Elderly Care

Can I Refuse To Care For Elderly Parent? Legal & Ethical Facts

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Our parents looked after us carefully when we were babies. So when our parents become elderly people, can you refuse to care for elderly parents?

Most people have some doubts about the responsibility of taking care of their parents. Therefore, I thought to share some valuable insights as a family counselor with years of experience.

So, Can I refuse to care for elderly parents? Caring for your elderly parent is not a legal obligation in most states and countries. It is an emotional and ethical obligation. In that case, children are responsible for supporting their elderly parents with household activities, self-care, and emotional support. If you can’t actively participate in caring for your parents, you can support them financially. Also, there are some specific laws relating to maintenance and wellbeing for elderly parents. 

A baby who comes to this world ends his life as an older person. It is an inevitable phenomenon that is common to everyone. A baby should be cared for well from their birth until they become able to do their things alone.

Also, one day the same baby has to be cared for as an elderly person with the same careful treatments until they finish their life cycles. That means people end their lives at the same point where they started it. 

In that case, there are some mutual responsibilities, obligations, and liabilities for both parties.

Once you finish reading this post, you will have a clear idea for lots of FAQs such as; are we obligated to care for elderly parents? What is the responsibility of the family for the care of the elderly? What to do when siblings don’t help with elderly parents? And finally, can I refuse to care for an elderly parent?

I have listed the topics below that I discuss in this post. Feel free to jump straight to the one you are interested in. Let’s get started!

Are we obligated to care for elderly parents?

Since our birth, parents have cared for us by providing all the basic needs such as; food, education, housing, etc.

With time, our parents get older, and we become adults, and accordingly, the roles of both reverse at a certain point. So, are we obligated to care for them?

When talking about the caregiving of elderly parents, who is to look after them? Sometimes, the eldest child may feel a duty to take care of their elderly parents.

And the unfortunate fate is that the other siblings may not feel a responsibility as you do.

At the same time, you may not like to feel your parents abandoned, but you may lack resources and time. Then what can you do? Is that you are obligated to take care of them alone?

Many children are not able to live with their elderly parents as family caregivers. Other adult children of elderly parents are assuming the personal responsibility for taking care of their parents.

Anyway, every child has varying relationships with their elderly parents. Sometimes, caring for the elderly parent may not be as interesting to some children as any relationships, and boundaries are essential.

Further, finance also plays a major role here. If the children are not financially stable, elderly parents become an additional burden to them.

Sometimes, financially stable children support impoverished parents or specific health care needs.

And on the other hand, some parents do not require an obligation from their children to take care of them. Anyway, this obligation is not legally liable for the caring of the elderly parents of the children.

Elderly adults are not employed, and it is not uncommon that they are financially unstable except for the parents with retirement plans. So, when the children are also not financially stable, it is a problem for both parties.

Also, it is not a secret that children are not legally obligated to care for elderly parents. If they are very busy, they can drop them off at an elderly residence where parents are well cared for by providing all the essentials like; food, housing, medicine, laundry, etc.

So, elderly parent caring is not a legal obligation but an emotional obligation. Children can directly be caregivers or indirectly by bringing them to an elder’s residence.

What is the responsibility of the family for the care of the elderly?

When parents get older, there is a role for all the family members to play in taking care of them. So, can someone refuse to care for elderly parents without taking any responsibility?

As I mentioned earlier, there are no legally established mandatory principles for taking care of elderly parents. The caregiving roles of family members are shaped up by; cultural norms, existing relationships, gender roles, geographic proximity, and expectations.

Anyway, the responsibilities of families for the care of the elderly can be focused in many phases as follows;

1. Assisting with household tasks, mobility, supervision, and self-care

Here, the household tasks include; laundry, meals, transportation, bills, shopping, money management, home maintenance, etc. They are associated with the daily functions of the elderly parent.

Self-care and mobility include; dressing, bathing, grooming, showering, walking, transferring, toileting and feeding, etc. These are daily and frequent tasks.

And, the tasks like; helping the elderly parent get around the house, helping with chores, making medical appointments, keeping track of medications, etc., also under the responsibilities of the family over the elderly parents.

Not only that, the parents who are unable to complete the cognitive functions may need supervision and assistance on their hands due to their behavioral symptoms and functional limitations.

2. Awareness

There is recognition and increased awareness within the social networks of older adults with changes in health, disabilities, and various changes of behaviors that require caregiving to some extent. 

Some elderly parents are downplaying the need for caretaking at this phase as they think they do not want to burden others. When the parent is sick with diseases like; traumatic brain injury or dementia, the need for awareness flourishes.

3. Providing emotional and social support

Here, the elderly parents need social and emotional support that varies from the usual exchanges among the family members.

Also, the elderly parent may need their responses for the emotions of changing circumstances and may require a high level of emotional support from the family.

Sometimes, you may have to deal with their irritability, anxiety, or anger. Although this is the most time-consuming task, emotional support is the most significant responsibility for you to fulfill for your elderly parent.

4. Health and medical care

This is not a new responsibility but more common and more complex than that was in the past. The family is responsible for performing the medical and nursing tasks that a professional doctor has once provided.

It may reduce or shorten the lengths of residence nursing placements and hospitalizations.

If your elderly parent is seriously ill, you may have to manage the technical equipment and procedures like; tracheostomies, catheters and drainage tubes, etc. As well include monitoring and managing the condition of the parent.

5. Advocacy and care coordination

Family members usually serve as the care coordinators and advocates. Accordingly, they have to identify and help the elderly parents obtain needed community as well as resources.

