Parents: You Owe Your Adult Children a Life

by | Jul 18, 2022 | Extended Family, Family, Life, Series | 47 comments

Seniors should make life easier for adult children!

If you need your adult children to eventually care for you, then that should factor into an equation NOW.

I’ve been thinking about something for a while now that I’d like to just say. It’s going to be a bit of a rant, and I may not sound very sympathetic. But I think this is important.

I first wrote this post almost five years ago now, and as we’re doing our blog transition to our new domain (baremarriage.com) soon, and we’re only taking the posts from 2018 with us, I wanted to make sure this series came.

So I decided to re-run it this week.

I know this isn’t what I usually talk about, but this made a real splash when it was out five years ago, and so many people told me afterwards that this series was what prompted their parents to downsize, move, or make needed changes.

I hope it gives you all something to think about!

(And the reference to my father passing away was from back in 2017!)

My in-laws looked after their 93-year-old neighbour for 18 years. She passed away a few weeks ago. She had no other family, and they stepped in, and did so much for her. I just flew out to be with my dad as he died. And I have so many friends who are caring for aging parents. Pretty much all of us, likely, will at some point have to look after our parents.

And that’s a good thing. We should care for them. But here’s the problem:

Many of these parents don’t do things when they’re younger and they’re still able to to make life easier on their kids who will eventually have to care for them.

So I’d just like to put in a plea, on behalf of adult children of senior parents everywhere, that we make it the new normal that senior parents will adjust to their children’s lives. Please. It just isn’t fair otherwise. So here are a couple of thoughts I’ve been having.

1. If you need adult children to care for you, then it’s incumbent on you to move to where your adult children are.

This may be controversial, but hear me out. I understand that a lot of people in their late 60s and early 70s love where they’re living, and have a ton of friends and a church community and a house that they cherish. But one day they’re going to need kids to care for them. And that is just too hard to do if you live on the other side of the country.

Sure, you may think that you’re totally self-sufficient now. And you may say to yourself, “that’s fine, I just won’t rely on my kids!”

But let’s get real. If you have a stroke and you’re in the hospital, you know that your child is going to have to fly out to be with you. And do people understand how hard that is to do if they have kids who also need them? Do we understand how expensive that is?

And then what if decisions about nursing homes and care facilities need to be made? What if your house needs to be packed up in a hurry? Who is going to do that? Your church family? Your friends? No, it’s going to have to be family. And that’s just a lot to ask of someone who is also raising small kids, or teens, or who has a job where it’s super hard to take a month off at a time.

Or let’s say you fall and break a wrist or a hip and you can’t care for yourself for a few weeks. Who is going to have to come and arrange things?

Even if seniors think they’re self-sufficient, eventually you need help. So I believe that you owe it to your kids to move near them, so that when you do need help, it’s easier on them.

And you should move when you’re still young enough to make the adjustment and make new friends. It’s really only fair. It’s an awful lot to expect that kids will be able to drop everything and fly to you constantly. Or that they’ll make some 10-hour drive every other weekend.

I know a family where every weekend for five years was taken up with them having to take turns driving 6 hours to see the parents who desperately needed help but who wouldn’t move out of their house. That is just not fair to your adult children.

2. You owe it to your adult children to downsize and sort out your stuff

One day you will likely have to leave your home. And even if you don’t, and you die in your home, one day someone is going to have to sort through your house. Do you really want to leave that to your adult children?

When my mom moved into our house a year ago, she spent the year beforehand slowly purging stuff. It was hard! She didn’t realize how much she had. She was going from a house down to two rooms (plus a lot of storage space). She went from a walk in closet to a regular closet. Katie and I spent a day laying all of her clothes out on the bed, category by category (summer tops, winter tops, pants, etc.) and making her choose only a certain number of pieces. We were brutal. But Mom was also participating and laughing because she was still young enough to do so. And now she donates clothes all on her own, because she realizes how little she actually needs!

But she did that purging when she was still well.

Seniors and Adult Children

My mom as she was leaving her house for the last time before moving in with us.

It’s just kind to get your affairs in order. And it’s a lot easier to live with less stuff!

