Caring for aging parents is a complex issue, and it can be challenging for adult children to make the difficult decision of walking away from elderly parents. Moving away from aging parents can cause a lot of emotions, including guilt.
However, there are situations where moving away for personal or professional reasons is simply the right choice for yourself and/or your immediate family.
In this article, we’ll explore how to deal with the feeling of guilt for leaving your aging parents behind and provide practical strategies for coping with the emotions associated with the move.
Why Walking Away From Elderly Parents Is Sometimes Necessary
Caring for older adults can certainly be a great experience, depending on the relationship between everyone involved.
But, sadly, many times trying to care for elderly parents can take its toll on both you and them. In some cases, it may be necessary to step away from the situation and focus on your own mental and physical well-being.
It can be a very tough choice!
However, there are situations where it is necessary to prioritize your own physical heath and mental well-being while also ensuring that your aging parents receive the care they need.
Here are some common reasons why walking away from elderly parents may be necessary:
- Toxic Relationships: Family dynamics can be complicated, and sometimes adult children may have a toxic relationship with their aging parents. This can lead to emotional or even physical abuse, which can be detrimental to the physical and emotional health of both parties. In these situations, you might need to distance yourself from your aging parents to protect yourself and maintain your own mental health.
- Care Needs: As your aging parents grow older, their personal care needs may increase, making it difficult for you to provide the necessary support. It can take so much time and physical energy to help someone bathe, dress and toilet. In addition, family caregivers may find themselves feeling stressed due to the added financial burden that comes with caring for an aging loved one.
- Health Issues: As your aging parents age, they may experience physical or mental health issues that require specialized care. Depending on the severity of their condition, it may be necessary to move them to a different location to access the medical care they need. In these situations, you might even have to move your aging parents to a different state or even to a different type of care facility to ensure that they receive the best possible care.
- Personal Health: Being a primary caregiver for an aging parent can be physically and emotionally draining, but you really need to prioritize your own health and well-being. If you find that you’re unable to manage the caregiving responsibilities without sacrificing your own health, you might have to do long-distance caregiving or find a different type of care arrangement for your aging parents.
- Geographic Location: Sometimes, adult children may need to move to a different location for work or other personal reasons. In these situations, it may not be possible to remain in close proximity to their aging parents, making it necessary to consider alternative care arrangements. This can be especially challenging in small towns or areas where local resources may be limited.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can be incredibly challenging for family caregivers to manage. As the disease progresses, it may become necessary to consider a different type of care arrangement to ensure that your aging parent receives the specialized care they need.
- Time Constraints: Providing care for an aging parent can be time-consuming, and sometimes adult children may find that they are unable to provide the level of care their aging parents require while also managing other responsibilities. In these situations, it may be necessary to consider alternative care arrangements to ensure that your aging parents receive the care they need while also managing your own time constraints.
As I said earlier, walking away from elderly parents can be a difficult decision, but it’s essential to prioritize your own health and well-being while also ensuring that your aging parents receive the care they need.
It’s important to consider all the options available and make the best choice for you and your aging parents.
You also need to have open and honest communication with your aging parents about your decision and seek support from family, friends, or professional caregivers to help you manage the caregiving responsibilities and alleviate feelings of guilt.
A family meeting may be a good way to start the conversation. If you feel that a third party would be useful, you can consider contacting a social worker or a geriatric care manager.
What’s Pushing You Away From Your Parents?
If you’re considering walking away from your aging parents, it’s essential to identify what’s pushing you away from them.
By understanding your motivations, you can make an informed decision that considers your own health and well-being as well as the needs of your aging parents.
Here are some common factors that may be contributing:
- Feelings of resentment over the care they’ve provided: Many people feel guilty for not taking on more responsibility or feeling resentful that their parents weren’t better caregivers. It’s never too late to talk to your parents and work through these emotions.
- Distance, both physical and emotional: You may feel disconnected from your parents due to physical distance or an emotional rift between you. Try to remember that communication is key to building a better relationship.
- Financial burdens: As people age, medical bills and the cost of living can add up quickly, leaving their adult children feeling overwhelmed by the financial burden. Making sure both parties are in agreement on how to handle finances can help ease the stress.
- Unmet emotional needs: Parenting is a difficult job and parents may not have been able to give their children everything they needed or wanted. As adults, we should try to recognize that our parents are human, too, and take a step towards understanding why certain needs weren’t met.
- Changing roles: As our parents age, their roles within the family often start to change. This can cause friction between adult children and their aging parents as they struggle to adjust to these new dynamics. Speaking openly about how both sides feel can help ensure that everyone is comfortable with the changes.
- Unresolved issues from childhood: Growing up, there may have been things that weren’t said or unresolved issues between you and your parents. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to adult relationships with your parents, and finding ways to talk about these issues from a place of understanding can help create a more positive relationship.
Identifying what’s pushing you away from them can help you make an informed decision about walking away from your elderly parents.
Try to consider all the options available and communicate openly with your aging parents about your decision.
Seeking support from family members, friends, or professional caregivers can help alleviate feelings of guilt and make the transition to a new care arrangement more manageable.
Why Does It Feel Wrong To Move Away From Aging Parents?
As adult children, we have a certain moral responsibility to care for our aging parents, and the idea of walking away can feel wrong or even selfish.
Here are some common reasons why walking away from elderly parents may feel wrong:
- Social Norms: Society often expects adult children to provide care for their aging parents. The idea of walking away can be perceived as going against social norms and may result in feelings of guilt or shame.
