing Relationship With Your Older, Fragile Parent

By Amy Cameron O’Rourke, author of The Fragile Years

(The Hollywood Times) 5/12/22 – Those of us with parents in their older, fragile years can find it challenging to adjust to the relationship changes that aging brings. Roles have evolved. Our parents are no longer our strong and vibrant caregivers. In fact, it is often they who need help, support and care.


This can bring all sorts of mixed emotions. It’s sad to see our once-independent parents lose capabilities and autonomy. Feelings of bitterness and resentment can arise when we begin realizing the impact of the new responsibilities our parents’ needs create. Yet at the same time, there’s the joy of seeing their grandchildren or great-grandchildren crawl into their laps, and the twinkle it brings to their eyes.

This may all feel very awkward, but what we often don’t recognize is that there’s a unique beauty in the new relationship our parents’ fragility creates.


That’s because as our parents become more fragile, they also become more vulnerable. Under the right circumstances, their vulnerability opens our hearts and theirs, leading to a closer, more multifaceted and intimate connection filled with tenderness and gratitude.

Rather than denying or resenting our older parents’ vulnerability, adult children are likely to find their own lives deeply enriched by doing two things: first, embracing this new relationship; second, creating the right circumstances for it to flourish. The following choices and actions will make this possible:

Decide intentionally to enter into this phase with your older parent – including paring down other commitments as needed. For some, this might mean cutting out time watching TV or going out to dinner with friends; for others, it might mean getting help with household chores in order to make space for visits with older parents. Where possible, it might even mean cutting back to part-time work.  Whatever your choice, the intention will be to spend unhurried, unpressured time with your older parent.

Accept who they are today. Maybe Mom’s memory is not what it used to be, or Dad has developed some abrasive—and embarrassing—quirks.  Just go with it. Adjust your expectations, and know that it’s a natural part of growing older.


Slow down and do things at their pace.

When your loved ones enter the fragile zone, they literally slow down. Their activity levels, their speech, the time it takes for them to dress, shower, and complete a meal—everything takes longer.  Embrace it as part of life at this stage, and practice patience.


Do your own emotional work – so that unresolved issues don’t prevent you from stepping into this new context. Lingering resentments and anger can get in the way of your connection with your fragile parent—and can save many years of guilt and grief. In my experience, those who grieve the passing of a parent the most are the family members who never resolved their conflicts with the loved one.

Build a support system.  For example, counseling to help manage the anxiety and stress that inevitably arise when parents are in their fragile years.  Or a network of friends and neighbors who can help you with chores and practical matters so you can free up time to spend with your parent. Do what it takes to make sure you have the care and support you need in order to be there for your parent emotionally.


These steps will allow you to find the peace you need to appreciate this stage of your parent’s life and the new dynamic between you—and will leave room for a whole new, potentially beautiful relationship to flourish.


Amy Cameron O’Rourke is a nationally-known pioneer and advocate for senior care in the U.S. She has been a professional care manager for more than 40 years, with 20 of those years at the helm of The Cameron Group (now Arosa), which she founded, as well as O’Rourke & Associates in Orlando, Florida. Amy is also the author of The Fragile Years.



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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board as a chief organizer of the Television Critics Association’s press tours, held twice a year in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and the Desert Aids Project, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.