If you suddenly have to move into a nursing home or care facility, selling the house will be such a huge hassle, and will likely have to be done in a hurry, at the same time as kids are taking time off of work to help get you settled. Make it easier on them now, while you still can.

3. Please, for the sake of your kids, have a life

Yesterday my mom spent the morning on the phone with a missions agency, working out the details for our missions trip to a children’s home this August. She’s leading the trip with my husband. Then she took a load of stuff to the yard, brought a carload of donations over to a church for their rummage sale, went to her knitting group to knit with some friends, and collected some more yarn for donations, and then visited a friend from Kenya who just had a baby and has no family here, and bounced her baby for two hours. Mom’s the “adopted” grandmother to this young baby who was actually named after her; somehow my mother collects adopted grandchildren. She’s up to five so far (plus two biological ones).

My in-laws are similarly busy. Dad works very part-time helping out a friend with a business, plus they have a ton of friends. Mom likes to volunteer in the soup kitchen and likes to work out at the Y with the seniors’ groups. She also likes to walk at the rec centre with friends.

Seniors and their Adult Children

My in-laws hamming it up at the photo booth at Rebecca’s wedding

The point is that all of our three surviving parents do not rely on us for the fun or activity in their lives. Sure, they enjoy when we spend time with them, but they all have lives of their own. When you are lonely, or have few friends, or just stay in your home all the time, it puts a great strain on children. They feel as if they are your only support, and that’s very, very hard.

Most people caring for aging parents are in their 40s and 50s themselves. Many have teenagers. Many have very busy jobs. Many have volunteer activities that they love and that they feel called to. Most of us love our parents and want to help, but caring for parents can become an all-consuming thing. There is a season when parents’ needs will take all of our energy, and that’s okay. But that season should not last years, because adult children have lives they need to live, too.

Again, maybe I’m sounding mean, but I’ve just seen so many friends lose the joy in their lives because everything becomes about helping their parents–and their parents seem unwilling to make the burden lighter. When health issues get bad, often we get to a point where there’s nothing we can do to make the burden lighter. That’s why this all has to happen beforehand, before you get sick, before you need care, before you end up in the hospital. After all, sometimes illness impairs judgment, and even if you would never want to be an undue burden, once your judgment goes, you can’t make these changes. So make them while you are still well!

I want to be there for my mom and my in-laws when they need me. They are all wonderful people who have breathed so much into our lives. But I’ll tell you–I’m also ever so grateful that they all live in the same small town that we do, and that none of them is a hoarder (though my mother-in-law thinks she is because she has boxes in her closet. But she’s a neat freak and doesn’t understand that she’s actually pretty amazing). I’m ever so grateful that they all have social circles and lives of their own, so that they don’t rely on us. And I’m grateful that they would never want us to drop everything for them (even though we would).

That’s the way it should be. And I’ve put this in writing now, so when I’m older, my kids can hold me to it, too.

3 Things Senior Adults Should do for their Adult Children

What do you think? Do seniors owe it to their adult children to make caring for them easier? Do you have a story to share? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Aging Parents Series

  • Parents: You Owe Your Adult Children a Life
  • Setting Boundaries with Aging Parents (coming soon)
  • Splitting Responsibilities for Aging Parents with Your Siblings (coming soon)
  • When Parents Allow Adult Children to Be Moochers (coming soon)

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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47 Comments

  1. A2bbethany

    Yep and doing it now weeds out the relationship problems! My mom’s parents moved to our area from Oklahoma, and it lasted 4ish years. They moved so we could help as they aged. But during their time here, we learned the hard way, that step-gpa was grooming me. Not just being a fun grandpa….. within 6months, they sold the house here and went back to there life there. Because apparently VA benefits and no money of her own, made gma a victim of him too. And she wasn’t able to divorce the creep. No instead she’s in exile with him, and get a visit 1-2 times a year from mom. Who always brings kids with her, because she can’t not.
    On the other side, we actually had the last 3 houses built on the same street! And when papa passed in his sleep, his wife called dad and he was there within 5min. His widow and beloved grandma is still there, and has been very well set up! She can literally do whatever she wants…. including take the grandson’s on vacation. So they can care for the dogs. She’s the leader of our family now, and the queen at every gathering.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What a dichotomy! (And your husband’s grandma sounds like my mom!)

