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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?

cory Tue 09-Apr-13 13:14:36

I think if I am ever in a situation where I need specialist care and my children insist they can't live with themselves if I go into a home, I might just tell them to stop being selfish and think about me.

My MIL is very happy in her home, visited several times a week day by her son and DIL who are well rested and happy because some of the heavy chores have been taken off their hands, speaking to her other son every day, very close to her grandchildren who happily put up with travelling long distances to see her.

Not everybody who was looked after in the old extended families was happy or well cared for or not made to feel a burden.

cory Tue 09-Apr-13 13:08:47

In my case, it's not a question of a dysfunctional family (nobody could be less dysfunctional than MIL, bless her!), but simply about the fact that living in an ordinary home, with no specialist equipment or medically trained staff, would be a nightmare for somebody in her condition.

To insist that I had to nurse her at home- and keep her in a permanent state of terror- just to demonstrate my credentials as a DIL would be beyond selfish.

BiddyPop Tue 09-Apr-13 11:43:54

Well, GM was a SAHM (marriage ban in the civil service even before she had DCs meant giving up her career) but she looked after her own DM in her house for over 20 years with small DCs underfoot (I was a baby before she died). She had older DCs and then adults to help with it, district nurse calling, and her own sisters and SILs came to help out too.

In that family, there were 6 surviving DCs, 1 unmarried living at home who was able to take early retirement, another living close by with no DCs themselves also taking early retirement, another living close by with no DCs but teacher meaning afternoon care company and maker of tea was also on hand, with another DC also living close by with own DCs but able to bake the buns for my GM to eat and do lots of other visits too. and they know the system enough to get the public support (public health nurse, hospice etc) involved and also pay for some private care on a regular basis and pay for any practical supports needed (like a stannah lift or wheelchair or getting hospital bed hired). So a mix of family and "outsourcing".

Whereas on the other side, smaller and much more geographically spread family meant complete reliance on outside supports (good neighbours and public health system). Even my aunt and myself live almost an hour from her house in the same city, so no one physically close for day to day support (weekly yes, but not few times per day).

In my own immediate (DM, DF and DSibs) family, only 1 lives at home (and probably not for much longer), 1 lives 40 mins away, 1 lives 3 hours away, 2 are overseas in UK and 1 overseas in Canada. So not a lot in terms of practical care options should it be necessary. But DPs are also away from their family (Sibs and now deceased parents) so I don't think they see it as necessary (DM has already told us put her into a home if necessary but given a few small requests for ongoing visiting). I cannot see myself having either of them in my house (not practical and I work FT with an internationally travelling DH and SN DC) - but if there was a need and I saw a way to do it, I would do my best.

But there are also a lot more options for care here now than 20 years ago - the sheltered housing and homes are more prevalent and better run, there are private companies offering various levels of care packages in the home (for a fee, but there) and the hospice network is a lot better known too. And there are also better practical supports available to nurse someone at home (hoists, beds, all sorts) than would be available to private individuals in the past.

Cleopatrasp, that's the situation (more dysfuntional family - 1 caring local DD and 1 less involved and less local DD) for my work colleague. Whereas my GM's family are mostly based locally and even those not local have their roles to play. (Sorry, 1 GM - the other, another small dysfunctional family).

I know lots of people who have reduced work committments or taken FT time out for a period, but it's not practical for all. It depends on the personas involved, the medical/physical and mental aspects of the condition of the caree, the physical and mental ability of the carers to manage, and what other burdens they have going on as well. So its not cut and dried but I certainly don't see families where all DCs and their DPs are working and raising the GCs as abdicating their responsibility to their parents care needs if they use professional (either public or private) options to do that caring - either in its entirity or as part of a way to provide a proportion themselves.

dreamingofsun Tue 09-Apr-13 11:16:32

nailak - by looking after my family (husband/children) rather than my mother i don't think I'm being capitalistic. I am working to ensure my family has a decent standard of living - ie house, food, pension, education - not luxuries. My mother has her own money and can therefore fund her own care. I am doing all those things you mention - sharing resources and contributing to other family members incomes - its just that its for my husband and children rather than my mother - the latter is relatively well off, so why make my other family members live in poverty?

exoticfruits Mon 08-Apr-13 19:10:21

It isn't my ideal that my DCs look after me- it is my worst scenario.

