Is walking away from an elderly parent ever the right choice? How do you cope with feelings of guilt or abandonment?

Should walking away ever be an option? Do children owe a debt of gratitude to their parents they must pay back when they get older? Here are eight situations where walking away is the right thing to do.

8 situations when you should consider walking away from an elderly parent

1. You don’t have a good relationship with your elderly parent

Some children are lucky enough to grow up with loving and nurturing parents. But if your childhood was abusive, neglectful, or traumatic, you may have attachment issues. What are your interactions with your parents like? Do you argue a lot, feel frustrated, or just go through the motions?

Caring for a parent who didn’t care for you when you were a child isn’t healthy for either party. If you feel responsible despite this, the only way forward is to confront the feelings you’re having, either with a therapist or with your parents.

Remember, their memories may differ from yours, or they may not want to open old wounds.

2. When you cannot look after them anymore

Elderly parents can have complex medical needs that an untrained person cannot provide. For example, if a parent is bed-bound, bedsores can appear quickly and become infected. We train healthcare professionals on how to lift a frail person. You could do more damage if you don’t know the correct procedures.

Then there’s medication. Elderly parents with dementia require specialized care that not only protects them from themselves but from others. You might want to do the right thing, but getting professional help ensures your parents receive the best care possible. And don’t forget, they are unlikely to get better as they age.

3. Your elderly parent is abusive

Abuse can be verbal, physical, or psychological. You wouldn’t help a friend that continued to abuse you, so why should you remain in contact just because the abuser is your parent? If their abuse affects your mental health or physical safety, the right thing is walking away from an elderly parent.

Moreover, if you have your own family, your abusive parent’s behavior will affect them negatively too. Unless they change their behavior, you are under no obligation to see them. Your parent could have dementia, which makes them aggressive, but this doesn’t mean you must suffer as well.

4. They have an all-consuming addiction

Addicts think about one thing, where their next fix is coming from. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or even sex, relationships fall by the wayside. No one knows why some people become addicted and others don’t. It’s certainly not a lifestyle choice. Addicts have underlying psychological issues, such as childhood trauma.

Whatever the reason, addiction makes people selfish, self-destructive, and unreasonable. You can’t talk or reason with an addict, especially if they are abusing substances or won’t listen to your pleas for them to get treatment.

If they won’t change or help themselves, then walking away from an elderly parent is the best thing you can do.

5. You have moved away for a new job

Children cannot put their lives on hold, waiting for their parents to die before it’s their time to shine. Your parents have had their life, now it’s your turn.

If you have a job offer that requires a move far away, you may have to go, and that means walking away from an elderly parent. We must live our lives, taking advantage of all the opportunities that come our way.

Perhaps you’ve thought about bringing your parents with you, but they’ve expressed a desire to remain where they are. This isn’t unusual. They are surrounded by the familiar: neighbors, friends, their doctor, etc. It will be hard for them to move. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.

6. Your parent has moved away

Elderly parents move away for several reasons. They move to a different country or state because it’s warmer. Or they can move into assisted living facilities where day-to-day care is available. If they’ve made the choice to leave their comfort zone, you don’t have to go with them.

You have your own career, your home, friends and other family members. You’ve created a support network around you. If they have moved a long distance from you, then frequent visits might prove difficult. They cannot expect the same level of attention when you lived close by.

If they expect to see you as regularly as they did before, you’ll have to explain it is not possible.

7. Your parent is manipulating or exploiting you

Does your elderly parent act helpless when you know they are capable? Do they call or message you at all hours for the simplest things, even when they know you’re working? Are you the one they ask for help, despite you having other siblings? Are you left feeling used, or do you dread their name popping up on your phone?

It sounds like you’re becoming resentful of their increasing demands. If you feel it’s all becoming too much, you may find walking away from your elderly parent is the only course of action. Ask other family members to step in or get professional carers involved.

8. You cannot afford to pay for care for your parent

Private healthcare for the elderly is expensive, as it should be. We want the best professionals and facilities for our elderly parents.

But day-to-day living costs are also expensive. Many basic items such as gas and electricity, food, petrol and mortgages have skyrocketed over the last couple of years. Add to this the extra expense of providing good healthcare for your parents and sometimes it just isn’t viable.

Holding your hands up and saying you cannot provide financial support to care for your parents doesn’t mean you’re abandoning them. It’s realistic. You have your own financial expenditures to worry about. You may have family or other commitments. Many of us are dealing with debt and have no savings or spare money.

If you feel guilty about walking away from your elderly parents because you can’t support their care financially, see what other options are available to them. There’s always government support or you could ask family and friends.

Coping with your feelings after walking away from an elderly parent

walking away from an elderly parent

It’s one thing to decide walking away is the right thing to do, but how do you cope with the feelings afterwards? Understanding what triggers your feelings is helpful. There are reasons we feel guilt, anger, or sadness when we walk away.

  • Society places expectations on children to look after their parents.
  • You feel as if you’re abandoning your parents.
  • You worry about what will happen to them if you’re not around.
  • Other family members are angry with you for walking away.
  • You feel responsible for their care, even though you can’t provide it.
  • You’re angry with your parents because they neglected you growing up, and now they expect you to drop everything for them.
  • Your parents make you feel guilty every time you see them.
  • You’re frustrated because your parents won’t do anything for themselves.

Final thoughts

It’s never easy walking away from an elderly parent. Sometimes, however, it’s the right and only thing you can do. If you think it is the only option that works for you, that should be good enough for everyone else, including your conscience.

Featured image by wayhomestudio on Freepik

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Samuel Girma

    I think it’s hard to do , but this is the right thing when it’s comes to life

  2. Lewis Tagliaferre

    The fifth commandment is the only one with a promise…honor your father and mother so your days o earth will be long…just saying…

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