AIBU to expect children to care for parents at some point

(248 Posts)
ruthyroo Fri 05-Apr-13 10:54:21

Had an interesting discussion with my parents recently.

They were talking about an aged relative - my aunt's MIL - who is 90 and in failing health, and slipping into dementia. She has recently been in hospital, and is not keen to go home. She has asked to go to stay with my aunt and uncle 'until she's back on her feet'. My parents were talking about it as if she was scheming and conniving to somehow get her foot in the door at my Aunt's and sneakily live there forever instead. Since she is 90 and feels very vulnerable I said that surely it was totally natural for her to want to be with people she knows and trusts, and wasn't that what families did for each other.

Their reaction was very much that parents sacrifice themselves for children and help them out, not the other way round. And that if I expected my dc to look after me when I was old, well I'd better not rely on that. I pointed out that DH and I moved back to the UK from Aus, partly because they and my PIL are not getting any younger and that we fully expect to have to help them out more in the future. But they were not to be budged: parents help children out (financially, childcare, lodgings, support etc) - not the other way round.

In my aunt's case there are other factors that would not have made it a great idea for her to take her MIL in - she's not in great health herself, my uncle is in a wheelchair and she doesn't have children nearby to help her out. But my parents applied the same rule to themselves and said that they had no expectation of my sister and I helping them out or - God forbid - offering a place to live if they needed it when they are older.

AIBU and totally niave to expect that children help parents as well as the other way round?

Cretaceous Fri 05-Apr-13 12:52:13

I would just like to point out that if you need nursing, you need a nursing home. But it's not just a case of putting your parent in the home. If you don't watch, they are just not cared for, because the staff don't have the time.

My mum has recently gone into a home after a couple of months in hospital following an accident. I go into the home every day to do what I can, such as feed her(!) She needs a pureed diet (choking risk!), but has been given all sorts of food - satsuma and cake yesterday, even toast previously! Also, she's in pain, but had been released from hospital with large paracetamol tablets... Of course, she can't swallow those, and the nurse was telling her off for trying to break them up in her mouth.

Sadly, my mum can't live with us (no space and medical needs), but I do all I can, even though she wasn't the best mother. I just feel sorry for those patients whose relatives don't make the time. I noted this morning that she was wearing hte same (dirty) nightdress she had been wearing yesterday afternoon. The appointment I'd made with the chiropodist through the nurse had in fact not materialised. I only recently discovered that her toe nails hadn't been cut in hospital, because of course her feet were covered by sheets there, and so I hadn't realised. That's three months without foot care! I could go on, but you get the gist!

Finola1step Fri 05-Apr-13 12:57:18

From my experience, you never know what's around the corner and you really don't know if you could care for a parent until faced with the actual reality.

In my case, my dad had a stroke when I was 34. I had just returned to work after having my ds (now 5). In many ways my dad was ok after the stroke and his difficulties developed more gradually than one would expect after a stroke. My mum is also in poor health. We tried our best to support Dad at home. But eventually he went into a care home. It was for respite care at first but it is now a permenant situation. There was simply no way I could look after Dad full time. And he didn't want me too, especially with his personal care.

None of us are overally happy with the situation but we are content with it. He is safe, well looked after and likes the fact that he has a set routine.

I do believe that as a society that is living longer (often with challenging health needs) we have to accept that more and more of our loved ones will live in care homes. We must therefore ensure that care home staff are properly trained and are paid a decent wage.

KansasCityOctopus Fri 05-Apr-13 12:59:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

expatinscotland Fri 05-Apr-13 13:18:56

'the husband was in complete denial and belittled the wife saying she was mad and making it up? Awful. She was crying out for help and he was still quite early on in the disease.'

That man was actually further along in his illness. He had early-onset dementia and progressed more quickly than some, sadly. He was very bewildered and had no short-term memory. He didn't want to go to respite because it was terrifying to him. That's what dementia is like.

Something the wife pointed out was striking and sadly, true of dementia: her husband was dead. Dementia kills the person and leaves a shell. That's what is so awful about it. It makes a walking zombie out of the person. Awful, utterly awful. I would much prefer to end my life than die like that, or have someone end it for me. It is a very, very cruel disease.

I think in the past, people were more able to care for ageing relatives because stuff other than dementia usually took them out. Dementia rates are rising as we live longer and longer.

And tbh, there's really no way one person can provide care for such a person for years and years. Just none.