      Reply
  2. Lolo

    Absolutely love this post. Absolutely best advices.
    We are in the middle of doing this. Moving closer to one of our daughters early enough in life (mid 50s) so we can create a life for ourselves with a church and new friends (we keep the old friends and have excuses to visit) I have already researched what there is to to in the area. I plan to meet the neighbors quickly. And we are also majorly downsizing. Yes, we want to make it easy on our kids and enjoy life. Bonus is that we are moving in a bigger city and the flight connections are better and that will give us more travel opportunities. It will be work to create a new community but it is easier to do it sooner than later.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! It’s so much easier in your late 50s and 60s if work opportunities let you. And the bonus is you get to be close to grandkids, if you have them!

      Reply
  3. Lori

    Very interesting post. We are living this now, retired in our 60’s with parents in 80s-90s. Two in the home they’ve lived in for 60 years, one in independent living getting lots of help on site (meals, laundry, cleaning and meds dispensing – the latter is the only thing that costs extra).

    But all are far away, and I think living close by is so important, and something I would have insisted on if I’d known how hard it would be to help from a distance (some of it unavoidable, some not). I also wish we had taught them to use a smart phone before they got too old.

    I get a lot of good ideas from the “Sandwich Generation” group on Facebook.

    https://www.agingcare.com/caregiver-forum is also a good place for Q&A.

    Reply
    • Cynthia

      Just before the pandemic, we FINALLY got iPhones for our parents. My dad insisted that he couldn’t see any use for it, but finally stopped being stubborn and realized that yes, you could do more with it than a flip phone. He was once in charge of systems research and development at a major bank, so we poked some fun at the fact that our children had to teach him the basics, but eventually he figured out some stuff. It turned out to be essential once COVID hit and they couldn’t go out to eat or cross a border without showing their proof of vaccination and filling in ArriveCAN.

      My mother-in-law loves her phone and is constantly on WhatsApp and Facebook, but my father-in-law can’t use an iPhone or computer. He is completely dependent on my mother-in-law that way.

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    My in-laws used to live within 10 miles of two kids and a few hours from the other 2 kids. All of us in Midwest US. Then last year they sold everything and moved to Florida. It has completely fractured our relationship. My eldest son feels betrayed, my eldest daughter ignored. The two kids closest (My husband and sister-in-law) have their own emotional wounds. None of us will be flying at a moments otice to assist in medical emergencies, so I pray they have years of health ahead of them.
    So yes – though only 45, I know that my future will be in proximity to as many kids as possible rather than selfishly abandoning them.
    I’d rather live near family and vacation to paradise than the reverse.

    Reply
  5. tlh

    There is nothing worse than having the grief of the lost future with a parent who has died, choked out by the anger of dealing with the baggage they left. The brutal stress it places on the shoulders of the living when you have to deal with a lifetime of hoarding, mismanaged finances and watch those consequences fall on the living parent. To see the surviving parent endure that makes you question whether the deceased parent loved them, or you, at all. Especially, when you begged them to get things in order. Offered to help, offered them resources, to only be ignored all the way to their death leaves such bitterness. What Christian witness does that leave for you spouse and kids? It can be a faith killer and it is for sure a nail in the family coffin in more ways than one.
    Zero stars, would not recommend.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so tough. Absolutely, it is a killer. And it is so hard on the surviving spouse!

      Reply
  6. Elisabeth Fung

    I love everything you said. My husband’s father refused to move closer to anyone and it was difficult for everyone to give him the care he needed and stay employed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! Most people have jobs that they can’t leave for extended periods of time at the drop of a hat!