The coordinator is responsible for serving as the communication link between all the involved parties and patches the services together. Here, the family has the responsibility to find a caregiver that matches the parent’s necessity.

6. Decision making and surrogacy

The family has a responsibility of decision-making that helps the elderly parents. There are various types of decision-making roles; guiding, participatory, supportive, directive, and advocacy and advisory.

And on the other hand, the elderly person should be given the surrogate decision making as though they have a cognitive impairment, and they can make choices and express favors. Still, they can’t carry out their preference without the guidance of the family.

The decision-making process includes goals, needs, abilities, and preferences, etc. The caregiver has the responsibility to keep a balance between the parent’s choices and the caregiver’s ability to fulfill them.

Further, many parents like their family members to be involved in medical decisions and the family serving as the surrogate decision-makers when the elderly parent loses decision-making capacity.

Also, the family surrogates have decision-making tasks on the parent’s legal, financial, and insurance issues, etc.  

What to do when siblings don’t help with elderly parents?

It can be seen that conflicts occur within siblings while taking care of their elderly parents.

So, in such a case, most people ask whether I can refuse to care for an elderly parent. And what can be done when siblings do not help with elderly parents?

I will provide some tips when siblings are not helping with elderly parents.

1. Do not expect equality

It is significant to have realistic expectations. The responsibilities of taking care of elderly parents are always unequally divided. Most of the time, one or two of the siblings are taking over more responsibility.

Instead of expecting the equal contribution of all siblings, it may work out effectively if you focus on the things each person can do, although the others do not do as much as you expect them to do.

2. When a sibling is living anywhere else

The contribution for taking care of elderly parents will depend on the closeness of the living place of siblings to the place where parents live.

Naturally, the closest person to the residing place of parents can take on responsibilities like; picking up prescriptions, going to a doctor, etc., in an emergency.

The siblings living long distances have to try their best to help however they can and should let the close siblings be in charge.

Most of the time, the nearby siblings get angry and frustrated when the long-distance siblings tell them what to do even without understanding the actual situation.

So, if you are living near the elderly parents, you can ask your long-distance siblings to help financially or visit to look after their parents for you to take a break.

3. No one can read minds

The extent that a caregiver is doing to elderly parents may don’t known by the other siblings who are not always there.

As the others can’t read minds, it is impossible to expect a sibling to know at a time when you need their help.

So, you may ask for help if you need it. And, if they refuse to give their support, you may get the help of friends, community resources, or professional service.

4. When your sibling is out of touch

Sometimes, siblings are not doing their responsibilities when they have no idea about the real situation or do not think there is a problem.

When there is a situation like that, you may go to formal information-sharing methods like; family conferences, sending information through email or conference calls, etc.

There, you may share the reports of doctors, diagnoses, testing results, etc. It may help siblings to understand the actual situation and the extent of help they need to give.

5. Acknowledging the strengths of each other

All people have different strengths and personalities. Some of the siblings may be good at navigating the healthcare system, some may be great at running errands and fixing things around the houses, and others may be good at paperwork and finances.

You may recognize that all have weaknesses and strengths and ask them to fulfill the responsibilities they can best complete according to their strengths.

Can I refuse to care for an elderly parent?

This is a more common issue in modern society than in the past. Most adult children think that they are not obligated to take care of their elderly parents.

Many adult children do not think that there is an impact on their lives by refusing to care for the elderly parent. We should consider about two main aspects here;

1. Legal considerations

There are laws in 27 states of the USA depicting that children have financial responsibility for taking care of the financial obligations of their parents if they are unable to.

These laws can be different according to the levels of enforcement and the state you are living in. If there are no others and you are the only adult child for your elderly parents, you may be accused according to the laws if you neglect your parents.

Not only that, with the concern of neglect, but there is also a problem about your parents’ capacity.

If the parents are recognized as incapacity under legal obligations, it is to be determined by the courts that you are guilty with the support of the medical evidence.

As an example, it means your parents can’t manage their healthcare or finance because of an illness like; mental illness or dementia.

So, when you think about whether you can refuse to take care of your parents, you should have to consider whether they can manage financial and health decisions. If not, you could be accused under the laws.

2. Ethical considerations

Can you deal with guilty feelings and shame feelings? Sometimes, you may leave your parents after arranging all comforts for them, but still, you may have the feeling that you are abandoning your lovely parents.

You can consider this and have a professional consultation on these feelings and make a plan to move forward.

You can be prepared for dealing with family fallout. Let’s think that you are the only one to take care of your elderly parents, but you are refusing it. Then, your whole family would be unhappy with you.

And on the other hand, your parents may feel that you do not love them and abandon them. This will cause an irreparable rift in your relationships. It will damage both you and your relationships.

Conclusion – Can I refuse to care for an elderly parent?

We have discussed details about caring for the elderly parent in detail by focusing on many aspects through this article; “Can I refuse to care for elderly parents.” We have discussed some frequently asked questions: Are we obligated to care for elderly parents? What is the family’s responsibility for the care of the elderly? What to do when siblings don’t help elderly parents? And can I refuse to care for an elderly parent with more details? As this is a common problem in society, I think the article will effectively work out for all.

Parents take care of children from their birth until they grow enough to do their things alone. As life reverses the roles with time, children become the caregivers of parents at their old age.

Children are not obligated to care for their parents legally except in 27 states of the USA, but their ethical and emotional obligation drives them to take care of their parents.

Although they face various difficulties in front of sibling conflicts, they should find common solutions and carry on their responsibility as they can’t refuse to care for their elderly parents.

If children refuse, life will prove the theory of action and reaction where they also face the same fate in the future, although they are legally punished or not.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned with BestFamilyLife for more good content.

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