Crinkle77 Mon 08-Apr-13 18:26:22

In an ideal children would look after their parents but it all depends on your personal circumstances. What do you do if your parent needs constant care but you cannot afford to give up work to look after them? Or if you still have children living at home? My MIL had her mother living with them and they always said that they would not put her in to a home. My MIL had no siblings so it was down to her to do all the caring. She did not mind as she had lived with them for 30 years and had helped raise the grand children. They had carers who came in the morning and evening to help get her washed and dressed. Yet it got to the point where her mother was needing care in the night as she kept waking up needing attention and this was happening every hour or 2. My MIL was exhausted and had to admit in the end that she could no longer cope anymore as she was a pensioner herself. So it's not always a cut and dry decision.

SprinkleLiberally Mon 08-Apr-13 18:22:22

Extended families are just not as large either. If there are six siblings to take the stress it's more manageable. Today, more likely to be two.

CleopatrasAsp Mon 08-Apr-13 18:19:16

The problem with the idea of extended families all pitching in together is that it is ok if you have a decent family, but you only have to look at these boards to realise that many people's families are hugely dysfunctional. I would hate to be at the mercy of some of my family members if I was ill and vulnerable.

HesterShaw Mon 08-Apr-13 17:27:45

I don't think we can go back. Things have gone too far the other way.

But also I can see this government cutting even more services for the elderly, citing their concern for the extended family unit, and not appearing to notice that at the same time they think everyone should be in work on less than the minimum wage of course.

nailak Mon 08-Apr-13 17:07:22

biddy pop it is this bit " because of the reality of modern living on the DC and their family (the need to be at work etc). " that i want to examine. Is this a product of capitalism, that every individual is out for themselves and it has caused break down of traditional support structures? I don't mean that in a bad way, just as in in the west we don't have that idea of responsibility to family that other cultures have, like we don't tend to share resources, contribute regularly to other family members incomes etc.

Should services take over the role of the extended family? Is it desirable to try and recreate the extended family set up with neighbours and friends, or ensure our own children have this closeness with extended family?

HesterShaw Mon 08-Apr-13 16:43:50

Thanks for sharing, Biddy. It's interesting reading of people's experiences and hearing of the possibilities smile

BiddyPop Mon 08-Apr-13 12:51:30

Sorry, I think I muust have hit a nerve when I started to let that all out - it wasn't meant to be such a brain dump

BiddyPop Mon 08-Apr-13 12:50:02

I will admit I have skimmed the thread rather than reading every post. But I have close, although not direct, experience of this.

MIL cared for her DM at home for many years - which also included taking on her own disabled DBro. Her own MIL did assist a lot with this (retired district nurse), but it was expected at the time that she would just take it on. GMIL died when DH was in his early 20s, but his uncle still lives in the granny annex and is a drain on PIL at times, but they manage (UncleIL is a double leg amputee but has prosthetics and is still, just, getting around on those with walking sticks but will be in a wheelchair shortly, he also has some mild intellectual disability - but will celebrate his 70th birthday this summer and graduated with his degree from Uni last winter).

My maternal GD had a series of strokes which started 10 years before he died, and my GM kept him at home (apart from a couple of week's respite care per year and the odd stint of necessary hospitalisation) for all except the last 6 weeks or so of his life. She was 78 when he died. But she was able to manage most of what was needed herself, and she had supports locally.