      Reply
  7. Jae

    This is excellent advice. As a 50+ year old with one parent left, (and two in-laws) it has made me realize that my husband and I will start downsizing and organizing now so that our two children will have less of a burden later. I begged my mom two years ago to let us arrange for nursing care closer to family, as well as allow us power of attorney/medical choices so that we could be in a position to help. But she and her boyfriend (of many years – who is slightly older than her 85/86) decided they wanted to handle it. His two kids are just hours away from where they were living, so that works well for him. It is heart breaking for us to be 2400 miles away and see my mom only on the weekly video calls the nursing home sets up for us. I can only sit there wondering even small things…like if she is getting water or other things when she needs it. I only have phone calls with staff and whatever her boyfriend remembers to tell us. Flying out as frequently as I’d like, just isn’t an option. It’s a literal nightmare.

    Reply
  8. Mischelle

    My mom has cancer. A year to live. My dad is an angry aging deaf old man with stomach problems. 5 bedroom 2 story house FULL of stuff -packrat city. The grandchildren dont want to visit. My siblings & I are not healthy adults whether its financial physical emotional relationships etc . We are all in our 50 s now. Mom & dad are 84 & 86. The last 2 -3 years with covid has made everything worse

    Reply
  9. Carrie

    A number of years ago we realized my mother in law wasn’t able to pay for her house. We helped her go through her very full house of stuff and condense it so it would fit in a small storage unit. 25 trailer loads to the dump and donation center.
    Then she moved into our already full house for a year until she got to the top of the housing list. At that point we found her an apartment a few blocks from our home. We helped her sign up for a regular ride to the senior center, where she enjoyed bingo and made friends. We were nearby and helped as needed.
    In fall of 2020 she passed from Covid. Cleaning her apartment took a couple of days, instead of weeks like her home had. We were grateful for that, but more grateful that we had the time close to her and how happy she had been for the previous 3 years. We considered them some of the best years of her life.
    The transition to the apartment had been hard. But so much better with her alive than if we had waited.
    In other words- good advice Sheila. I agree.

    Reply
  10. Barbara Bailey

    This is a wonderful article!
    I’m the 5th of 14 children and we all pitched in to help our dad clean out our mothers’ things when she passed the young age of 50. There is strength in numbers yet it was still so difficult to do, our dear dad still had 7 kids at home. Our mom was a pack rat, she saved all of our school papers and what we considered junk!
    Our dad was a pack rat too, so when he moved out of the family home, it was difficult to get him to part with some things.
    At the time of his death 5 years ago, dad had learned to be a minimalist. This made it easier for just our eldest brother to clean out the apartment that he shared with him.
    I am teaching my 5 children to be minimalists! So far my sons and 2 of my 3 daughters ‘get it ‘! My eldest daughter is a clothes and plant hoarder so her room is packed! I’m praying she catches on after she’s done with college and has a place of her own!
    Thank you again for posting this as I’m new to following your page!
    I absolutely love how you are bold, sharing truth and light to this dark world!

    Blessings,
    Barbara Bailey, Laguna Niguel, CA~ USA

    Reply
  11. M

    I don’t think you should tell adult parents what to do. Tell them what you will or won’t be able to do. But this is good advice to make your own decisions.

    Reply
    • Barbara

      My husband and I sold our home, almost everything we own and moved to Mexico with our daughter and family. We have never been so miserable in our lives. (I am mid 60’s and my husband 70; we are healthy other than my husband has high blood pressure.)
      This has been the most horrendous experience. We are stuck without a vehicle in a roasting hot city. We met other expats a little older than us but every time we plan to meet up with them our daughter and son-in-law have plans which means we are stuck looking after two young granddaughters and sitting indoors due to the extreme heat.
      I do not think it is a good idea to move in with your children or move closer to them as it is horrible leaving all your friends, siblings and support groups.
      I believe parents of middle aged children should make their own decisions as the quality of life with family, friends and support groups is immeasurably better. I would rather die then go into a care home (I have made this very clear to my two sons and my daughter). I do not believe in euthanasia but I would consider that before a care home.
      Trying to fit into your children’s lifestyle is insane!
      We need to live our own lives on our own terms.