DrunkenDaisy Fri 05-Apr-13 13:41:19

I'm with expat.

I have plans for when I'm old or very ill. There's no way I want to go through that level of frailty or burden my DD.

Cretaceous Fri 05-Apr-13 13:50:59

Daisy, you are deluding yourself if you think you will be able to carry out your plans. None of us want to end up like that - at Xmas, my (then healthy) mum (who had just scored full marks on a routine memory test) was saying the very same thing. Now, she's disabled and bedridden. It's down to the luck of the draw.

MorrisZapp Fri 05-Apr-13 14:09:28

I think your argument, though clearly well meant, totally patronises older people. People generally hate living with relatives (in our culture). The three day rule applies to visits.

So why, just because somebody is older or in poor health, would they suddenly be a-ok with sharing personal space with relatives?

My gran is old and living in a boring care home two hundred miles away from her family. But she will not be budged. That is the area she knows, and it is her choice to stay there.

poppypebble Fri 05-Apr-13 14:21:33

My mother moved into my home when my father died. She is only 65 but physically disabled and I am her carer. I work full time but one of my sisters pops in during the day to check on her, and I leave her with a flask and snacks etc as she cannot carry anything because of her crutches.

I have given up my life to make this work - I cannot have a relationship or children as she comes first. This is the right choice for me as I could never delegate her care to someone else whilst I was capable. Most of my siblings found it very easy to bury their heads in the sand but I suspect that being the youngest it was just a case that I hadn't made my own family before needing to become a carer, whereas they all already had children.

WafflyVersatile Fri 05-Apr-13 14:39:33

they might change their minds when they're older and feeling alone and vulnerable.

It's a hard one. Looking after someone with dementia isn't much fun.

It depends on the family but you can't count on your children helping you out when you're older any more than you can count on your parents helping you out.

SinisterBuggyMonth Fri 05-Apr-13 14:44:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

RatPants Fri 05-Apr-13 14:47:15

I'd take my parents in when the time comes if they wanted to come to us and were well enough. Agree that for people with more difficulties, care homes can be safer though.

WandaDoff Fri 05-Apr-13 15:02:40

I spent the best part of the last 10 years looking after my MIL. She was very frail & pretty much helpless.

I would never never expect my children to do that for me & will be putting plans in place to make sure they don't have to.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to look after MIL, & I don't wish that for my children. I want them to enjoy their lives not be burdened by me.

CrapBag Fri 05-Apr-13 15:19:56


In an ideal world maybe but I don't see it as something that younger people in the family should have to do. Homes are there for a reason. DHs nan is in a lovely one, wouldn't bother me going in one like that.

Plus there are the practical issues like helping them to the toilet etc. I don't really want to be doing that, plus my own health is poor and I don't have the energy to run around after other family members. My job is to do that for my children and thats it, not spend my life bringing up my children, then taking in elderly relatives.

CrapBag Fri 05-Apr-13 15:21:08

Oh and the 90 year old is probably well aware that she won't be in a position to suddenly move out one day and take care of herself, she will be with your aunt until she dies.

Helpexcel Fri 05-Apr-13 15:27:09

My grandfather lived with us when I was a child. He wasn't a burden in anyway shape or form. He didn't move in to be cared for, it was due to circumstance.
As he got older, he obviously became frailer and spent periods in hospital.

Now fast forward 30 years, my dm is a widower and is ill and on her own. My df passed away after a period of dm and myself caring for him.
I am trying to juggle, 3 dc, dh and marriage, my mothers care, 2 households, errands, shopping, 2 part time jobs. All while trying to smile and keep positive for my mum and dc. It's bloody hard work.
So I will not be expecting my own dc to look after me.
And I certainly cannot take on the responsibility of either Pil when the time comes. No way.

CMOTDibbler Fri 05-Apr-13 15:27:36

I love my parents, and I do everything I can to support them. But my mum will need to go into residential care in the nearish future.

You might have a cozy vision of your parents living with you, maybe a bit dotty, but able to talk with the kids about the old days, do their reading with them. But thats far from the truth - my mums dementia means she has no social graces or inhibitions, finds it hard to communicate about anything, flicks and spits food and is agressive and shouty at times. DS hasn't spent more than 10 minutes on his own with her for 6 years, and now she can't name him reliably and can't interact.

