caring for elderly parents

What do grown children owe their parents? Do adult children owe their parents for what they’ve done while growing up? What does honor thy father and honor thy mother really mean? What are the duties

taking-care-of-elderly-parents-thumbnail-2 What do grown children owe their parents? Do adult children owe their parents for what they’ve done while growing up? What does honor thy father and honor thy mother really mean? What are the duties and responsibilities towards elderly parents by their children, and how do these responsibilities relate to the scriptural requirement to cleave in a marriage relationship?

The challenges of parenting parents in their advanced years can often cause personal and financial problems in marriages and families, but it’s a shame when grown children use the word “owe” when discussing how or IF they will provide care for their aging parents, as if what parents do for their children while raising them is somehow a debt that must be repaid in full.

Some children have grown up in abusive or neglectful homes, using those past experiences and memories as an excuse not to help or assist in providing needed care and attention to their elderly parents, with the selfish attitude of “I didn’t ask to be born” or, “I don’t have to take care of my parents because of x, y, z done to me while growing up”.

Caring For Elderly Parents

Getting along with aging parents can be a challenge, and you don’t have to be part of the Sandwich Generation to appreciate the difficulties and conflicts that sometimes arise in marriages and families while taking care of mom and/or dad. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Throughout our own lives and the lives of parents, genuine forgiveness for past hurts and misdeeds is a sign of maturity and good character as opposed to holding onto a lifelong grudge that hurts no one but you.

Jane English, a philosophy professor at the University of North Carolina, was asked the question “What do grown children owe their parents?” English’s response was “nothing”, arguing that “grown children have no filial obligations to their parents, but that there are things that children ought to do for their parents, but they do not owe them things”.

Caring for aging or elderly parents is not so much a question of whether the aged generation should be taken care of, but more of a question of who should take care of them. Isn’t caring for elderly parents just the right and moral thing for their children and families to do?

Don’t we all hope that when we are old and needing help of some kind that our children would without question or a moments hesitation be willing to come to our aid, rather than having the attitude of “owing” such help? Or worse, completely ignore the parent’s plea for help or need of help, and simply decide to let the state or society handle their care.

Honor Thy Father and Mother

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults says “children owe their parents respect, gratitude, just obedience and assistance” as part of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. The commandment says to “Honor thy father and mother…that thou mayest live long on the earth.” Nowhere in the text does it say “Honor thy father and mother” IF:

  1. If they are good parents…
  2. If they stay together in marriage until death do them part…or
  3. If they did everything right as parents or as individuals, etc.

Nor does it say that children owe their parents love, which is another common excuse used by adult children not wishing to provide care for their parents saying, “I don’t love my parents so I don’t need to do anything for them”. The scriptural text simply and clearly states that children are to honor their parents. To Honor means “to dignify; to raise to distinction or notice; to bestow honor upon; to elevate in rank or station; to ennoble; to exalt; to glorify; hence, to do something to honor; to treat in a complimentary manner or with civility”.

Taking care of elderly parents is primarily the responsibility and moral obligation of families and the individual needing care, and the state can assist as needed. There are state programs available that may be able to provide financial assistance by paying caregivers or family members that are having difficulty in dealing with elderly parents and the increasing need for care that can become quite costly.


The definition of cleave is “to adhere closely; to stick; to hold fast; to cling” and, “to unite or be united closely in interest or affection; to adhere with strong attachment”. So, how do you balance “leave and cleave” with honoring your parents at the same time? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24)

The parent-child relationship is the temporary one…there will be a “leaving.” The husband-wife relationship is the permanent one (let not man put asunder-Matthew 19:6). When an adult child has gotten married and the parent/child relationship remains primary or the first priority, the newly formed marital union is seriously threatened.

Cleaving indicates such intimate closeness that there is to be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent. They are to become “one flesh”. When a parent deliberately or unknowingly violates the biblical principles found in Genesis 2:24, they should be respectfully disobeyed. It is necessary to distinguish real physical and emotional needs from the “felt needs” of an overbearing, meddling, controlling and demanding parent.

Whether or not there is good relationship between grown children and their parents, there is still the need to provide care for elderly parents in order to lead a truly peaceful, happy and contented life, but also because St. Peter may call your name one day as well as mine, and the choices we all make in life will determine if we’re on St. Peter’s list or not.

