Yesterday I spoke of my neighbor who is falling deeper into the throes of dementia. I mentioned that her children have been contacted, but have not gotten involved as her mental health declines. Many bloggers felt that morally the children should be helping out the parent. But one blogger simply stated that they are under no obligation to assist.

So

Are children responsible for their parents?

Is there legal responsibility to care for a parent? I don’t think there is. I don’t think you are bound to assist.

But is it a moral responsibility to take care of your parents? Aging or otherwise?

My Father in law is the type of man who thinks that children should support their parents as they age. I’m really not a fan of this line of thought, especially as he is the type of man who makes money disappear at the drop of a hat or sign of an OTB (off track betting) Should my husband and his sister be forced to support him financially?

If your parent has a substance abuse problem, do you help them through it? Or do you walk away to save your own sanity?

Now let’s switch to the aging process. If a parent is declining in health, should you take them in, or should you get them a caregiver, or put them in a facility? Or should you just let them figure it out? Who makes the decision as to where someone spends their final years? I often say to my Mother “Watch what you say to me because I’m the one making the decision where you spend your final days.” I say it as a joke when she gets a little too intrusive, but really, how much of it is my call?

I remember a conversation I had with a friend. His wife was pregnant with their second child and he said the main on reason to have kids was to have someone to take care of you when you got older. I sort of blanched at him- I mean- this was the early 2000’s. I don’t think that’s the reason you have kids, but he was clear. Kids take care of their aging parents. If they don’t, who will?

What sort of expectation should a parent have of how much support their children will give?

Now let’s segue just a little. As we age, should there be provisions in our living will as to how we want the remaining years of our lives to play out? Should I just give power of attorney to my daughter if I reach 80? Should there be some sort of clause that if my mental capacities diminish to the extent that I am walking around my apartment building knocking on doors saying my son was kidnapped, I must be put into a facility for those with diminishing faculties? Legally, are there things that we should have in place? We all know about DNR’s, but that’s specifically for end of life. What about when there is life still left?

As we deal with a rather large aging population, what should we do?

 

59 thoughts on “Who is Responsible

  1. No hard and fast rules, of course. Every situation is different. Every set of problems is different. No, you can’t force children to look after their parents – they may not be able to, anyway. Morally, they are certainly obligated to do their best for them, but that can take all sorts of forms. It’s a tricky one indeed.

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  2. That is funny about your father in law and OTB. I always enjoy how honest you are! Even if your husband reads your blog! Sometimes as I get older, I have had people ask me if I regretted not having children and insinuated no one would take care of me. Well, I don’t suppose nor do I want the stepson or daughter to take care of me. Noticing the lack of attention paid to their dogs gave me this clear idea that my husband and I are better off taking care of ourselves. Thanks for listening!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! I could write an entire blog of my own on this – discussing the legal duties versus the ethical and moral duties. And throw in the historical context for fun. Not all state laws are the same so I can only give you generalities based upon my state and the majority of jurisdictions. In the 1800’s women and children were considered to be property. It was an “excusable homicide” to kill your children as long as it was in the act of discipline. Let that sink in for a moment. Now we have legal obligations to care for our children until they are emancipated, and we are subject to mandatory reporting, even if a child gets hurt in an accident. Other than that, there is what is called the “no-duty” rule. No person has any “legal duty” to assist anyone else in any manor. If a someone is drowning in a swimming pool, and it’s not your own underage child, you have no legal duty to help – at all – you can walk on by. If you do try to help, then you have committed yourself to a legal duty to act within a certain standard of care. Good Samaritan laws elevate this standard to gross negligence in an attempt to encourage people to help others. Legally speaking, you have no duty to help your aging parents. Unless you have accepted a legal duty as a guardian or a conservator. Morally, I would argue that you do. They took care of us for some 18 to 20 years of our lives and gave us a start – some parents obviously better than others. But our current society teaches people to be selfish. It also discourages people from examining death or even adequately preparing for it. So I’ll reduce this to a single word – love. If you love someone, you help them. I loved my parents and my brothers and I helped take care of them in their final years and when they passed. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. But I believe there is an obligation there. If the care required is more than be delivered by family, then you make arrangements and bring in other assistance. I can also argue that as an aging person I still have a duty to my children, if I don’t want to burden my children as I near death. I can take a hike into the wilderness and not come back. I would do that out of love as well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Great answer! This topic is just chock full of land mines. I appreciate the moral and ethical dilemma, I appreciate the cost….I just don’t know where we go from here with this

