Shouldn't elderly parents always be focused on what is best for their adult children?


In a recent discussion here on this website, the above question was raised by an adult child. In the name of "love" this sounds like a noble thought at first. I would like to address it here and open it up for others to consider.

Historically, our nation's culture and legal system was based on tenets of the Bible such as the Ten Commandments. One of those commandments is, "Honor your father and mother that your days may be long on the land which the Lord your God has given you." It is the first commandment with a promise attached. If we honor our parents (culturally), it will result in a longer life in our homeland. (I recognize that this promise was given to the Jews by God. But it just as easily could be applied to all of us. There is something special about honoring our parents. It doesn't mean we have to always agree with them, of course.)

I have observed that life seems to be like the seashore, the waves coming in against the shore, and then leaving again, over and over. Cycles or seasons of life, so to speak. You may have heard or read another verse in the Bible: "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Our lives seem to have seasons or cycles, such as: a time to be born, a time to be dependent and be nourished by others, a time to grow physically and mentally, a time to give and contribute and struggle, a time to look inward, a time to be dependent again, a time to let go.

No one likes to be dependent on others as an adult. Aged parents don't want to be dependent on their children, nor do we want to admit that we need their help. And adult children are in the thick of life trying to raise a family, build a career or at least hold down a job to support their families, etc. BUT life has a different plan and, more often that not, interrupts our preconceived ideas and forces us to confront ourselves.

Nothing on this earth is permanent, except perhaps, love. So, through the various seasons of our lives, where does love fit in? What does it look like? What does it do? How does it act and think? What is life demanding of us? How do we respond? What are our responsibilities through and within each stage of our lives and the lives of those we say we love? And finally, are we willing to grow? Are we willing to be responsive, to be molded and changed, even into our old age?

And the final question might be: "What's it all about, Alfie?" What is the purpose of life, of living?

If we do not confront these questions in our culture, society, and within ourselves, we will eventually become more like Nazi Germany was prior to and during WWII, preferring to euthanize the elderly, the weak, the sick among us rather than learn the deeper lessons of life waiting to be revealed to us.

I have learned that sometimes love has to be tough; more often, it requires great patience, endurance, effort, and forgiveness.

What say you?

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.


I understand ff's question. A few years before I came here, my mother asked me to come home to take care of them. Each time I talked to her she told me that it was probably their last year on earth. My father sat in a chair for the last 20 years of his life and wouldn't go much of anywhere. My mother thought it was a good idea to quit my job and move back here so he wouldn't have to get out of his chair.

When my marriage fell apart and I was working from home, I did come here. There was no place to put anything, so I left everything I owned in TX to move here. As soon as I got here my mother said that God had worked it out that way so I could come home to take care of them. That was not a good thing to say to a person who had just lost everything they had. I doubted seriously that God had hurt me that bad so I could come home and take care of them.

For many people there is a narcissism that comes with old age. What oneofthem wrote about was a spiritual atmosphere of mutual love and respect. That is absent when all vectors are pointing to only one of the members of the caregiving arrangement. I've seen two problematical situations repeatedly on this board. The most common one is when the needs of the elder outweigh those of the caregiver, so the caregiver becomes very small and suffers loss of self esteem. The other is just the opposite and the caregiver blames the elder for the woes of their lives. I think that between adults there needs to be a healthy give and take that comes with recognizing the needs of the other.

I could write a book, but I'll end now. I know I'm preaching at the choir.

That is a rhetorical question, I assume, freqflyer.

But should elderly parents be burying their grown children who have died from the stress of trying to keep working toward their own retirement and going to their 2nd 8 hour job of caring for their parents because said parent refuses to go into a continuing care facility?

Debralee, I do not intend to insult my country. I just warn. Speaking personally, my mother died at 92 with A.D. I am grateful for every moment I had to hold her hand and just be with her. It's been nearly nine years. I still miss her greatly. That hasn't diminished. I think we really can't say that every one with Alzheimer's has an "empty existence." She could respond to my love, even though she may or may not have realized it was me. She responded to love. That's all I can say.

Oneofthem to even imply that American culture will become like the Nazi's in regard to our elderly is so insulting. Religion will not resolve the elderly issues in today's society. The problem is modern medicine is able to keep the body alive way into the elderly years, except the brain. How cruel is it for an elderly individual to live in an empty existence due to Alzheimer/dementia.

Exactly, Jeanne -- in other words, solely focusing on one person (parent/child, child/parent/, spouse/spouse) to the extent that one person's life is greatly diminished over a long span of time, to the extent that the other's health suffers, or finances, etc -- to put it in practical terms, it simply isn't sustainable. It's not a good 'business model'. I think having a healthy life, with healthy relationships, means taking an approach that is ultimately sustainable and respectful of all parties.

{{{jeannegibbs}}} Praying for your son's complete recovery!

I agree with everything said. We walk a fine line at times with so many family dynamics. It truly is all about balance!

My son was stopped to make a left turn on his motorcycle a month ago when a driver looking at a map on his cellphone ran into him, bounced him off the car hood and threw him 80 feet. Son has been in a hospital then a rehab center and is hoping to go home (without being able to stand up yet) later this week.

He has been my major focus for the last month.

I just talked to a certified diabetes educator about my erratic blood sugar levels. I described the stress in my life right now. I told her that I will be spending the weekdays at my son's house while his wife teaches, for a couple of weeks. By that time he MIGHT be able to be weight bearing on his legs and that will change the situation. She asked me what I would do if Son still needed someone with him beyond the two weeks. I told her "Then I will tell them they need to hire someone to do that." She said, "Good! I understand your need to help him and his desire to have his mommy with him, but there has to be a limit to balance your health needs."


I am making some sacrifices for him. He needs me for a limited time. I expect that other adults in our family will make some sacrifices for me as I need them. (They have and do.) But all adults have many focuses in their lives, and it is not fair or appropriate, in my opinion, to expect one adult to give his or her own life to focus exclusively on another adult. Not a parent for a child, and not a child for a parent. Not a spouse for a spouse -- although this is the relationship that should have the strongest claim. We made it freely and assumed responsibilities regarding sickness and health, etc. Even in that relationship it is healthy to seek a balance.

I do, too, JessieBelle (agree with Jeanne that is.) An adult-to-adult relationship between parent and child is the desired outcome, based on mutual love and respect. But that is not always possible either. And at best, it is an extremely stress-filled time for all, especially the primary caregiver, which I have been x2. Thank you for your valuable input.

BTW, that was a huge subject. Forgive the gigantic leaps in the writing.

This discussion has been closed for comment. Start a New Discussion.