Related Posts:

Caring For Our Elderly Parents
One Flesh in Marriage
What Parents Owe Their Children
Taking Care of Aging Parents as a Family
Can I Get Paid to Care for a Family Member: Mother or Father?
What Does it Mean to Leave and Cleave in Traditional Wedding Vows?
Taking a Bite Out of the Sandwich Generation

Categories: Children, Death, Elderly, Family, Health, Marriage, Men, Parenting, Relationships, Religion, Teenagers, Women – Tags: caring for elderly parents, cleave, honor thy father, honor thy mother, parenting parents, taking care of elderly parents, what do grown children owe their parents, what grown children owe their parents

caring-for-elderly-parents-thumbnail-3 Caring for aging parents can be challenging and difficult at times, but it is also an honor and privilege to do so, as well as a God-given responsibility for everyone in the family. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”. (1 Timothy 5:8 New American Standard Bible)

Taking care of the needs of elderly parents can also put a strain on marriages unless clear boundaries are set and adhered to, along with getting the supportive help and assistance of all siblings, children and grandchildren. Not only is it important and necessary to care for aging parents, but it is just as important to care for the needs of your own immediate family, such as the husband/wife relationship and that of any children.

The aging parent/child relationship cannot and must not supersede the relationship between husband and wife as first priority, as this goes against the marriage vows spoken before God and witnesses to “leave and cleave unto each other”, thereby creating needless stress and strain on the marital relationship. It is extremely important to understand the difference between caring for needs versus wants, as taking care of elderly parents can often lead adult children to become enablers of their own parents without realizing it.

Some elderly parents can be very difficult to deal with, perhaps even controlling and manipulative, in a selfish attempt to dictate the lives and activities of family members. Some may even claim they are unable to care for basic needs such as fixing themselves a sandwich, when in reality they are fully capable physically and mentally, but choose to expect family members to cater to their every want and whim.

What is an Elderly Parent?

How do you know when your aging parent is in need of help? What signs are there to indicate it may be time to step in and help your parents? Specifying a particular age to signify an “aging” or “elderly parent” would be meaningless, because each person is different in their abilities and health as they enter their advancing years. One elderly parent may be in their early 60’s when needing help, while another parent may not need help until well into their 70’s or 80’s.

Becoming keenly aware of a parents ability to fulfill the basics of living such as bathing and grooming, preparing meals, caring for household chores, doing laundry, remembering and paying bills as needed, shopping, driving skills etc, are all telltale signs of whether a parent may be in need of some assistance.

Caring for an elderly parent encompasses responsibilities from the very basic needs of living, to dealing with physical and mental health problems (such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia), insurance and long-term care, where a parent will live when no longer able to live alone, discussing the parents wishes and desires if incapacitated or unable to make coherent decisions, and much more.

Talking With an Aging Parent

While it is certainly advantageous and recommended for a parent to make plans for their own care before an emergency or serious health problems occur, adult children must often take on the weighty responsibility of caregiver before becoming fully informed of everything involved with caring for an aging parent.

It is then necessary for the family, especially grown adult children to have a family meeting with the parents to ask questions well before an emergency situation arises, gather and save necessary documents (financial, insurance, wills, etc) regarding what needs there are or will be at some point in the future.

  • Who will be the primary caregiver?
  • What role will others in the family play in caring for the parent or Grandparent?
  • What can teenagers and younger family members do to help?
  • Are there any signs that some help is needed now? What are they?
  • What responsibilities can be shared, and by whom?
  • Is there a need to supervise medications, shopping, doctor visits, etc?
  • Is there a list of assets and their value? If so, where is it?
  • Is there a will, a living will, medical directive, power of attorney? If so, where?
  • Location of birth certificates, social security card, marriage and/or divorce certificates, education and military records.
  • Is there a private pension, what is the amount, is it directly deposited? Where?
  • Are there Social Security payments? How much? How is it deposited?
  • Is there a list of all bank accounts, CD’s, safety deposit boxes, IRA’s, stocks, etc? Where?
  • What debts are there? Mortgages, credit cards, car payment?
  • Is there adequate medical insurance? Long-term care insurance? Medicare? Medicaid? Prescription plan?
  • Has anyone consulted with an elder-care attorney?
  • Can the elderly parent live alone? Where will the parent live if unable to live alone?
  • What about an Independent Living or Assisted Living facility, or a Nursing Home?
  • What medications are being taken, and in what dosage? By prescription or over the counter?
  • Are there any prepaid funeral expenses? Prepaid burial plot? Are there any specific funeral arrangements desired?
  • What are the parent’s wishes regarding when to issue or agree to a “Do Not Resuscitate” order, also known as a D.N.R.?
  • Is an Obituary notice in the newspaper desired? How much does it cost? (Some newspapers offer this as a complimentary service, while others charge hundreds of dollars for a two-inch block of text).
  • Is there a preferred funeral home? Should there be a viewing? Who will deliver the eulogy?
  • Is cremation desired? Are there any specific wishes regarding the funeral service?