She herself stayed at home, mostly alone, until very late in 2011. I lived with her for a year when I moved to this city (it suited us both and she knew it wouldn't be permenant - that was always her worry) before our own house was built and I got married. But DH and I kept very close contact with her since, doing practical things like the garden and a proportion of the DIY, getting shopping in when we visited. And plenty of regular company. She was great, relatively physically fit and able, right into her mid-90s. But she then got some memory problems, and eventually mobility problems, that meant she needed daily visits (which local health services were able to provide) and then increasing levels of these visits (when she'd forget she'd turned on the gas and burn through another pot, for example) - and then with her reduced mobility, she went into hospital for treatment of her legs and then it was agreed she'd move to the long care centre attached when she couldn't go home. None of her 3 DCs was in a position to care for her at that point (between work and family committments, and none of them living physically that close, nor their own houses being suitable).

With my paternal GPs, both were physically fit (for their age) and healthy until their 90s also. Well, GM had ongoing health issues since her 60s, but well managed. And they were also lucky that 1 DD had never married so still lived at home, while 4 other DCs lived within a few miles (with their own families in 3 cases) and only 1 far away. So plenty of support there. My GD was at home until he had the first of a series of strokes, which hospitalised him for the 10 weeks until he died. But up to then, he had been GMs daily carer and companion, with a teacher DC coming in after school a few afternoons a week and live-in DC home mornings and nights mostly.

GM started to get physically frail at that stage, and slowly lost her short term memory. But 1 DC took early retirement, and then the live in DC also, and they still care for her at home. 1 DC is now overseas, but home regularly (and stays in family home). The others all do their bit in different ways - some the physical care, others being the shoulder to cry on or the baker of buns for GM to eat. And they are also incredibly lucky to have the resources to get the necessary equipment (from stannah stairlift a few years back, to renting wheelchair, to having hospital bed for GM now), and also to have some private carers coming in a few hours a week to give them all some physical help (so showers etc are done those times out of preference) and time to get out of the house too. They know how systems work in terms of getting medical care needed, and have brought the hospice on board too, so she can be supported in staying at home in comfort. But this is a large, caring and supportive family who are also in physical proximity to each other.

One of my work colleagues has it in a different way. Their DF is terminally ill at his own house, with their DM having serious health issues. WC has gone PT at work on a temp basis to look after them, as wc lives in the same town and can do it. WC also has all the support services involved and is also able to make their voice heard to get the supports, but only public supports. WC only has 1 sibling, who lives about 90 minutes away, and who is refusing to face up to the diagnosis or their parents needs - so it all falls on WC to arrange diaries and appointments, do a lot of physical caring, and be the shoulder to cry on While their own spouse had lifethreatening illness to deal with last year too (sudden acute issue but ongoing underlying aspect to be managed was discovered). WC is doing all they can to support parent's wishes to stay at home, and can generally accomodate DF until the latter stages (when hospice may be needed), but is having to consider longer term support for DM at the moment and that sheltered living or similar may be needed sooner than otherwise wanted - but WC also cannot continue to only work PT as has own family to support (including 2 DCs).

It is a matter of juggling what is best at any one time.

And as far as I can see, while it is admirable if a family can care for parents in either parent's or a DCs' home, it is not always possible. Either because of the physical/mental realities of the parent's condition, or because of the reality of modern living on the DC and their family (the need to be at work etc).

And, for example, while I did all I could for my GM at home while she was still at home, it was a lot of added stress on me (without much recognition from my DM). And visits to her at home were always tricky and took time. Whereas when she was in hospital, I was able to slip in for a few minutes at visiting time (boss let me take late lunch for early afternoon visiting) and head off again - but much more frequently. And there was a lot less in terms of expectations (no DM or DAunt issuing instructions on checking her meds etc) and physical needs (I had NO problem helping her get places or do things if needed - but there was still a lot of independence to conquer and everything took a long time as her mobility dropped) - whereas in hospital setting, I could just visit and be with her to enjoy her company and give her my time to sit and listen. Rather than NOT visiting during the day in case I couldn't get back to work on time, and then not being able to visit at nights due to DH away and needing to be home with DD.