      Reply
  12. PL

    I would also add that adult parents need to have their affairs in order (wills, power of attorney, trusts, etc) and make their wishes known legally so they don’t leave a mess for kids to clean up and things don’t get all tied up in probate court and the government doesn’t try to take what they worked so hard to provide and leave to their family. Don’t leave a battle for your kids if you get seriously sick or when you’re gone. I’ve seen so many families go through this. I’ve been begging my mom to get this taken care of for several years. Finally she listened and is going through the process now with an attorney. I’m so thankful.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      THIS!! You will make people’s lives immeasurably easier if you have a DPOA and health care proxy in place (and a Will). It’s just terrible for adult children to fight about this stuff when a parent is incapacitated.

      Reply
  13. Jess

    Problem is I think few people expect to be cared for by their children. It’s just failsafe in the back of their minds because people dislike thinking about becoming dependent therefore don’t seriously plan for it. Please plan for dementia, not just death. Get your children as joint account holders for anything they would need to access for you. Give the gifts away now, don’t wait. Write down your wishes and never rely on them remembering what you wanted.

    Reply
    • CMT

      This. I encounter these situations with patients at work often. It can be a very uncomfortable subject but if people avoid it they are potentially just pushing the pain off onto their spouse or kids for later. People who make arrangements for incapacity when they are of sound mind give their families a tremendous gift. POA, yes, but also ask your doctor about medical advance directives (not the same as a living will, these are often too vague to be useful for medical decisions). Then talk to your family about your wishes so they don’t have to agonize over it in the future.

      Reply
  14. Active Mom

    So my question for those who have gone through this. What do you do when the parent(s) won’t? My husband has siblings who live close to his mom but are not involved at all in helping her deal with losing her husband, home projects etc. She is slowing down and is not involved in the community. No church, volunteering etc. How do you draw boundaries when they won’t help themselves? I know that if something happens it will fall on my shoulders. Small things already have and it’s difficult trying to solve them half a country away. I am worried what’s going to happen when things get more difficult.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Since you already have experience with the issues of small things—assuming the issues were felt by both generations and not just you as the child—then you have the perfect setup up to say, “Parent, remember how difficult it was to get through XYZ? I absolutely will not be able to help at all if ABC happens. That situation would simply not be manageable from half a country away, nor would I be able to simply drop my entire set of responsibilities here for two weeks to come there to try to resolve it.

      “So, since ABC is not entirely out of the realm of possibility, and because I will NOT be able to do anything about it if or when it happens, you need to be making plans to handle it yourself. If you are thinking that I will ride to the rescue after all if it does indeed happen, please disabuse yourself of that idea RIGHT NOW. I know what I can do, and that is not in the list.

      “Therefore, your choice is to formulate a plan to deal with it yourself, or else you need to move to your own separate residence in my town so I can help you manage ABC, or even DEF or GHI, should any of those, or something even worse, arise.”

      Depending on your relationship, a swear word or two, or some other extreme-for-you indicator, may be required to signal the seriousness of your pronouncement.

      Reply
    • Elle Johnson Scott

      If I understand your situation you need to set boundaries here and not feel or act responsible for thugs that are

      There are several people who are responsible before YOU are to help your mother in law

      1. Your mother in laws children (who live close to her)

      2. Your husband

      It is your husbands responsibility not yours to work this out with his siblings and his mother.

      It is your responsibility to set boundaries with your husband so you aren’t burdened with other people’s responsibilities.

      Not easy to do but it’s the healthiest thing to do imho

      Reply
  15. Boone

    As a lawyer parents I beg you to sign a durable power of attorney allowing somebody to handle your business should you become incapacitated. It’s going to cost you between $100 and $300 to get this done. If you don’t should you become incapacitated one of your children is going to have to hire a lawyer and go to court to be appointed conservator. My fee for this starts at $5000. They will also have pay two doctors to submit affidavits stating that your parent is no longer able to manage their affairs. They will also have to pay another lawyer to act as guardian ad litem to make sure that the child just isn’t after the parent’s money. The child will also have to post a bond with the court equal to the value of the parent’s holdings. Time involved: three to six months. Money involved: approx: $12000.