These are just some of the many questions that must be asked and respectfully discussed with the parent, allowing the aging parent to retain as much as control as possible over their own care and needs. Educate yourself on legal, financial and medical matters that relate to your parent and the aging process prior to having the family meeting, being sure to include information and facts learned to the discussion.

While you may feel somewhat nervous about discussing death with a loved one, you may be surprised to find that most elderly people are not afraid to talk about it and will appreciate your willingness to carry out their wishes.

Helping Aging Parents as a Family Unit

The entire family is responsible for caring for the numerous and sometimes difficult demands of an aging parent, including young members of the family. Too often this responsibility is placed solely on the shoulders of one adult child, while others in the family shirk their duty to be supportive and helpful in the process.

Baby Boomers are now caring for their parents, in what has been called the Sandwich Generation, while at the same time trying to care for their own children, household chores, jobs and marriages. Regardless of how far away from their parents that adult children and grandchildren live, each member of the family needs to do everything within their power to help care for the needs of Grandma or Grandpa.

Making regular phone calls, sending cards and letters, scrapbook collections and photo’s of fun and happy times, occasional gifts “just because” or to say “I love you” are all things even younger children and teenagers can do to help support the family’s caring for the elderly grandparent. Distance is no excuse to leave all the responsibility to the sibling living closest to the parent.

Think of all the various household chores that are necessary in your own home, and that many families share in, to keep a home clean and in good working order. All of these and more are required to care for elderly parents and grandparents too. Teenagers and younger children can help Grandma and Grandpa with dusting, vacuuming, doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, calling on the phone, drawing pictures and cards, playing board games, etc according to their individual abilities. Helping in these ways allows grown adults the time to care for more difficult and time-consuming responsibilities like heavy yard work, car repairs and maintenance, grocery shopping, making sure bills have been paid, etc.

By working together as a family, being supportive and helpful in caring for the many needs of the elderly parent, families will have the joy and pleasure of knowing that their efforts were greatly appreciated by the aging parent or grandparent, as well as knowing that they fulfilled the requirement to “honor your father and mother” while they were alive.

Related Post:

Can I Get Paid to Care For a Family Member?
Nursing Home Rating System Worrying Nursing Home Industry
Caring For Our Elderly Parents
Taking a Bite Out of The Sandwich Generation

Categories: Children, Death, Elderly, Family, Health, Marriage, Men, Parenting, Relationships, Religion, Teenagers, Women – Tags: baby boomers, caring for aging parents, caring for elderly parents, elderly parents causing strain in marriage, questions to ask elderly parent, sandwich generation, signs elderly parent needs help, taking care of aging parents, talking with an elderly parent

siamese-twins-1I spent weeks upon weeks researching a variety of topics relating to caring for our elderly parents. As important as it is to lovingly take care for our elderly aging parents, it is also a daunting task at best. While researching the various aspects and responsibilities involved with caring for elderly parents, I was surprised to find little information regarding the care of elderly parents who, due to their own personalities and tendencies, make it extremely difficult if not impossible to have the parent living in your home.

There is a vast array of information, including message boards, that discuss in great detail the importance of providing all the necessary medical attention to our parents, being sure that their medications are being taken, in the right amounts, and at the right times.There’s also much information on giving our elderly parents our time and attention, involving them in a variety of activities in and out of the home, being sure to create and allow for opportunities where our parent can assist with a variety of tasks, whether it be helping prepare or cook a meal, picking up around the house, gardening, etc.

There is also no shortage of posts on message boards and blogs alike wherein writers are barraged with respondents comments about how “unloving, uncaring, unappreciative” some writers supposedly are when commenting on the difficulties they face while fulfilling their responsibilities towards elderly parents.

Caring for Elderly Parents is a Family Responsibility

We will all be old one day. We all will want and need our children to help us, care for us, love us, be attentive towards us, help with our “needs”, when the time comes that we are deemed an “elderly parent.” We all hope that our children will render us this needed love and care, putting aside any old hurts or slights of the past. Unfortunately, some people choose to hold onto old memories of previous hurts and perhaps even devastating traumas from childhood, choosing not to forgive and forget, but continuing to hold it against their parent/parents as an excuse to forfeit their responsibilities towards their now elderly parent.

Often this leaves most, if not all, the responsibilities on another sibling to carry the heavy and oftentimes burdensome load of providing care for their parents. Some even go so far as to move away so as to make it appear that they “just live too far away”, when in reality they never intended to help in the first place.