I certainly don't see having someone in an institutional setting as abandoning them - you still have to look out for their welfare there, but there are people who are trained in the physical and medical care looking after that aspect, leaving you to go back to being the relative rather than the carer. And still giving your relative as much of you as possible.

Kendodd Mon 08-Apr-13 11:48:29

'What if your children wanted to look after you though, Kendodd? What if they were the ones who wouldn't be able to live with themselves if you were put into a care home?'

I wouldn't let them. I have a house I can sell to pay for care.

I wouldn't mind them helping a bit, but not becoming a daily thing or involving them making any changes to their lives.

poppypebble Mon 08-Apr-13 10:21:06

Just a quick reply as it is break time and I need to get the next lesson set up.

Re: the killing herself thing, we talk about this sort of stuff all the time in my family as there are lots of mental health issues and many people in my family have died as a result of suicide. We don't see it as a big deal to say things like this, so sorry if that came across flippantly or like emotional blackmail.

Everyone's family set up is different. I think we can all agree that there are things we would and things we wouldn't do for family members. I just don't think that any one way is superior to others - you do what you need to do for your particular set up. In my family my way is correct. I enjoy caring and get an enormous sense of satisfaction from knowing that my mother is happy and well cared for. I imagine others can get that same sense of satisfaction from knowing a relative is well cared for in a different setting.

Different strokes for different folks!

dreamingofsun Mon 08-Apr-13 10:20:10

agree infamous - they might be able to help when they are younger - though my mother was keener to go abroad travelling at that stage - but they would be useless once they need care themselves.

how would somone who couldn't change channels on the TV/get themselves up/or take themselves to the toilet be able to look after a child?

even my fairly fit IL's spend most of the day falling asleep.

infamouspoo Mon 08-Apr-13 10:06:13

How can an elderly relative who requires care provide childcare mimishimi? confused? My 80 yo mother, while currently living in her own council bungalow, wouldnt be able to watch any child. She's mostly deaf, walks with a frame and is prone to leaving the gas on as well as believing any scammer who knocks on the door. A child would be in danger. Yet she lives 'independantly'. When she gets worse no way could she provide childcare. She is in the early stage of dementia as well as many other serious health issues.

cory Mon 08-Apr-13 09:45:49

Have you ever cared for someone with dementia, OP? Have you any idea of the kind of constant vigilance it needs, the adaptions you need to make to the house, the fear that some ghastly accident will happen despite your best endeavours, the emotional strain of watching someone you love become confuse and quite possibly hostile, the fact that you cannot treat an adult with SN like a disabled child, because however confused they still have their adult dignity which you need to respect? I did this for a very short period for my grandmother and it was a big strain.

We had a somewhat similar situation a few years ago when we were struggling to find a suitable home from MIL who had become paralysed from the waist downwards and could no longer safely be alone. It wasn't that we didn't love her or didn't want her with us. It wasn't even just the fact that I would have had to give up work and be unable to leave her even for things like keeping hospital appointments for my children or doing the school run. It was the fact that there was no way I could have kept her safe and happy: she needed a level of care that one person and an ordinary house could not supply. The house was too small for a hospital hoist, I couldn't have lifted her onto the commode, even dh and I came to close to dropping her on several occasions and MIL was understandably terrified. If she fell out of the chair or out of bed, we couldn't have got her up on our own.

But we all- dh and I, BIL and SIL- all felt horribly guilty about voicing all this.

What made me able to think straight was the thought that looking after MIL would mean neglecting my own disabled child and not letting her access the medical treatment she needed. At that point it was easy to see that other solutions could be found for MIL, but I was the only feasible solution for dd.

Also, the fact that MIL had once told me quite frankly that she had given up on nursing her own MIL when she realised that living with her was affecting my future BIL, making him a nervous and anxious little boy; she decided this was where her loyalties lay and a professional nurse was found who did the job very well without being emotionally involved.

MIL is not one who would want to die the day her body gives out on her. She is happy in the home we finally found her. If she'd stayed with us, I doubt she'd even be alive.