Dad I could possibly cope with (my hope is that when mum needs to go into care they'll sell the house, move up here, and he'll get a sheltered flat though), but even so, he likes to sleep most of the time, is grumpy with pain, and finds ds exhausting.

But until you are facing the reality of it all, you can't judge anyone

shoesandwine Fri 05-Apr-13 15:33:32

Their reaction was very much that parents sacrifice themselves for children and help them out, not the other way round

I was brought up to believe that yes, parents make immense sacrifices for their children, but ultimately, that is a CHOICE that people make when they decide to become parents. Children don't ask to be brought into the world and I personally think that they have the right to their own lifes, to realise their own dreams and not to feel that they have anything to "pay back". There is something odd, in my mind, about creating human life and expecting that life to "owe you" something, but I appreciate this varies immensely from culture to culture, and from family to family.

I also think, however, that people are incredibly naive when they imagine what the role of a "carer" actually involves. It's not just about cooking granny a nice meal or two and helping her to the loo. Some people are bedridden and have to be lifted into baths, into chairs, etc. (not physically possible for most people, especially given that many of us are already in our 50s when our parents need care) or have mental health issues that mean that they require supervision 24/7. Assuming you don't have the money to employ full-time nursing help and, in fact, assuming you have any sort of job/family of your own to look after at the same time (remember that some of us have the combination of teenage kids at home - who need our help and support in crucial years of their development - and elderly parents), it's just not possible.

PlasticLentilWeaver Fri 05-Apr-13 15:34:52

I don't think it is unreasonable if your aunt has the space, time and money, and is able to help.
I have known since before I married that my disabled MIL will probably end up living with us once her DH dies, as she cannot live on her own.
We already financially support 2 other older relatives.

PlasticLentilWeaver Fri 05-Apr-13 15:38:03

Reading it again, I see that your aunt is not in a position to help, so fair enough.
I thonk children should be willing to look after their parents as they age, as you are, but if your parents don't want you to do it, you have a 'get out of jail free card'.

poppypebble Fri 05-Apr-13 15:47:32

I have never and would never consider that it isn't my job to care for my mother. I'm 32 now and she can reasonably expect to live at least another 20 years. She needs me and I have to fulfill that need.

tiggytape Fri 05-Apr-13 15:48:38

YABU - In many circumstances it is just not possible to care for a relative at home.
In cases of 'just' physical frailty the lifting aspects alone can be too much. If someone needs lifting in and out of beds and baths, the physical job is too much for one person especially if they are not reliably continent and need lots of bed changes and baths / washes each day.

In cases of dementia, it is often downright dangerous for the relative and for any other members of the household - especially children. Not everyone with dementia is just a bit forgetful about where they've put their glasses. It is a horrid, cruel disease that leaves previously considerate and intelligent people reduced to tantrums, violence and a lack of inhinition which would have horrified the 'real' them.

fabulousathome Fri 05-Apr-13 17:34:07

DH's Mum is a v difficult person who, sadly, gets on with no one. I told DH a long time ago that if he ever wanted his Mum to live with us that would be fine but that I would leave and live somewhere else! Fortunately he wouldn't live with her either.

Now she has Alzehimers and still lives in her unsuitable house with carers twice a day. Some years ago she was too stuborn to move even though we took her to see lots of flats and offered to (temporarily) put up the money so that she could move into a lovely new sheltered flat at her own pace before selling old house.

DH and I plan to move to a more suitable place to grow old in before we need to.

BasilBabyEater Fri 05-Apr-13 17:45:38

Just to throw into the mix when people say "people" should look after their parents, they generally mean women should.

Or at least, if they don't mean that, it's generally what happens - it's the women in the family who end up being the carers for elderly relatives, not the men and women. Obviously there are exceptions, but that's the overall picture.

I think people who have children expecting them to look after them, are extraordinarily narcissistic and selfish tbh. We choose to be parents. They don't choose to be our children.

SprinkleLiberally Fri 05-Apr-13 18:08:27

I made that point earlier too Basil. It is very relevant imo. Especially as most women work, and especially when it comes to inlaws rather than her own family.

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 05-Apr-13 18:13:14

Another side of the coin.

My friend is mid to late 20s she is the eldest of three.

Her sisters have systematically flown the coop (with the parents blessing). My friend however has been groomed to be the one that looks after her parents in to their old age.

She will never have a life outside of her parents as she hasn't got the confidence to move or change.

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