Do we have to care for our Aging Parents?

Posted February 7, 2022

Correlation between what elderly parent has done for you and what you now do for them?

I suspect that the extent to which adult children will support their aging parents likely correlates significantly with how much that adult supported them as a child.

I am wondering how much this resonates with others?

Has your parent supported and raised you during your early life and that has caused you to do the same for them?

Conversely, have you been poorly raised and been unsupported or abused by your parent in early life and now do little to support them as they age as a result? Or do you still support them anyways due to blood ties even though they did not recognize this as a duty themselves in your early years?

kparks1 hour ago
I moved my father in with us this past July. Why, because he asked if it would be okay to spend what time he has left with my family and me.( He just turned 87) I am one of six children and he could’ve asked the others but he knew he could live with us in a way that would cause less upheaval for those involved. It didn’t have much to do with my upbringing, although all would say, ”She’s the favorite.” The funny thing is that now that he’s here, he sees my shortcomings and my other siblings come to visit and he enjoys them so. It’s been an interesting shift for everyone. I am thrilled he’s seeing his children in a different light, including me. What I know in my heart is that there will be no regrets. It has changed our family life completely but it’s a chapter, a moment in time. It’s harder than I ever imagined. Since he has moved here, he has had an “incidental” finding after a fall that required surgery. He was diagnose with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Wow! What an amazing set of circumstances. My dad wont be alone and we will go through his last part of life altogether. Is it easy? No. Are there precious times? Yes. I’ve learned things about myself and my husband that I never knew and things from my dad that I will cherish forever. He’s going to teach us how to die on his terms since he’s chosen to pass on chemo, etc. I didn’t know ANY of this when he asked to come to stay. Sometimes life has plans we don’t anticipate.
I know that I said yes to my dad’s request to move in because it felt right. Having a good relationship prior surely factored into my answer but it’s a completely different dynamic when an aging parent moves in. There hasn’t been a handbook. This forum helps when I read about the dementia, privacy, siblings, need for breaks etc. I am thankful it exists.
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Sohenc2 hours ago
There are various reasons and circumstances. Some have deep love, strong mental constitutions, boundless energy and/or resources and want to do the hands on caring. They may have had wonderful loving parents who bestowed unconditional love on them. Or there may be care based on guilt, guilt tripping, obligation due to cultural/religious norms in your family, a hope to reverse old hurts, sexist views that adult daughters "have to do this" or the "we owe" parents.

Life comes in all walks and with many various drivers. I hope we can all make the choices we need to make (be that placing our loved ones in organized care settings, handing this a your own home solo or w/a flotilla of outside support) that we can refrain from judging each other.

No one walked in my shoes; dad died when I was a kid, only child and went into foster care because my mom widowed at 35 was not capable of handing any of this. She was sadly broken at an early age. I tried to do the care at home solo, but after a few years it was not feasible. I moved my mom to a wonderful nursing home. She has not adjusted (it has been 16 months - she is 85, has dementia, depression, OCD, COPD, diabetes, and basically can no longer walk or do many ADLs/IADLs.

It will take years for me to cover from all of this, I know the same is for all of you. Nothing really prepares one for this "adventure" and we each have to travel this road as best we can and hopefully without others judging us as we try our best to get through this.

Prayers to all who come to this site for venting, advice or help.

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Isthisrealyreal avatar

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IsthisrealyrealFeb 7, 2022
I see many of us here that have a "golden child" sibling, that is usually absent in the care or on the sidelines spewing critisism at the boots on the ground caregiver.

If we did it out of reciprocal love and care, this wouldn't be an issue.

I think many of us do it because we love our parents, regardless of what kind of parent they were or are. Which can be the same or two entirely different people.

I agree with JoAnn that an abused child should not be a hands on caregiver. Making sure they are getting the care they need is the only way to not stay triggered all the time, especially if they haven't changed. I think it is also a dangerous situation for elder abuse to occur, particularly when the parent treats the adult as a child that is under their authority and needs to be submissive.

For me, I help because they need(ed) it and I am the only one willing.

If I treated them the way they treated me, that's means I am no different than them and have no room to talk or be hurt by their actions. I, also, believe that vengeance is not mine. I am only answerable for my actions, not theirs.

