How can anyone be "forced" to care for elderly?

Started by

I read post headlines all the time about how someone was "forced"

I can understand how sometimes people make choices in life that leave them unprepared to be independent and thus end up feeling they need to live with an abusive, elderly parent....but that is still not "forced". Merely the end result of bad life choices. Unless they mean that they forced themselves to be in that situation.

My imagination may be lacking....but how is one "forced"? As adults, we can all choose to pickup and leave to have the parent removed from your own home. Sometimes it is just bucking up and not allowing the hospital to discharge back into your home.

Not saying it is ever easy...but it still isnt "forced".


I would say that guilt is the pressing emotion. Guilt that maybe they promised dad they'd never put mom in a home and now she's unable to be cared for---the belief that we can provide better for our elders in their aging--being "hoodwinked" into thinking you might actually be paid for the countless, thankless hours of care you elderly person holding you hostage to a possible "inheritance" if you take them in....

So, no, maybe not "forced" in the sense someone ties you down to it physically--but the emotional aspect of it--also, we make promises to our folks and think they will always be mobile and maybe actually "helpful" and find out pretty darn quick that they require more care than a toddler.

"Force" IS kind of a strong word. Maybe "manipulated?"
Katie, I read that, too, about being "forced". In a way I felt like I was "forced" to care for my very elderly parents being an only child, there was no one to pass the baton onto. And who knew one could set boundaries, as being a caregiver is a whole new journey, trial and error, no mentors to help out, and you are doing things that are beyond your scope of caregiving.   Heck, I didn't even know that caregiving Agencies even existed until I stumbled upon this website :P

Then there are families who decide that "Susie" would be prefect, and at first Susie is fine with the assignment thinking this is going to be easy not realizing all the speed-bumps and detours down this road. Now she is feeling "forced" into a job she never wanted.
People generally say they were forced to do a thing when they didn't like the available alternatives. It may be using the word "force" loosely, but it can still be how it felt to them at the time they were making the choice. And sometimes it's "choice" that should be in inverted commas, instead.

So, for example: your mother falls and breaks her hip and gets it pinned and goes through rehab., and then, when it's time for her to be discharged, the facilities on offer universally suck (and you agree that they suck) and she is terrified and hysterical at the prospect of moving into any of them.

Now while it is perfectly true that one has the choice of folding one's arms and saying 'oh dearie me well you should have thought of that before' and refusing to take her in, most people are too tender-hearted (and given to wishful thinking) to stick to that. They take her in. Yes, they had a choice. Nobody had the power to force them, as such. But it was a pretty lousy choice. At a pinch, I'd agree that they were forced - or at least, I wouldn't quibble.

Where I do quibble is when people then blame other people for the choice they made. So what happens so often is that in the above scenario, 2-6 other children of the elder person head for the hills and aren't seen for dust, and one is left holding the baby (big baby). And if you are the one who wasn't quick enough, you have the right to be unimpressed with your siblings. But not to blame them for the choice that is still yours and yours alone to make.
I'm with you Midkid58. I think guilt plays a big part. And for a lot of daughters and some sons there is an inherent duty and responsibility that is difficult to turn away from.

I can also identify with freqflyer in the sense one does feel some "force" when you are an only child or the oldest of the sibling group.

But like Countrymouse said, I feel as adults we do have right to make choices for ourselves. We should never feel trapped. It was a major error in judgement for me. I did make a choice and yet I also blamed my siblings for not wanting to share the responsibility or showed they cared about me for having it.

Its a tough one. Badly wished I found this site even 5 years ago! What a difference it could have made to me emotionally.
While it's not being forced in the traditional sense of the word - or as in having to physically do it yourself - aren't there states that by law, hold adult children responsible for their parents care?
There are - filial responsibility, isn't it? - and so far they've been applied to very rich adult children who have played the system and run up enormous care bills and expected other people to foot them and then complained when they got sued. Chutzpah!

One can imagine that as economies continue to deteriorate then the state will turn its attention to just averagely comfortable adult children whose parents are legitimately claiming Medicaid, rather than the cheating fat-cats they've gone for so far. Which is more of a worry. Here in the UK we've already had government ministers making noises about families' care responsibilities - purely from a lovin' kindness point of view, nothing to do with free care, of course!
A family caregiver, not properly trained yet held responsible, can be "forced" into caring for a family member when the family member imposes his care on an incapable family by refusing to move to a more suitable setting. Where are the caregiver's legal rights?
Filial responsibility is a financial duty. It doesn't and can't force someone to personally care for someone else. But it can make certain family members accountable for costs of care.

There are always choices about care. Always. Sometimes the alternatives seem totally unacceptable, but they are still there. People who say, "I have to take care of my father, who abused me as a child, because the other children are all MIA, or because I'm an only child, or because he refuses to go to a care center," are wrong. They don't HAVE to take care of that person. It may feel like it to them -- I don't mean they are lying -- and guilt may play a huge role in this, but they are kidding themselves. They cannot be forced to do the hands-on care.

Every now and then I reminded myself that it was my choice to care for my husband at home, and I could make a different choice if I needed to. I think that helped my attitude better than feeling like I "had" to do it.

Oops ... I see that this thread is 4 months old.

Extortion, no one can be "forced" to provide personal hands-on care for another person. There are always choices. If he or she is legally competent they can choose not to go to a care center. And the designated family member who is "supposed" to do the caring can decide not to provide the care. Then the impaired person can hire someone else, get by without help, or decide on a care center.

The caregiver's legal rights are to not be the caregiver. Obviously walking out in the middle of the afternoon and not letting anyone know is a bad choice! But giving notice and involving the appropriate agencies is perfectly legal.

Extortion, browse this forum and you will find MANY posts from family members who do not wish to continue being caregivers, with lots of advice about how to extricate oneself from the situation.
freqflyer, lol :) my name is suzy
Rainmon... Yes, you are correct. One of those states is Tennessee. You live in the same home with the elder or visit frequently, you are defined as the caregiver & responsible.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support