The scenario of an elderly person helping out with the childcare is lovely. But with a person severely disabled or slipping into dementia, that's not going to happen.

BasilBabyEater Mon 08-Apr-13 09:24:16

If my daughter or son really want to care for dying people, I'll tell them to go and work in a hospice or in a caring role where their instincts for caring and gentleness can be channeled healthily but also regulated and supervised - and also paid for properly by society. I don't want my children to be martyrs for me, I feel horrified by the idea of doing that to my little boy and little girl.

People get very alarmed about abuse that happens in institutional settings, but I think we need to remember that we're only just beginning to understand how widespread it is within families - far more so than we would like to think or acknowledge - and it is easier to hide it in family settings, than in institutions which are inspected and where there is the possibility of whistle-blowers.

People caring for their elders out of duty or out of some emotional need of their own which may be contrary to the welfare of the elderly person concerned, is not an easy, automatic solution. There are some horrible cases of very low-level abuse, not necessarily physical, but emotional neglect. I used to work with old people and I remember one case where this woman lived with her family, but they never took any notice of her - they went out on family outings without her, she ate alone not with the family, they often left her in her bedroom while they watched TV etc. Social Services were aware of the family, but the neglect wasn't so serious and she wasn't so vulnerable, that it warranted intervention. Frankly she would have been much better off in a home where she would have had society and been encouraged to participate and they could have visited her regularly and actually interacted properly with her during visits.

Mimishimi Mon 08-Apr-13 08:29:01

YANBU. I love how families in my area, mainly South Asian, look after their elderly. Yes, sometimes things can get strained but that can be te case anyway, whether they live with you or not. It's not all one way either. They also help out a lot when it comes to childcare etc.

MummytoKatie Mon 08-Apr-13 07:40:10

Agree with expat, * exotic* and apostroph.

I would never tell dd that I would kill myself if put in a home so I can't imagine why she would feel that she couldn't live with herself if she didn't sacrifice a partner and children for me. If her (or her brother's) true life long aim is to care for people then she could be a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a care assistant, a nursery nurse or just have 6 children of her own.

You can't predict the future but if something did happen so that one of me or dh needed care during their childhood then I would do whatever it takes to ensure that she doesn't have to be a career during her childhood. It is a time when I want her to be a child.

poppy - you sound like a lovely person who obviously really loves your mum. But your responsibilities and the sacrifices you have made from them are large and, as someone who has got a lot of joy out of my dh and dd, I would not want to deny my dd the opportunity of that same joy if she wishes it.

exoticfruits Mon 08-Apr-13 07:24:02

Thank you for the thread- it has made me decide that merely telling them is not enough- I need something more formal.
I agree entirely with apostropheuse.
I would never imagine that they would abandon me, but should I ever get to the point where I can't live independently I will pay for care- it is my choice - I have had a good life and I am not going to spoil my DCs's lives and take away their freedom.

apostropheuse Sun 07-Apr-13 23:38:19

expatinscotland I completely agree with you, which is why I have told my (adult) children this too. I absolutely do NOT want my children to look after me. I seriously WANT to go into a home when/if the time comes that I am unable to live independently. They can visit me as often as they like, it's not that I don't want to see them or anything like that.

Surely the person who needs care has a right to choose the kind of care they want if possible?

Laquitar Sun 07-Apr-13 23:25:02

poppy i honestly dont want you to feel that we all disagree with you or having a go at you, you sound a nice person, but what i noticed is the bit about your mother telling you that she would commit suicide if she was put into care. I think this is unfair on you.

Also, what expat said about your emotions after the peson goes.

And this from someone who is also a carer right now (but not for ever and i dont see it as 'my purpose in life' because i believe that we have many purposes in life), i do understand how difficult it is.

expatinscotland Sun 07-Apr-13 23:05:35

'This sort if thread makes me think that I ought to write it down so they can't have any misunderstandings. They are NOT doing it.'

My parents have. They have medical POA on each other, too.

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