Why shouldn’t we expect our children to take care of us? 73



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As you get older how do you see the rest of your life panning out? We all hope that we will be able to live in our own homes for as long as possible, caring for ourselves and enjoying our lives, without having to rely on anyone else.

That independent dream becomes a reality for some, but for others a little more care is necessary and deciding who provides that care can be a logistical and emotional nightmare. Many people hope their kids will live close enough to lend a hand as their need for support grows, but it simply isn’t realistic, and kids want to live their lives without having to worry about looking after mum or dad.

Gone are the days when kids got married, bought a house in the next street, raised a family and then cared for their parents. Grown up kids move away for work, to be with partners and simply for adventure. They can’t be expected to limit their dreams and their lives so that they can be on-hand incase their parents need to be cared for, or can they? Should our children be prepared to do their duty and repay their debt to parents who have cared for and helped them?

The alternative for older people who want to remain independent is to organise themselves well in advance.

Pamela Zitron is a writer, in her late 60s. She is currently working on a book inspiring agelessness using her 95-year-old mother as her role model, and she recently expressed her thoughts on caring for parents. She tells the story of how childless, and living in the US, she hatched a plan to get together with others who didn’t have children and form a group – getting to know one another so they could rely on each other as they aged. She had seen first-hand how children respond to parents who expect to be taken care of by them. They weren’t always as willing as their parents would hope.

There’s a generational gap in peoples expectations. A couple of generations ago, most people cared for their parents as they got older. It was expected, and there wasn’t a welfare system in place to do the job if children didn’t choose to be involved. There was simply no choice. Many people remember growing up in a home where their mother, as well as caring for her children, also cared for a surviving grandparent who lived with the family, usually in a room on the ground floor.

Zitron believes that whether you have children or not, taking care of yourself to the best of your ability is the ultimate gift to yourself or your kids. Do whatever it takes to keep, or get, your own house in order and maintain your independence.

Some though would still prefer to grow old amongst their families with our sons and daughters providing any extra care they may need. Is that selfish or is it a basic human need, to want our families around us as we get older and become more vulnerable. The companionship and help of friends can’t ever be as comforting, or can it?

Should we expect our children to care for us as we get older or should we do everything in our power to stop ourselves becoming a burden to our kids?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Only in our society has this coldness and selfishness become the norm and we are poorer for it. In other places the elders are cherished and valued for their wisdom not pushed aside as slow and stupid. Hoe do our children learn about important values without multiple generations around them? We are teaching them that the dollar is all that matters.

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  2. These comments make me sad. our kids are wonderful to me and have already made plans with me. There are still many oldies out there who are loved and cared for. I am so sorry for those who aren’t.

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    • My eldest son and my wonderful daughter-in-law are planning to build their own home in the next couple of years (the two eldest grandchildren will be out on their own by then) the new home will have a granny flat for me, this has all been their plan and I am so appreciative of their thoughts to look after me as I get older, I’m only 63 now but lost my job almost 2 years ago and have not been able to get another also have chronic disease which limits the hours I’m allowed to work.

  3. My son has already suggested I get a place in a retirement village.
    We have a problem at the moment my brother in law has just passed and his son’s want to have their Alzeimer affected mom committed.No one wants to care for her

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    • Yes it is so sad, both my mum and mother in law went in nursing home my mum at 65 with Alzeimers and at a later age for m.i.l both having a different experience.. My mum was 9 years, m.i.l 2 years. Mum was no trouble at all and well loved in there, but not the m.i.l who raised hell all the time… Its not easy caring for someone with this terrible disease and if you aren’t strong yourself it is hard. I don’t want my family to have to go through that with me, I have discussed that, and kinda hope I go in my sleep and save everyone any fuss. There is only 20 years difference in age between my son and I, so he may be an old guy too by the time I go to my maker… who knows what the future holds, all I hope is, I go first… Times have indeed changed and people lived closer to their families, which isn’t always the lucky norm for some… This itself causes problems… I go with the flow, make a life for my self, am still close to my family, but don’t expect them to pick up my pieces for too long at all.

