Why does society think we owe our elderly parents?


I always thought it was an obligation for parents to raise their children to become responsible adults and productive members of society. Responsible adult children move out into the world, financially support themselves, raise families of their own and save for their own retirements. Responsible adult children do not live off their parents. Should not elderly parents be required the same responsibilities as their adult children? Adult children were not born to be the salvation for their elderly parents. Caring for elderly parents is a choice not a debt.

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It's our turn to return the favor? I don't feel that my parents were doing me a favor by raising me and feeding me. When my parents were younger they fell in love and got married. They dreamed of having a family so they planned and planned and dreamed and they ended up having 2 children.

Show me one person here who planned and planned and dreamed and dreamed of one day being able to care for their elderly, aging parents.
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I find that usually those who talk about how it's an honor to care for elderly parents are usually those with parents who have means to help with expenses and who are agreeable and easy to live with, for the most part. I worked many, many years to reach my retirement goal and have a decent income and travel. This was something everyone knew, especially my Mom. Still, since I am the child 'without a husband' ... I am stuck. I am angry about this but at the same time I do have so many times I feel sorry for my Mom because she is older and can't do a lot of the things she's used to doing. I have set aside funds to take care of me when I reach that stage but who knows if it will be enough, when I reach that point? I do know for sure it's written in stone that I will NEVER live with one of my children under any circumstances. Three years ago I could have passed for 45 years old and now I'm tired, worn out, no social life, no friends.

An honor to take care of my Mom? Maybe so but I'm not feeling it. Love her ... just not feeling any 'honor.'
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I think that respecting that everyone's situation is different, everyone comes from different family dynamics that each and everyone of us has to respect the circumstances that a person was raised with. I opinion is that yes, our parents should have set money aside for their golden years, either through retirement programs provided from their employers and (back then most employers had a retirement program). There are myriad of way they could have invested money. Today it is different because 1) many employers don't have a good retirement program,2) unlike our parents, we are not able to stay at the same company until we retire, there is downsizing, companies that close their doors and fold up, 3) my parents raised 4 children back in the late 50's thru the 70's and their highest earning wages was $35,000.00. They were able to buy a home contribute to retirement programs or profit sharings so basically they were set for their golden years. 4) we are not living on Walton's Mountain any longer. Woman work because they have to help provide for their immediate family, plan for their own retirement. I believe we are all responsible to provide for our own needs including living in a facility. I know I would not want my children to go bankrupt, lose their marriage or everything they have worked for to take care of me. Does this mean I accept them abandoning me...No! I expect them to advocate on my behalf when I can no longer do it for myself even if I am in an assisted living/memory care community. It means I expect them to help me to see that I am getting good care, they visit regularly and if I am of sound mind, I will see to it myself that I have activities and people I communicate with to spend my time while my children are seeing to their lives, including me in it that is reasonable. I know my daughter will do this, we have discussed it in detail. I send all my time off work helping my mother who has Alzheimer's, is living in AL with her dog. I take her to dr. appt. advocate for her care, visit her regularly,have lunch with her, grocery shop for her, take her dog to the vet, to grooming, do her laundry and myriad of other things to see that mom is comfortable. The difference between having her at home or AL is that now I peace mind she is safe and taken care of and I can spend so much more with her instead of being rushed because I have to take care of my life with my husband too. It is an individual decision, we need to learn to respect that with everyone. Hugs!!
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There's a sort of perfect storm going on concerning the elderly and the social safety net in general.

Modern medicine has allowed us to live much longer lives than in the past. When social security was started, if I have this right, half of everyone died by their 65th birthday. There just weren't that many old people.

Before good birth control, people had lots of kids to take care of them if, by chance, they lived past age 65.

In the old days women mostly didn't work outside the home, so they were available to care for the elderly, and didn't have to balance it with a paying job.

Nowadays an amazing number of people live to be 100. Because of social security and Medicare and good pensions, many elderly are wealthier than their children and grandchildren. Our parents had fewer kids than their parents. Most women now have full time jobs and therefore little time for elder care. Because of the economy, it's very hard for a young person to get started in a career, and lots of us Boomers have had our careers cut short. Young people don't get government help, can't find a job, and get called names for it. The caregiving generation is under a lot of pressure.

Then there's the sense of entitlement - on both sides. Face it, we all want what we want, when we want it. IMHO, that's a good thing because we demand and often get better treated by organizations and corporations. If my parents had treated me the way some parents do, I don't think I would be inclined to do much of anything for them.

