While researching the topic of providing care for our elderly parents throughout the day today, it quickly became obvious that there are very strong opinions on the subject. Googling the topic with a variety of keywords inevitably brought me search results of message boards where one or more people were expressing their personal difficulties with having their elderly parent or elderly in-law living in their home.
Respondents were often quite hostile with their responses to the writer, while others bantered on and on, some quoting scripture about Honoring our parents. Those that weighed in with hostility were quick to judge the writer as being “cruel”, “uncaring”, “unloving”, “unappreciative”, and generally a louse of monumental proportion.
I find it peculiar that complete strangers, reading a brief synopsis of the writers rendition of his anguish and difficult struggle in dealing with matters involving caring for an elderly parent, would so vehemently attack and judge the writer as cruel, uncaring, unloving etc. Most peculiar was that so many respondents mentioned in their reply that “although I am not yet in your shoes”, or “I’m not in your situation….But”.
Who are they to then judge and ridicule someone who has been, or is currently handling such weighty matters in their homes? It’s so easy to judge others decisions, until we find ourselves in those same shoes.
There are obviously many things to consider when it comes to deciding how to care for our elderly parents. Whether the parent lives with you in your home, in their own home, in Independent Living, Assisted Living, or a Nursing Home, what is ultimately decided must be in the best interests of everyone involved. There are advantages and disadvantages to each scenario that much carefully be considered.
Each person involved should have ample opportunity to voice their concerns and wishes, and for those to be seriously considered. Ultimately, it is a personal family matter, and no one should judge the decision made.
One area of great concern for many is the hardship and strain placed on marriages, some being very new marriages, as was the case of the writer mentioned at the outset of this post. Others are families with children of varying ages and needs of their own. Bringing an elderly parent into the home of a newly married couple, where couples are still getting accustomed to each others’ ways, can create tremendous strain on the marriage.
These couples stood before God and witnesses at their wedding, while the minister preached about the importance of leaving and cleaving unto each other and what that means for the success of their marriage. This cleaving indicates such closeness that there should be no closer relationship than that between the two spouses, not with any former friend or with any parent.
Established families with children must put their spouse and any children as priority, while at the same time caring for the needs of elderly parents. Caring for the needs of elderly parents should not be to the extent where the spouse and children feel neglected or forgotten, perhaps due to extreme amounts of time and attention being given to the elderly parents.
When there is greater sharing and emotional support gained from a parent-child relationship than from the husband-wife relationship, the oneness within the marriage is being seriously threatened and is unbiblical.
The line is drawn when one is being asked to comply with one biblical principle in such a way that it violates another principle or command. When the meddling of a parent violates the “leaving” because it is treating the parent-child relationship as primary (demanding obedience, dependence, or emotional oneness over the desires/dependence/oneness with the spouse), it should be respectfully rejected and the spouse’s desires honored. However, when there are genuine needs of an aging parent, (assuming the “need” does not supersede the “leaving” principle), the need is to be met.
One must distinguish biblical physical and emotional needs from the “felt needs” or “wants and whims” of an overbearing, demanding parent. Those on the outside looking in, ignorant and perhaps inexperienced in these matters, should not criticize or harshly judge others who make a family decision that does not match their own.