Young Children Can Help Too

Although I do believe that the adult children carry primary responsibility to care for their elderly parents, I also believe there is much to be accomplished with the assistance of grandchildren with respect to their age and abilities. Making it a point to keep in close contact with their grandparents, making regular phone calls and visits, sending cards if for no reason other than to say, “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you”.

There is an abundance of opinion on whether to have elderly parents living with you in your home or a nursing home. Although this is a personal decision for each family, carefully considering all possibilities, the pro’s and con’s of such a venture, sometimes it is determined not to be in the best interests of the family as a whole. It is of this perspective and opinion that I write today.

On two separate occasions, lasting about a year and a half each time, my husband and I and his father lived together. Initially, we all lived together in my father in-law’s house. The floor plan provided private quarters for us, our room and bathroom on the opposite side of the house from his. Being newlyweds that believe in the premise of leave and cleave, we needed some time to be alone, to become accustomed to each other’s ways, and to settle into married life. My mother in-law had passed away in 1998, three years prior to my meeting my now-husband, having been married over fifty years to my father in-law. It quickly became apparent that having much time alone with my husband would be virtually impossible.

Over a period of time, I began to refer to my husband and his father as “Siamese Twins”, attached at the hip by an invisible umbilical cord. Every step my husband took, my father in-law was in close pursuit. It mattered not if my husband were going from the living room to the front door, from the kitchen to the den, from outside the house to inside the house, to or from the car. “Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went…., everywhere that Mary went, her sheep was sure to go.”

Doing For Themselves If Capable

My father in-law is a capable man. He is capable of fixing himself something to eat, even if just a sandwich. But, he won’t. He wants and expects someone/anyone, preferably my husband, to do it for him, as my mother in-law had done for the many years of their marriage. This attitude did not sit well with me or my husband, as we firmly believe that my father in-law should do for himself what he is capable of and not expect to be catered to the rest of his life.

The energy and exertion expelled to go to the pantry and retrieve cookies, brownies, Ding-Dong’s etc, is better used slapping two slices of bread together, with cold-cuts and cheese in between. To suggest such an absurd notion inevitably leads to a staring contest, followed by his quick exit with sugar-coated goodies stuffed into both hands.

Maintaining privacy was often a matter of discord, as we would return home from work to find “evidence” that someone had been in our bedroom. Items moved around in dresser drawers, desk drawers, files disrupted. After several attempts to resolve these bothersome problems, we decided to move and got our own apartment.

A few months later my father in-law sold his house, and reluctantly moved in with his daughter, the eldest of the two children. For several months, phone calls were exchanged between my husband and his sister, with her explaining the same behaviors and problems we found to be so unbearable. It was creating problems for her family and marriage, as it had done to us, and we understood all too well what she was dealing with.

Strain On Marriages and Biblical Requirements

A few months later, my father in-law privately begged my husband to allow him to move back in with us, our having just bought a house with rooms to spare. Thinking my husband had experienced temporary insanity at the mere suggestion, I made my displeasure and disagreement crystal clear. Perhaps it was the fierce expression on my face; or perhaps it was my sounding like a screaming banshee; or maybe the sound of a door slamming behind me. Nevertheless, we discussed it when my blood pressure returned to normal, and determined we would allow my father in-law to move in with us again, only with some firm stipulations.

It was to be understood that although he would be living with us in our house, that he was to lead his own life, come and go as he pleased, go and do things/visit with friends etc, fix himself something to eat when hungry (unless we were obviously already preparing a family meal), clean up after himself, do his own laundry etc. But, no more catering to his wants and whims.

Need I continue? Ask any of my friends, co-workers or family, and they will tell you that I am normally “cool and collected” or “even-keeled”. It takes a lot to make me blow my stack, but if pushed to that point, look out. It didn’t take long at all to find that the attitude and behaviors were not going to change, that my father in-law would not follow any of the stipulations set for him.

My husband and I actually began timing how many minutes it would take before my father in-law would appear wherever we were, trying to have a private conversation. Two minutes maximum. I began to search for our marriage decree, so I could look to see if someone had secretly added my father in-law’s name to the marriage document next my husband’s name.

I normally was the first person to get home after work, and within a few minutes, my father in-law was checking his watch and looking to see if I was about to begin rattling pans in the kitchen, since he “hadn’t eaten all day long”. After finishing dinner, while my husband and I began to clean up the kitchen and load the dishwasher, my father in-law would inevitably make his quick exit to ‘parts unknown’, or right back in front of the television where he’d been all day.

Maintaining Privacy and Independent Living

Any attempt on our part to retrieve the remote and switch channels (it was always on some sort of sports show), would be met with heavy sighs and protests “I was watching that!”. We were guests in our own house. We continued to find that “someone” was rummaging in dresser drawers, private files in the office, and various other intrepid explorations throughout the house.