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  4. You pose some very interesting , thought provoking questions, thank you for that.
    I cared for my mom in her later years until she passed away in her sleep at age 94. It was my decision. I had no legal obligation to care for her, it was an act of love.
    However, as a similar act of love, I have made arrangements for my own care, if I should require it some day.
    In this act of love, I have freed my son from the feeling that he ” has a responsibility” to care for me. However, he already does many acts of kindness for me. They are done out of love ; however, not a sense of guilt. Thanks, as always ,for your thought-provoking posts which inspire us to think about some serious issues. 🤗

    Liked by 3 people

  5. A fascinating series of posts on the subject of parenting, responsibilities, cultural differences and death LA. I’m having to think carefully as I could write a VERY low essay on the subjects. I recently helped nurse my Dad through dementia. My Mum decided to care for him at home but wasn’t able to do it alone, so there was a large degree of fait acompli about it, made easier as I loved my dear old Dad. My brother was heavily involved too, but two sisters were not. It caused no ill-feeling except when one tried telling us what to do & how. I’m glad I did it, even though there was a huge cost – for my mental & physical health, as well as financial (I had to put my new business on hold at a critical time). But my Mum assumed that her kids would step up to the plate as she’s anglo-Indian and having children in order to be taken care of in your old age is how it goes out there. I would rather my daughter wasn’t burdened with it – the taking care of me, the having to make decisions about my well-being, my ending, any of it. With dementia on both sides of my family, I would love to be able to sign a legally binding advance directive which says when I get it, take me to Dignitas and end it. But the law doesn’t allow it. And once you lose your marbles, it’s too late.

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    1. That’s the whole thing that boggles me…once you’ve lost your faculties, what are the steps that need to be taken? I really don’t want my daughter to be faced with decisions about me, but what do we need to do

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      1. I have the same concern as my daughter is an only child too. Even though my father was a practical man and insisted we put in place a Power of Attorney for him before his mental health declined, even when activated it only allowed us to make decisions such as having a DNR in place in case of hospitalisation. But in terms of dementia, there was nothing we could do in law, except to provide care – for Dignitas and the like will not touch anyone whose mental capacity is diminished (for elder abuse reasons). Until the law permits that advance directive over dementia, there’s no option – which I hate. It leaves me with the option of taking my own life before I lose my marbles & thus losing precious time with my daughter and grandchild, or leave her with the problem. It’s a rotten situation.

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  6. I suspect that if your parents treated you fairly as a child you’ll help them as they age without a second thought. I also imagine the reverse is true; if your parents neglected you or used you as a pawn then helping them as they age might not be the thing you’ll do. Karma, anyone?

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  7. Expect my kids to care for me- no.
    Hope that they might offer- maybe. There’s a huge ? with that one. Am I sick, facing dementia, financially burdened, just lonely… I am of the opinion that unless there was no other choice or one of them really wanted to take me in, then I suspect I would feel like a burden, and I don’t want that. They don’t owe me a home or financial support.
    We’ve had old age and end of life conversations many times, and will continue to do so as aging isn’t going to stop.
    Secretly, my biggest worry… that the oldest daughter will feel obligated to not only take me in at some point, but will also feel obligated to care for her aging (and I presume really ill father based on his current lifestyle) and I will find myself living once more under the same roof as my ex-husband! 😦

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  8. There is no one size fits all with this topic. I think there is probably a moral responsibility involved, maybe. But what’s say the parent in question was the shittiest parent to that child? Say the child grows up and divorces him or herself from the parent completely and has no contact with the parent whatsoever? People are then going to assume something of this individual without having that context.