    Reply
  16. Eliza

    As a probate/estate planning attorney, ditto to everyone’s comments above on preparing for the legal side of it. And please don’t self-help it, unless you have literally no assets (in which case most likely a power of attorney is all you will need). Good planning up front is far, far cheaper than sorting out the documents someone tried to do themselves after they are dead. An experienced attorney will explain to you the consequences of what you are doing, which a form cannot.

    When I meet with elderly people for estate planning and they tell me they are also downsizing, clearing things out, liquidating difficult assets, I always tell them they are giving their children a tremendous gift. It really is. You can alleviate so much burden if you just are willing to give a little time and thought to it.

    But what this really brought to mind is how both of my grandparents downsized and moved close to my family when I was a kid. Not only was it easier for children and grandchildren to provide assistance when it was needed, but I have so many wonderful memories of the time we had together. I know not all families are like that, but I’m grateful mine was.

    Reply
    • Boone

      Just last month I had to tell a family that brought their mother’s will in to enter into probate that the will was invalid. She had gotten some form off of the internet and had her signature notarized. No witnesses had signed it. I entered an intestate petition on their behalf but now nothing is being distributed as mom had wished.

      Reply
  17. ButterflyCreation

    I will have to opt for home health care when it’s time.
    My younger son wants nothing to do with me. (He does have a daughter but he won’t let me see her neither)
    My older son is not able to help since he does not drive and actually I have power of attorney with his financial and medical.
    So I’m believing to stay as healthy as long as I can and will be looking into home health care when it’s time.

    Reply
  18. Jane Eyre

    Our long term plan involves living near our one child. Being an only child with ailing parents is just plain hard. We can’t give him a sibling to help, but we can give him an easier time of it.

    Plus, I would love to have grandkids, and parents who live nearby help so much. Even if it’s just backup daycare pickup when Mom’s meeting runs late and Dad gets stuck in traffic, it helps the parents immensely. Not to mention a better relationship with the grandkids, opportunities to play with them when parents get date night….

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s honestly so awesome living around the corner from Rebecca and my two grandbabies!

      Reply
  19. Angharad

    Parents, please read this article and take it seriously – don’t end up like my mother.

    My mother’s in sheltered accommodation now, so I don’t have to do so much for her, but she still rings regularly and wants to spend hours on the phone, even though she just keeps repeating the same negative, critical things about other people. (She was wanting to talk for over two hours a day until my husband said that was too much) She wont’ stop when I say I have to go, so I literally have to hang up on her midsentence! I then get texts complaining about it, and saying how upset and lonely she is.

    She won’t make friends with anyone else or go on any of the events her complex or her church organise because she says she’d rather be with me. Every time she comes to visit, she complains the visit isn’t long enough. Every time I ring her, she complains she doesn’t hear from me often enough.

    The sad thing is that if she wasn’t so demanding and negative, I’d probably want to ring her and visit her more often. As it is, I feel sick to my stomach every time I have to have contact with her.

    I can’t have children, and the sad thing is that it comforts me to know that I will never be able to be as demanding to someone else as my mother is to me. I hope I might be like Sheila’s mother, and have people who regard me as an adopted grandmother – and at least then, I’ll know they are seeing me because they want to, not because they feel they have to. Because if it wasn’t for the Biblical injunctions to care for parents, I’d never see or speak to my mother again.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so hard, Angharad! I’m sorry. I’ve had relatives like that too, but thankfully not my mother. It’s so draining.