Good boundaries are vital when we decide to help our elder parents or anybody for that matter. That keeps a whole lot of resentment out of the picture.

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lealonnie1 avatar

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lealonnie1Feb 7, 2022
I've helped my parents in their old age for one reason: I love them. My mother was mentally ill while I was growing up and I suffered greatly at her hands, whether she was intentionally abusive or not. My father was pretty much not around b/c he was working to support her, me, and her mother who lived with us, contributing greatly to the enormous chaos in the home. So no, my childhood was anything but warm & cozy. But I'm the only child so who else could step up and take over the care and management of my parents if not me?

'Blood ties' have nothing to do with it, in my case, b/c these are not my biological parents but my adoptive ones.

Personal integrity has a lot to do with who steps up to care for their parents in their old age, too, regardless of how they were or were not raised, I believe. We have to overlook many things in order to do what's necessary for them as they age, get sick, need help, medical attention, doctors, living arrangements, etc. etc.

So again, at the root of 'why' is Love, in my opinion. Nothing else really matters, at the end of the day. If I love you, I will do whatever I have to do to make sure you are properly cared for, safe and as happy as possible. I have a 'duty' to MYSELF to take care of business for the people in my life whom I love. That's how I look at it.

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bundleofjoyFeb 7, 2022
who ends up helping their parents, and who doesn't?

i think there are so many combinations/situations/possible answers...

let's start with possible reasons people help:
--had a great childhood, reciprocal love
--or had a bad childhood, but feel it's the right thing to do
--or want inheritance, calculated cost-benefit analysis
--or would prefer not to help, but there's no one else; no real choice; don't want the LO to be totally abandoned
--or pressured into helping (for example, for sexist reasons: female).
--or was the scapegoat/the one who normally was exploited anyway, so the pattern continues. although this isn't always true, it's true sometimes: that the scapegoat is often the nice, sweet one, surrounded by some mean family members. the mean family members, jealous of the kindheartedness/sweetness, tried to destroy those good qualities.

possible reasons people don't help:
--extremely selfish
--or had a bad childhood, and cut all/or almost all contact
--there's no money to be gained ("oh say can you see, what is in it for me?"), no inheritance.
--inheritance has already been distributed in part (i heard that often, elderly LOs who for example transferred their house years ago to their adult children, are the least likely adult children to help later, because they already got the house) (there are always exceptions) (but it seems to be correlated, sometimes).
--inheritance. there is something to gain. cost-benefit analysis: if they help less, or sabotage, their LO will die faster, and they'll get the inheritance faster.

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AlvaDeer avatar

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AlvaDeerFeb 7, 2022
Unfortunately, on Forum we often see children who feel "obligated" to care for parents who were all their lives abusive to said child. This is because the child was "raised to be" what they are--afraid of the parent, obligated to the parent, starved for the parent's approval.
I had just about the best parents in the world. They raised me to be independent, to know that the world would require that of me, to go out on my own and make my own life and family, to care for THEM in the best way I was able. They made themselves safe and comfortable by moving into a village in which care could progress for them as needed, allowing them first a duplex, then into apartment, then onto different levels of care when needed. They saved all their lives so as not to be dependent on their children. They taught US, my brother and me, how to save.
It is the eagle story, you know. The eagle's nest is on an island and there is a terrible storm and the eagle must try to save it's eaglets as the waters rise. First the father takes one eaglet across the raging waters. During the flight he asks the babe "And when I am old and tired will you save me alike" and the chick replies "Oh, yes, father; I WILL" and this eaglet the father bird drops at once into the raging waters where it quickly perishes. The father goes then for the next and last babe, and while crossing asks the same question of it. The baby answers "Oh, father, I am so sorry; I cannot promise you this. But I promise you I will carry your lesson for life and I will do all I can to save my OWN babies". This chick was carried to safety.
The way of it is that our parents have children, whether by choice, happenstance. They do all they can for them given their limitations. And the children should pay this forward.
Sadly it is not always how it works and we daily see families destroying themselves and their own children for parents who spent their lives as abusive to those same children.
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JoAnn29 avatar

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JoAnn29Feb 7, 2022
I have a hard time wrapping my head around "we don't 'owe' our parents anything. Maybe its the word 'owe' that is the problem. I do believe that no child abused by a parent should physically care for that parent. I don't think we should give up jobs and our homes to care for them. Bringing them into our homes is not always a good thing either.