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    1. Agreed. Society might condemn the child for not caring, but should they care? If they were never taken care of, whether it be emotionally, mentally or intellectually, what is the course of action? As I stated last week, no good decision was ever formed of guilt

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  9. Again, no simple/single answer to your thought provoking post. My only question is, when the old parent is not looked after by the children do they give away ( after the parent’s death) the parent’s house/savings/ other valuables to the care-givers, or do they take it all for themselves?

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      1. Doesn’t seem fair to me that the children can’t take care of their parents but are quite willing to enjoy their money.
        Such things are not unheard of here, too, and I wonder how such offspring manage to sleep peacefully.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, what if the parent wasn’t a very good parent? Abusive? Substance abuser? Left the child and had estranged relationship? And if the parent had enough money, they probably could hire some sort of help. It’s tough

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      3. You’re right, it is tough. I assume that if the parent was abusive etc the relationship with the children would have ended earlier itself. Also, these are exceptions. I’m talking about the caring parents who have done everything possible for their children, who love their grandchildren, who find themselves alone in their time of need. Children of such parents must look after them. Surely family is more important than anything else? My paternal grandmother ( who lived with us till her death) developed Alzheimer’s. My mother looked after her, as well as her own mother. Sure, there were tough times, too. She also managed to read, garden and translate books. When I stayed with them my parents went on short holidays. A family chips in.

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      4. I think some are closer to their families than others. My sister lives across the country and has a young child. There is no way she would ever move back here. It’s all hard and every situation is unique

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  10. I have so many issue with the concept of ANY family “obligation”. No one has any requirements to do or behave in a certain way to others just because you share some bits of DNA. I currently don’t speak to anyone I share DNA with except my kids and a cousin for a huge number of reasons. That won’t change if someone gets too old to take care of themselves for any reason. This may seem harsh, but it is the truth. I don’t OWE anybody anything. Having kids is a choice. How you treat them and raise them is also a choice and you live with the consequences of those choices, good or bad.

    That said, if you have a good relationship with family and you WANT to help them, then by all means, absolutely do so. My FIL has made all kinds of arrangements to ensure that his kids mostly won’t have to take care of him if he can’t care for himself. We will be doing the same for our kids as we get older, making it clear that they have no obligations to care for us, but that we would love it if they want to still be around no matter the circumstances.

    For me, it is about care and love and trust. If you trust your kids to make decisions for you and they are willing to carry that burden, then that is fine. If not, it is up to you or even the state if it comes to that, to do so.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My parents have been very proactive in preparing for their older years,and I’m thankful for that. But it’s an issue for all of us to a certain extent, because there is a large senior population now

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  11. I think it depends on the situation. I do believe that adult children should take responsibility for their aging parents. But what if they never took care of you? What if you live thousands of miles away and they are not willing to move? What if you are raising your grandchildren and don’t have the room? What if you are struggling to make ends meet and are working two jobs and don’t have the extra time or money? I don’t think there is an easy answer. I’m sure this also causes a lot of sibling fights too if one is doing more than the other. I would love to have at least one of my kids care for me but I don’t want to make their lives difficult doing so. I do think about this more as my parents are starting to get elderly. Not only that but also my disabled brother they are caring for as well. I should say that I am trying not to think about it. It is quite overwhelming.

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    1. It’s very overwhelming. I totally ge5 what you’re saying. My sister lives across the country so I know care will fall to me. My parents are very logical though in their approach to aging, and they’ve tried to get things in as much order as possible. But who knows?