My father in-law is now eighty-four years young, and for the last year or so he’s been living in an Independent Living apartment on his own, a few short miles from our house. We visit him often, have him over for dinner often, pick him up and take him out to dinner often, have him over to spend the night every couple of weeks, but it’s never enough.

We filled his freezer with healthy, frozen meals, that he only needs to nuke in the microwave for a few minutes. They are all still there in his freezer, left untouched to this day. We keep him supplied with bread, cold-cuts, cheese, fruit, healthy cereals, etc, a fully-stocked refrigerator. Healthy, fresh foods rot and sit waiting for “someone” to throw it out. He is fully capable, physically capable, mentally capable, of fixing himself healthy meals. But, he won’t. A few days ago, he told me that he wants my husband to move in with HIM. That isn’t happening.

Further Reading-

Taking Care of Aging Parents as a Family

One Flesh In Marriage

Caring For Our Elderly Parents

(Photo by “Ratticus”)

Categories: Children, Elderly, Family, Health, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Religion – Tags: caring for elderly parents, family responsibility in caring for elderly, independent living, role of family in caring for elderly, senior living options

elderlycoupleinloveWhile researching the topic of providing care for our elderly parents throughout the day today, it quickly became obvious that there are very strong opinions on the subject. Googling the topic with a variety of keywords inevitably brought me search results of message boards where one or more people were expressing their personal difficulties with having their elderly parent or elderly in-law living in their home.

Respondents were often quite hostile with their responses to the writer, while others bantered on and on, some quoting scripture about Honoring our parents. Those that weighed in with hostility were quick to judge the writer as being “cruel”, “uncaring”, “unloving”, “unappreciative”, and generally a louse of monumental proportion.

I find it peculiar that complete strangers, reading a brief synopsis of the writers rendition of his anguish and difficult struggle in dealing with matters involving caring for an elderly parent, would so vehemently attack and judge the writer as cruel, uncaring, unloving etc. Most peculiar was that so many respondents mentioned in their reply that “although I am not yet in your shoes”, or “I’m not in your situation….But”.

Who are they to then judge and ridicule someone who has been, or is currently handling such weighty matters in their homes? It’s so easy to judge others decisions, until we find ourselves in those same shoes.

There are obviously many things to consider when it comes to deciding how to care for our elderly parents. Whether the parent lives with you in your home, in their own home, in Independent Living, Assisted Living, or a Nursing Home, what is ultimately decided must be in the best interests of everyone involved. There are advantages and disadvantages to each scenario that much carefully be considered.

Each person involved should have ample opportunity to voice their concerns and wishes, and for those to be seriously considered. Ultimately, it is a personal family matter, and no one should judge the decision made.

One area of great concern for many is the hardship and strain placed on marriages, some being very new marriages, as was the case of the writer mentioned at the outset of this post. Others are families with children of varying ages and needs of their own. Bringing an elderly parent into the home of a newly married couple, where couples are still getting accustomed to each others’ ways, can create tremendous strain on the marriage.

These couples stood before God and witnesses at their wedding, while the minister preached about the importance of leaving and cleaving unto each other and what that means for the success of their marriage. This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent.

Established families with children must put their spouse and any children as priority, while at the same time caring for the needs of elderly parents. Caring for the needs of elderly parents should not be to the extent where the spouse and children feel neglected or forgotten, perhaps due to extreme amounts of time and attention being given to the elderly parents.

When there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being seriously threatened and is unbiblical.

The line is drawn when one is being asked to comply with one biblical principle in such a way that it violates another principle or command. When the meddling of a parent violates the “leaving” because it is treating the parent-child relationship as primary (demanding obedience, dependence, or emotional oneness over the desires/dependence/oneness with the spouse), it should be respectfully rejected and the spouse’s desires honored. However, when there are genuine needs of an aging parent, (assuming the “need” does not supersede the “leaving” principle), the need is to be met.

One must distinguish biblical physical and emotional needs from the “felt needs” or “wants and whims” of an overbearing, demanding parent. Those on the outside looking in, ignorant and perhaps inexperienced in these matters, should not criticize or harshly judge others who make a family decision that does not match their own.

How to Care For Aging Parents
Taking Care of Aging Parents as a Family
Nursing Home Rating System Worrying Nursing Home Industry
One Flesh In Marriage
What Does It Mean To “Leave and Cleave”?

Categories: Children, Elderly, Family, Health, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Religion – Tags: adult children responsibility to parents, caring for elderly parents, parenting elderly parents