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Help! My children are “just trying to help”

Happy family at home“I’m still the same person. I may not be able to run a marathon these days, but I certainly don’t need to be spoken to like I’m incapable.”

Getting older has plenty of challenges – aging joints and eyes, losing dear friends and the loneliness that comes with that, and, of course, the looming threat of losing our independence to the dreaded dementia.

But our relationship with our children shouldn’t be a challenge.

  • Often it’s well-meaning over-attention – the sideways glances if we forget a name, the questioning of whether we really should be driving at night.
  • We may feel the stress of seeing our children argue over how best to care for us.
  • Sometimes children are farther afield and busy with other commitments – they feel guilty about not being able to help as much as they’d like, and resentment slips into the relationship.
  • At the extreme end, we read the horror stories about financial abuse as we hand over our bank accounts to our younger relatives to manage – and the evidence suggests financial abuse of elders is much more common than we might think.

We dearly love our children. They mean well. But they don’t realise how hurtful their behaviour can be.

How can we avoid the arguments before they begin?

  1. Understand that our aging is emotional for our children too.
    Seeing your parent age can be extremely confronting, and your child may not know how to react. They are probably feeling fear and uncertainty – and they may not be handling those emotions well. Understand that while their fear may be unwarranted, you can help them feel at ease by compromising in some areas.
  1. Plan a family conversation.
    Make sure your kids are talking with you, not about you. Prepare what you’d like to say in advance. Use a conversation guide that helps to structure the conversation and makes it easier to ask the tough questions. If you need to ask them to change their behaviour, be specific, e.g. “when you did that, I felt really useless. Next time, could you do it this way?”
  1. Get your paperwork in order.
    Tell your children what you want to happen if you become sick. If you’d like them to act on your behalf, you’ll need to sign an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA). Tell them where to find key information like the medications you need and who your Will is lodged with.
  1. Get factual.
    Share the symptoms you’re experiencing, with brochures from the doctor if they are available – tell them how you’re managing your health, and what your plan is for the future.
  1. Give them ways to help that work for you.
    Go in forearmed with ways that you would like to be helped. Whether it’s a joint grocery shop once a week, going through the bills once a month, or simply spending quality time together on regular basis, being clear will help children focus their efforts.
  1. Get outside help.
    Maybe it’s time to get a gardener or cleaner. For administrative tasks, Public Trust can give you a trusted adviser to look after everything from finding a plumber and paying bills, to helping you move home or sell assets. Several services deliver meals at home. Taking some tasks off the list can help our kids feel less guilty. They can relax because they know we aren’t using a mower or struggling with paperwork.

Soothe the friction with these tips and enjoy the quality time with your children – they’ll thank you for it!


Personal Assist is designed to help you manage your financial and property matters. A dedicated Adviser can step in and do as much or as little as needed, giving you or your loved ones the peace of mind of being in control, without the stress.

Call 0800 371 471 or go to to find out how Personal Assist can help you.