- Cultural Expectations: In some cultures, caring for aging parents is considered a duty and a sign of respect. Walking away from elderly parents can be seen as disrespectful and dishonorable.
- Emotional Attachment: We may have an emotional attachment to our aging parents, and the idea of walking away can be challenging. It’s essential to understand that walking away doesn’t mean abandoning your aging parents. It means finding alternative care arrangements to ensure that your aging parents receive the care they need while also prioritizing your own health and well-being.
- Fear of Regret: We may fear that walking away from our aging parents may result in regret later in life. It’s important to consider all the options available and make the best decision for you and your aging parents based on the information available at the time.
- Personal Beliefs: Our personal beliefs may also make it difficult to walk away from elderly parents. Some individuals may view walking away as a betrayal of family values or religious beliefs.
It’s important to understand that walking away from elderly parents is not always a bad thing. It’s essential to prioritize your own health and well-being while also ensuring that your aging parents receive the care they need.
Walking away doesn’t mean abandoning your aging parents. It means finding alternative care arrangements that meet their care needs while also managing your own responsibilities and priorities.
Having open and honest communication with your aging parents about your decision can help alleviate feelings of guilt and make the transition to a new care arrangement more manageable.
How To Have Difficult Conversations With Aging Parents About Moving Away
Having difficult conversations with aging parents can be challenging, especially when it involves discussing the possibility of moving away.
Here are some strategies that can help make the conversation go more smoothly:
- Plan Ahead: It’s essential to plan ahead before having a conversation with your aging parents. Choose a time and place where both parties can be comfortable and relaxed. It’s also helpful to prepare talking points and anticipate potential objections or concerns that may arise during the conversation.
- Be Respectful: When having difficult conversations with aging parents, it’s important to be respectful and empathetic. Acknowledge their feelings and concerns, and try to understand their perspective. Avoid making accusations or placing blame and instead focus on finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
- Be Honest: It’s crucial to be honest and upfront about your reasons for considering a move. Share your concerns and explain why moving away may be the best option for everyone involved. Being honest can help build trust and understanding between all parties.
- Explore Options: It’s important to explore all the available options for care and support, including in-home care, respite care, or hiring a professional caregiver. Discuss these options with your aging parents and help them understand how each option can meet their care needs.
- Involve Others: If possible, involve other family members, friends, or trusted advisors in the conversation. Having a support group can help reduce feelings of guilt and make the transition to a new care arrangement more manageable.
- Consider Professional Help: If the conversation becomes too challenging, consider seeking professional help. A therapist or mediator can help facilitate the conversation and ensure that everyone’s needs are heard and respected.
Having difficult conversations with aging parents about moving away can be challenging, but it’s essential to prioritize your own health and well-being while also ensuring that your aging parents receive the care they need.
Being respectful, honest, and empathetic can help make the conversation go more smoothly and ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
How Do I Stop Feeling Guilty About My Elderly Parent?
Walking away from elderly parents can result in feelings of guilt, but it’s crucial to manage these emotions effectively.
Here are some strategies for managing guilt related to walking away from elderly parents:
- Seek professional help: Consider talking to a therapist or joining a support group to process your feelings.
- Stay connected: Regular phone calls, video chats, and visits can help alleviate feelings of guilt and maintain a sense of connection.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with your elderly parents to balance their safety and well-being with your own needs.
- Involve others: Engage family caregivers, friends, or professional caregivers to support your aging parents’ care needs.
- Practice self-care: Make sure you maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting adequate sleep, physical activity, and nutrition.
- Be kind to yourself: Remind yourself that it is not easy making difficult decisions about the care of your elderly parents. Accept that feeling guilty is a normal emotion, but remind yourself that you are doing the best you can with resources you have.
- Take time for yourself: Intentionally carve out time for activities that bring joy like listening to music, spending time in nature, or reading a good book. Engage in activities that nourish your soul and give you a sense of peace.
- Eat healthfully: Feed your body nutritious foods to help support a healthy emotional state. Consume whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Eat small meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels steady and energy levels up.
Remember that guilt is a part of life and can be a sign of growth. Everyone has moments of guilt, even when we have done the right thing or tried our best. You don’t have to let it overwhelm you.
With some self-care and mindful living, you can learn to accept your feelings without letting them drag you down.
Take the time to understand your emotions, forgive yourself for your mistakes and move forward with a clearer conscience. Doing so will help you find a sense of peace and acceptance in spite of guilt.
How To Set Boundaries With Elderly Parents
Setting boundaries with elderly parents can be challenging, but it’s necessary to maintain their safety and well-being while respecting your own needs.
Here are some ways to set boundaries:
- Establish clear expectations: Communicate your boundaries to your aging parents and establish clear expectations about your level of involvement.
- Involve others: Consider involving family caregivers, friends, or professional caregivers to support your aging parents’ care needs.
- Utilize local resources: Explore local resources such as senior centers, community organizations, or healthcare providers to provide additional support and care for your aging parents.
- Consider power of attorney: If your aging parents are experiencing health issues that affect their decision-making abilities, consider establishing a power of attorney to ensure their care needs are met.
Setting boundaries with elderly parents involves taking into consideration the level of involvement and utilizing resources available to provide additional support.
It is important to remember that caring for aging parents involves a delicate balance between honoring their wishes and providing them with the care they need.
By being open to involving other caregivers, exploring local resources, and considering establishing a power of attorney, you can ensure that your elderly parents are getting the care they need.