Should Adults Be Responsible for Their Elderly Parents? Should They Be Obliged to Help Them Financially?
The idea of children becoming responsible for the well-being of their elderly parents is not new. As parents grow older and find it hard to care for themselves financially and personally, a popular view suggests that their children should take on the responsibility for them. While it is true that children should be helping out and caring for their parents, it should not be a strict obligation for children to take care of the parents.
Although it should be socially appreciated behavior for a child to help his or her elderly relations, children did not choose to become in the relationships with their parents, so they should not be legally or morally obliged to care for them. There are various forms of family and child-parent relationships, yet one thing is in common: we do not choose to be born by our parents. The relationships between children and their parents are thus not consensual. While parents should be obliged to take care for their children as they grow (because they make a conscious choice to give birth to a child and keep him or her), children are never given any options (Stuifbergen, and Van Delden 63). Therefore, as they become adults, they should be be given a free choice whether to help out their parents or not. Of course, people should be motivated to care for their parents, yet they must not be held responsible for this care. By making children obliged to care for their elderly parents, we would put children under constant pressure from possibly unpleasant and burdening relationships without any chance of escaping them.
The idea of obligation of children to take care for their elderly parents would not only have limited effect on the well-being of parents, it might also harm the children’s health. Adults are constantly stressed by the challenges of financial stability and independence, while struggling to build their own families and take care of their children. Therefore, the additional stress of the obligation to take full care of their elderly parents leads to intense stress and possible health issues. Coe and Van Houtven’s study concluded that both men and women who took care of their elderly parents were more likely to experience depression and evaluate their health lower (991). Professionals specialized in giving care for the elderly should be hired specifically to do this stressful and challenging job, yet it is unfair to put such additional burden on adult children of elderly parents. If we imagine a household with four elderly people (parents of both partners) being “attached” to it in addition to children and other responsibilities, it seems clear that such an idea is absurd and far from the modern idea of justice. This does not mean that elderly people should be left for themselves and without any help, of course. Yet it should be mostly the government’s responsibility to care for the elderly people who spent their adult lives paying taxes and investing their work in the common good.
To conclude, elderly people should be taken care of, yet it would be immoral and unhealthy to put this burden on the children of these people. Not only do children enter into relationships with their parents without any consent, but they also face far more health risks if they take care of their parents. In short, while people should be encouraged to help out their elderly parents, they surely must not be obliged to take care for them.
Coe, Norma B., and Courtney Harold Van Houtven. “Caring for Mom and Neglecting Yourself? The Health Effects of Caring for an Elderly Parent.” Health Economics, vol 18, no. 9, 2009, pp. 991-1010. Wiley, doi:10.1002/hec.1512. Accessed 18 Feb 2019.
Stuifbergen, Maria C., and Johannes JM Van Delden. “Filial Obligations to Elderly Parents: A Duty to Care?” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 14.1 (2011): 63-71.
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