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  12. We are dealing with my 96 year old mom who up until now has been living on her own and doing well – even driving! – but recently has had several medical issues which make living on her own not an option anymore. My sister has just relocated to our state (about two hours away from where we are) and has gotten a home big enough to accommodate mom BUT is charging her rent which is a source of conflict as to the amount (we think it is too much and not leaving mom with anything for “incidentals” so she won’t have to dip into her savings anymore). My sister believes that because she will be taking mom to the library, doctors, etc. that her “time is valuable.” I’ve been taking my mom (she lives 5 minutes away) to the library, grocery store, spent the night with her after some surgical procedures, checked on her daily, cooked for her and done her laundry, all without charging anything. Is my time not as valuable as my sisters? I even have paid to have her on our cellphone plan for the last 10 years so that she would have a phone with her in case of emergency when she was out. I did it willingly because of all the things my mom has done for us over the years. Also, my sister and her husband are vegan and she told my mom she would not have meat or animal products in her house. We (the rest of the family) think that it is ridiculous to restrict mom’s diet at this point. My sister made it clear as well that if mom gets to the point where she needs diapers or more “hands on” attention, she will need to go to a nursing home. Mom is grateful to have a place to go to because she knows she can’t stay by herself anymore and is agreeing to these changes because she is afraid that if she says no my sister won’t take her in and she doesn’t want to make her mad since she will be living there. If we had the room in our house we would take her in and while we would ask for some money, it would definitely not be as much as my sister is charging. So then the question is what is her quality of life going to be like?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You bring up many valid points. How does the money work in situations such as this? How do family member dive up things without resentment or overstepping or whatever? There’s no one size fits all solution because every situation is unique

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  13. My husband and I recently drew up our wills, we knew that we should have done it long ago it nevertheless was like a punch in the gut. We did the basics, beside the will me had the health care proxy done and the durable power of attorney. We are the first for eachother then it goes to one of the children. I did not have children so they could take care of me, but it does make you wonder about people who have no children. We took care of my mother and for the most part is was a good solution, but it also let the other members of the family off the hook so to speak. They were only present at big occasions and even then not regularly. Money is a big part of this, if you have not put aside enough to take care of yourself then you may have to rely on others, and you have the feelings that you are a charity case. At the end my mother took out her frustrations on me and I did have a sounding board in the form of my sister, but no actual help. What worked for us would not work for all, but more people are looking into in-law apartments or “granny flats” what an awful sounding term. Also have you noticed that it is mostly mothers?

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  14. Interesting question for sure. My parents, mostly my mom took care of all 4 of my grandparents with things they couldn’t do for themselves. The needs were short lived and I even did a little bit. She died young, shortly after her own father, who was the last of the four.
    I’ve set things up so that my children won’t have to do anything. If any of them want to, fine, but I wanted to know I’d be taken care of regardless. If I hadn’t had children, imagine how much more money I’d have to put those pieces in place. Definitely not a reason to have children.

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  15. It’s like this
    Children are not obligated to take care of their parents.
    Children are the parents responsibility.
    But as parents age, children try and be there for their parents whenever possible.
    Children shouldn’t feel pressure to take care of their parents but children should help out whenever they can as parents begin to age.

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  16. I took care of my mother and it was a healing time for me. We had a good relationship but there were some issues from childhood. I am thankful I had the opportunity. For ourselves, if one can afford it, you can purchase long term care insurance that will pay for in home care. I have friends in their 80s who have planned so that they could stay at home as long as possible.In my experience, parents seldom want to leave their home. That may be why your neighbor remains in her apartment. For me, I have told our daughter that if I have diminished mental capacity, I know she will make decisions based on love, and to never feel guilty about them.

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  17. I think that is a question that each of us has to answer for ourselves. Personally, I am supporting my mother, both financially and with my time and energy. My sisters don’t help a lot, although the one who is out of town does far more than the one who lives in the same town my mom and I both live in. (I don’t blog about this, as they both read my blog, but hey, I can say it here!) My mom and I were never super close growing up, and I am probably the least favorite of her daughters.
    But I have decided that none of that matters. I am doing for her what I really believe is the right thing, and I sleep well at night because of it. And you know what? In these past ten years, I have gotten to know her far better than I ever did before, and we are closer than we ever were before. When she’s gone, I’ll remember that. And be grateful for this time in our lives.

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    1. It’s an individual decision, and one that clearly works for you. I think we each need to do what’s in our hearts, what will makes us sleep better at night. I understand those who support their parents as I understand those who choose not to.

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