      Reply
  20. Jennifer

    This topic was good to hear a couple years ago, and I brought this up a year later to my mother. Who I knew would be the best person to open up the conversation between her and my dad. Since our relationship is mostly based on phone calls due to the distance. We have younger children 3-11 years old and travel is out of the question with so much going on here, and it being too expensive to do much of any traveling. This was even before all the lock down not too long ago. She was open to hearing about it and knows from taking care of her mom almost 5 years before passing on. They know how hard it is to take care of aging parents. My dad has just now after discussing it last year is starting to come around and maybe realize how nice it would be to have a closer relationship and make those changes for themselves before someone has to make the decisions for them. I’ve never made a decision on behalf of my dad and I pray that I won’t have to. I know how important being able to have a say in matters are especially when it comes to your own life being managed. It’s giving us a lot of time to think on these changes since they are reaching their 70’s, my dad in just less than two weeks from now. They still have life that they want to live and I would love to see them still in their prime years before anything significant would happen. I would love the chance to really get to know them since we haven’t lived near each other these past 15 years. Everybody changes not just kids but parents to. Habits and what they like and don’t like. Just like their kids and grandkids. I would love my kids to enjoy their grandparents more than just a long holiday of a week or when we can afford it. This has meant too that as much as my family and I would love to try and plan for a vacation elsewhere in the country to try for a chance to grow as a family our first importance is that our kids as much as we can get to visit and see who their parents helped raise them. They need that. I understand that having been from a military background myself where my folks were not close to relatives for many years. It’s hard to know you have family but never get to meet or sit with them. In hopes that they do get to move closer over the years and get whatever time we can have would be a huge blessing. Not always perfect but it’s good to learn from each other and see a bit of our families have time growing memories. The kids love them we pray for them every night and their is an affection their for them but how much better would it be to let them have those times to spend time with them. Sorry I my train of consciousness writing style makes it difficult. It might come off a little funny to read but I hope just being able to know that it is worth having the conversation and wouldn’t it be cruel not to give yourself the chance to have the conversation with your parents over this healthy topic. I never want my folks to be remembered as a burden. They are not perfect parents but they are my parents and I want to be able to honor them here and after they are gone. I pray this is of some help.

    Reply
  21. Annie

    This article is insightful. After caring for my father-in-law for ten years before his passing 9 months ago, I am very aware of the difficulty in not only caring for an aging parent, but also aware of how exhausting it can be when the parent has no boundaries or thoughtfulness for those taking care of them. I found it difficult that my father-in-law moved in suddenly after having lived far from us all of our married lives, and instead of being interested in the grandkids or spending at least a little quality time with us, he was gone 6 days a week involved in his own activities. Not being his social coordinator was a blessing, but being expected to manage everything else in his life from health care, finances, meals, cleaning and ever increasing responsibilities as he was in and out of hospice several times the last three years was difficult. I was disappointed he never took the time to invest in relationships within our family—connections I’m sure that would have lessened the stress of caring for him. I wanted to feel like a daughter, not just a nursemaid. Particularly after I had a car accident, needed several surgeries and spent years getting back on my feet, along with homeschooling and volunteering, my FIL never expected less or ever offered to help us, even back when his health was really good. My husband finally took early retirement solely to help care for his father because I just could no longer do it on my own. I do take responsibility for not setting appropriate boundaries with him from the beginning, but thankfully by the end we all had made peace with one another, but it took over nine years to do that. My concern now, with this experience still fresh in my mind, is what will happen with our own children. Granted we pray that by the time we need help our children will be in a better place, but we do wonder whether they could care for us at all, or even if we trust them to. They range in age from 20-32, and while they are all more than comfortable asking us for help on a regular basis, none of them ever just call to chat for no reason or to check on us, let alone send a card or even acknowledge us on our birthdays or for holidays. It’s disappointing, to say the least that we sacrificed so much for them and made a great effort to emphasize family first, yet they all seem to be a part of the entitled, self-centered generation. One is in the military and expects to be stationed overseas for the next few years, one just joined the military after barely being able to support himself his whole adult life (he’s 32) and one lives about 5 hours away, but has a lot of spiritual and emotional issues. We did gain a daughter-in-law this year who seems to be very thoughtful so there is hope, but she’s headed overseas with my son for now. I adore my children and try to visit them as often as we can, and if any were in a stable place we would consider moving closer to them, but that’s not an option right now. We are in our 50s & 60s, healthy and active, but it is always in the back of my mind knowing how much we sacrificed to care for my father-in-law and wondering if someone will ever love us the way we loved him. We are in the process of downsizing slowly, trying to decide what this next phase of our life will look like. It’s the first time in our entire married life we’ve been alone and it’s kinda nice. I would totally consider “adopting” other children/grandchildren too, but the reality is that we are also assuming we may be entirely responsible for our own care as we age.