Once we leave our parents home, we really can't go back. (I had to and 1 year was enough) We change. We grow and mature. We have different experiences than our parents. Our views are no longer the same. We are now adults with jobs, homes and our own families. But as we age so do our parents. They need to rely on someone and it should be their children. And as children we should at least make sure they are safe and cared for. Help find them resources. Set them up in a care facility. You can then walk away.

In a perfect world the child graduates from high school and maybe college. At that point, the child starts a life of their own. Marries, at that point that family becomes #1. Once the nest is empty, the parent should be finding things that interest them, get involved. New stage in their life. Neither child or parent should need to rely on each other. But that's not the real world. We have children who rely on parents to live and visa versa. Both spending money they don't have. Drugs and alcohol go both ways.

Its a shame that there is abuse in families and those who did the abusing then expect that child to care for them in their old age. And its a shame that that child feels obligated. In that situation a child needs to know its OK to walk away. We all need to set BOUNDRIES. What we can do and what we can't do. And it would be nice if our parents excepted this and did what needed to be done to be safe and cared for. Can't keep your house up, then you downsize. Need 24/7 care, then you go to an AL or LTC. You don't ask ur children to give up their lives so you can continue to live in a dream world. Its not being independent when you expect a child to do all the work and sacrifice so you can stay put. We stop needing to use the phrase "We want Mom/Dad to stay in their home as long as possible". If that means the child doing all the work to keep Mom/Dad in their home then its not possible.

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cwillie avatar

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cwillieFeb 7, 2022
Way too many people who come to this forum are seeking advice because of screwed up family dynamics; they rant and rave about the obligation they feel to care for cold, angry, violent, and downright mean or abusive parents and almost always reveal they have never had any different kind of relationship with them. Unfortunately these are the people who most often argue with those who offer different perspectives or solutions to their problems🤷
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O

overwhelmed21Feb 7, 2022
"Because we will have no regrets." That is so true!
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InFamilyServiceFeb 7, 2022
Elderly mom probably did the best she knew and kept us alive raising us. My sister and I caught the brunt of her emotional & anxiety issues. Some could call her interactions with us abusive.

Now we are the only ones caring for her in her senior apartment with part time caregivers.
Two brothers are estranged due to family issues with mom & dad. Mom has mild dementia, health issues @ 85 and has no one else.

Dad passed last year but we took care of him also.

Why are we killing ourselves to make her quality of life as good as it can be?
Because of personal integrity and agreeing its the right thing to do no matter what.

Because we will have no regrets.

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DeckApeFeb 7, 2022
There are a multitude of factors that cause people to act one way or another. These could be: Savings, assets, incomes. Age, sex. Family makeup, size and distribution. Physical distance. Marital status. Job. Location. The disease and it’s prognosis. Those are just a few.

I guess abuse could be a dominant factor. If your parent violently molested you as a child then you wouldn’t care to help that parent later in life.

For me it boils down to cost, family size. Dad lives in Hawaii, ($$$) has no savings, no home, has no family outside Hawaii except me. I’m an only child, unmarried, no children, high school educated, travel for a living. I couldn’t care for him there, bringing him here would be cruel.

Parental caregiving level probably has too many variables to simplify down to if we like how mommy and daddy treated us.

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BarbBrooklyn avatar

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BarbBrooklynFeb 7, 2022
I find here that most of the folks who are willing to martyr themselves for their parents (by that, I mean giving up jobs, families, income, homes) are usually children who've been brought up to fear their parents' displeasure and see their parents' happiness as their job.

You repay your parents' love and support by loving and supporting the next generation.

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CTTN55 avatar

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CTTN55Feb 7, 2022
What I have always found very interesting in this group is that there is often the one caregiver child who insists their parent(s) were wonderful with ALL of the kids, yet often the rest of the sibs want nothing to do with helping the parent(s).

I sometimes point out that if the parent was so wonderful, why did the sibs want nothing to do with them now? The poster doesn't see that they had been groomed from early on to become the eventual caregiver.

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