It's a bad thing, however, when we forget that some things are beyond our wishes and demands to control. Parents have to accept that we have limits. We have to accept that our parents and siblings are not likely to change. Some parents suck. Some kids suck. Lots of families manage to struggle through with love and grace and a whole lot of effort.

If we were Eskimos in the old days, then, when our parents got too old and infirm to work, they would walk out onto the ice floes and die. Compared to that, what's wrong with a nursing home?
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I think we should do what we can; however, giving up our life, marriage, job, health and personal financial security should never be part of that equation.

My Mother told everyone who would listen that she would NEVER live with her children. As she got older and had health issues, she actually had to live with us and then announced she would never live in any facility but in her own home. How happy can "they" be just sitting in front of a TV all day? Mother would have so much more interaction and activities in a NH but I have a suspicion the other siblings would rather not spend her money in that way.

It is a very touchy subject wherever I go and we talk about our elderly parents.
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Wow, my mother wants to go into a nursing home. She told me when I was a teenager that all of her money was for her nursing care. And she has saved quite a bit. Never spent a penny on her kids and was never "there" for us.

So, personally I would love to have a loving mother I could take care of for several years. But I don't. So she will go into a nursing home. And I really don't think I should be judged when she goes. It is her wish and she has made no effort to build a close relationship with either of her children. In fact she has some sort of personality disorder and of course refuses to seek treatment. So no, my mother will not live with me. She doesn't want to.
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Those who judge cannot imagine what it is to have had a parent fail you in fundamental ways that have had lifelong negative consequences for your mental and physical health and then be expected to give on a level you were never given to. Am I that big of a saint?...I don't know, guess I'll find out.
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I agree with the original poster that our society does feel it's the duty of grown children to take of their elderly parents. The first thing you hear if an elderly person is left alone or is not being cared for properly is: "Bu where are her children?" And I think there are lots of reasons for that, from simple to very complicated.

The most basic reason is that, after a point, the children are generally the only ones left for the parent to rely on. The spouse is deceased or too impaired to provide care, friends have died or are also elderly, kids are younger and generally healthier, and it's possible to make a case that they are obligated because in most cases they received some care and support from their parents in the past. So basically somebody has to take care of the elderly, and most of the time there are no decent candidates except their kids.

Now some of the more complicated reasons. Society doesn't want to bear the expense of taking care of the elderly, so "family care" is touted as the ideal because it's seen as free. The actual costs are being borne silently by individuals who are giving up their plans, goals, income, leisure, health and sanity to do the caregiving that saves the larger society from having to think about it (or pay for it or provide for it). The lack of resources other than the family pretty much forces adult children to shoulder the burden whether they want to or not.

Then there's the perspective of the elders themselves. Why do they believe their children are obligated to take care of them? I think it's because they won't accept that they either need to be responsible and provide for their own old age or they need to accept the consequences of failing to do so. My mother wants and wanted to have it both ways: retire early on a meager income, spend every cent that came through her hands from her parents' inheritance and my father's life insurance, but still live on her own in a nice house in the suburbs, with cleaning and maintenance and transportation provided by...well, it has to be her kids since she can't afford to pay anyone.

I personally don't agree that grown children are obligated to rescue their parents from their own failure to take responsibility for themselves, but the system is set up in such a way that it's almost impossible to avoid it (and yes, most people will denounce you if you walk away no matter how justified you are).
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I'm part of this society and I don't think I owed my parents. My dad told me I didn't owe him anything that everything he did for me was out of love. He just told me to pass it on to my kids, the grandchildren he loved so much. My mother, on the other hand, told me every day I owed her for breathing. She was a real piece of work. I took care of her, like she demanded, but it was a real struggle. What exactly did I owe her when she was verbally abusive, hyper critical, treated everybody on the planet better than she treated me, tried to turn my kids against me, continuously threatened to turn me in for elder abuse if I didn't give in to her demands, disowned me, wrote me and my kids out her will and caused me to hire a lawyer twice to defend myself against her false accusations. And some people judge me because I don't feel I owed her. You didn't live my life. Keep your judgement to yourself, thank you very much.
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I don't look at taking care of my parent as a debt "owed". I look at it as an honor. She took care of me when I was young, and now I want to take care of her.
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