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Looking after elderly parents

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Looking after elderly parents

Postby Kay » Sun 14 Mar 2010 08:16 GMT

I've just read the readers' letters page of the New Sunday Times (Malaysia). There's a big debate going on about whether you must look after your elderly parents - it's your duty.

There are also letters from people saying that times have changed and that "modern living" doesn't always make living in an extended family environment very practical.

Interestingly, all the letters both for and against are by parents who are elderly, or becoming elderly. I wonder if the younger generation are having a similar debate elsewhere online. :?:

It's not a problem which I face personally, although Dave still has his father. I feel kinda sorry for people who have their lives disrupted by the need to care for elderly parents, but I guess others don't mind.

Any opinions on the matter?
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Postby CustomStrat » Tue 16 Mar 2010 02:23 GMT

In 1984 my son (who was 8 at the time) and I came to the US to visit my ailing mother. We spent a fortnight with her and she was, at the time, suffering severely from osteoporosis. So badly that she slept in a reclining arm chair because the simple act of getting in and out of a regular bed had become absolute agony for her. She'd always been a very vibrant and active woman and it was truly heart breaking to see the frail and feeble person she'd become at only 64. At the end of the visit, and although my sister lived in the same area and saw to her needs, my mother tearfully begged me to stay; to live with and take care of her. She even offered to pay me to do so. I returned to the UK and never saw her again. She died three years later.

I couldn't stay. Not because I didn't love my mother or appreciate how much she needed me. I couldn't because I felt that although his mother and I were divorced my son needed me more. I believed that I had to invest myself in his future which I couldn't do from half a world away. I felt obliged to be there for him because I knew, from my own fathers absence from a very early age, that it was more important.

Of course, I've felt guilty about effectively abandoning my mother but, under the circumstances, I also believed I did the right thing by being responsible towards my son and have never regretted my decision.

Now that I'm approaching the age my mother was, at that time, I don't think that I would want my son to sacrifice his life to take care of me if I began to suffer from ill health or required regular care. It would certainly be lovely to see and spend time with him, more often, but I would never want to be a burden to him. It's not his job; it's not his responsibility. He needs to invest himself in his own life, his own future. Not in holding me up as I stumble towards the end of mine.
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Postby Savannah_Alan » Tue 16 Mar 2010 05:20 GMT

Wow. Tough decision Mike, and, for what it's worth, I think you took the right decision with responsibility. Must have been an awful thing to deal with at the time. :(
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Postby Kay » Wed 17 Mar 2010 15:32 GMT

I agree. It must've been a really tough decision but you can only do what you believe is best. You couldn't have done both so it had to be one or the other. If you'd chosen your mother over your son, then you'd have felt bad about that too.

FWIW, I also think you made the right decision under very difficult circumstances. :)

We see these sort of heart-wrenching decisions being made quite often on BE. Parents don't want people to leave, but they'll do it anyway to build better futures for themselves and their kids. Given that you can't have everything, there are often difficult choices to be made.
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