    Reply
    • Jacqueline

      After the experience of caring for my mother in our home (still on going) I wouldn’t want my children to go through the same. My husband and I have decided to downsize in about 5 years time when we are 60, but staying in the same town. Then if it turns out that later in our early 70’s one of our children prove to be helpful then we might move closer to them wherever they are. If this is not possible then we have considered moving into a retirement village that has a nursing home on the same site. Like you, we are assuming that it will be up to us to sort out our own care as we age.

      Reply
  22. E

    My in laws are so worried about leaving an inheritance behind, whereas all the children are encouraging them to enjoy their retirement before it’s too late! They are very hard workers who have sacrificed so much their whole lives, and all the children are successful in their own right and don’t ‘need’ any big inheritance.

    Reply
  23. Jacqueline

    A great post Sheila. All if my friends are in their 50’s and early 60’s and are all dealing with elderly parents with varying degrees of need. There has been some times of joy, but mostly there has been stress, heartache, frustration and grief. My mother came to live with us 7.5 years ago after no longer being able to manage alone in the big family home. A few years prior to this we found a retirement apartment 5 minutes walk from our house. She dug her heels in and was adamant she was fine. By time she got to a point she could no longer cope she was unable to do very much for herself anymore and is now 100% dependent on us for everything. This has been mostly ok until the last year when she fell and had hip and leg surgery. Now she is very frail and we buy in a lot of care as we both work and have three children to sort as well!! We have learnt so much from this experience and the experiences of our friends. Once our youngest child has finished college, we have decided to downsize and not be two old people rattling round in a five bedroom house with a big yard. I echo your points: move to where the help is, downsize and sort while you are still relatively fit and able and don’t wait until you’re in your 80’s.

    Reply
  24. Elaine Vandor

    My MIL has been a widow for over 24 years. She has moved to new homes 3 times but always seemed to be at loss financially. At 86 she now doesn’t have enough income to cover her living expenses. My husband was instructed by his sister that the 3 siblings need to give ‘Mom’ $500 each, every month so mom can afford her luxury retirement apartment that she moved into, which is much nicer than anything I could afford. I am not happy with this, I just retired after 30 years of teaching and wanted to enjoy my retirement with my husband. I don’t think my MIL even is aware of her financial condition. And my sister-in-law quotes the Bible about looking after the widows and trust that the Lord will provide. I am having a difficult time accepting this.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You don’t need to accept it! You really don’t. That’s up to all of you. If it means that much to your sister, she can pay more.

      Reply
      • Elaine Vandor

        This situation has caused a lot of stress between my husband and myself. It’s almost like his sister is still bullying him like when they were kids. My husband’s sister also wants to control the situation and wants all the money to go to her first. My husband also is victim of his manly pride to work hard to provide. I feel like my husband is putting his birth family first over his wife and children. I have always worked to help carry the financial load of our home and family but find it difficult to contribute to my MIL who never really welcomed me into the family because I was a working mom and didn’t stay home with our children.

        Reply
  25. Anne

    Yes to all of this. My in laws didn’t do any of these things and the past two months have been all consuming doing everything mentioned in this article. The amount of stuff in their 2,000 sq ft basement alone was mind boggling. I’ve had three breakdowns in the past two months. Thankfully, it’s summer and neither my husband or I are working. We moved across the country to do this and we are happy to serve, but some purging and planning on their part would have been super helpful! Have this conversation with your parents. We did, but could not get them to do it.

    Reply
  26. Keesha

    My parents completely refuse to talk about this topic. My siblings and I have tried for years. Well, they might be on their own, because my parents are doing the opposite of all the advice in this post, and all of us 4 kids are not currently in a position to help, if anything happens. My parents are on track to homelessness in 2-4 years. They’re in their 60s with major health issues.

    Reply
  27. Lorraine Santos

    Wow… I’m not 60 or 70 yet, but going trough a divorce and I’m no where near to my children. This article was so insightful as I need to make some life changing choices… I get where you are coming from and can truly see the value of this… Thank you so much Sheila…

    Reply

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