    • You can’t blame them. Surely she can be assessed and have a placement at a special needs care facility, where she can live safely and have her family visit. My mother had Alzheimer’s, and before she went to a special unit care facility, my Dad and I were caring for her. I didn’t live in the house, but still I found it very stressful, having my own children, a part time job, and her tantrums to contend with. The stress affected my Dad, so much so that his doctor put off an operation for cancer for a month until my Mum could be admitted to the care facility, as she was a danger to herself and others. My Dad’s stress levels reduced almost immediately she left the house, but it was still too late for him. He survived the cancer, but died a bit later on. Caring for her had killed him.

  4. Life is different now. There is so much more pressure on our children. They have their children to care about. No one can afford to give up their jobs. I don’t want my children under that kind of pressure.

  5. yes i do, my mother-in- law made her own decisions at the right time but my parents are not making the right decisions and there is fear and conflict from the children, so get your house in order before you are to old to move.

  6. I think it’s absolutely essential to have a `Plan B’ that you are comfortable with. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of circumstances that prevent children from being there for you in those later years e.g. `on the spot’. The sad thing is when your kid (s) are there, but not really there for you.

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    • Options are always good to consider. One never knows how circumstances – yours or your children’s might change in the future

  7. I hate the expression “pay back parents for their care”! We had and cared for children because we wanted them – they don’t owe us anything. It is wonderful if they wish to be involved in our lives and care for us if needed, but I don’t want to make them feel obligated because I gave birth.

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    • I really believe that too our kids don’t owe us anything, it was our choice to have them and give them an education, and as you say if they want to be involved with our aged care that’s fine too.

    • I fully agree. Our children owe us nothing, they didn’t ask to be borne, and we have children for selfish reasons….not realising that to have children you have to be UNselfish! No way would I want or expect my children to look after me. I think the idea of having a community of people aging together and helping each other sounds much better to me.
      Having said that, I spent two years caring for my dad in the last years of his life, and for me it was because I loved him dearly and it was a privilege. My partner did the same, he was carer for his mum (same two years)…no regrets.

  8. I will try to be independent for as long as I can but I hope they visit when I am 75 if I am still here.
    Meanwhile I visit, babysit and travel.

  9. It would be a horror for me to have my children look after me, Id rather make my own plans and continue to be independant of them

  10. I very rarely see my children, so I have gone ahead preparing to sell my house (2 storey) far too big for 1 person, have found a wonderful 55 and over retirement village, 2.5 hours away, which looks exactly what I want, meeting people of my age a lot to do and superb houses etc, but now my kids have decided to weigh in, that I am being selfish not thinking about family etc etc. just can’t win what do they expect, I am not asking them for a single thing. I have to get on with my life, but you just can’t win

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    • You are doing the right thing. ‘Don’t see my children often’ said it all. So why do they expect you to have a big house available 24/7? The only reason I can think of is, when you finally leave this earthly realm, they would get to inherit that nice, big house, and be able to fight over the proceeds, like a lot of families do. They probably think that since you are downsizing, you might have a nice chunk of disposable cash with which you could splash out, have a ball, and go travelling. You will be spending the inheritance, so to speak. Do it, go travelling, have a ball. I joke with my kids that I am spending the inheritance, and they both encourage me to do it, as I did my parents. There will be some money left for my kids to inherit, but meanwhile, I have travelled all over Europe, Asia and the Pacific, am going to Canada and Alaska in three weeks, and intend to go to the Southern USA and cruise the Caribbean next year.

    • Thanks Wendy I am pretty sure you are right, I am actually going to spend some of the money, they will still get some but it’s my money to do what I please with I worked for it so I am entitled now to enjoy it now. Enjoy your trip, I will have to think of a trip, I haven’t until now but food for thought, thanks.

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      • Great comments, go for it.
        No doubt the kids are very busy, life is not so easy for them but your future is yours and look forward to the trips and live well.

    • Spend it all, girl! I’ve already told my kids there’ll be nothing left for them, and they are delighted that I am not just sitting down counting the pennies but out there doing things.

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