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HORIZON BLOG

I Don't Want to Burden My Kids

 

Question

"Today is my 95th birthday. I don’t write so well anymore, so I’m typing these days. That’s the reason this letter is from an old Underwood typewriter.

Since my husband passed, everything has fallen to me. Some children complain about helping their elderly parents, but not mine. My children have been wonderful. They stop by daily and help me in many, many ways.  

After all, I raised my children by feeding, clothing, educating, and providing a home for them for 18 years, which is far longer than they will need to care for me.

Still, I do not know what the future holds for me and I do not want to over-tax my children. What is reasonable to expect in the form of help?

Today they take care of my yard, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and errands. Is that too much?"

 

Answer

It’s quite thoughtful of you to consider all sides of the equation. So frequently, people just look at their own situation and ignore the impact of it, without contemplating the needs of others involved.

I’m guessing your children are in their 60s or so. They’re nearing retirement or in the last of their working years. At least some of them must live nearby if they can stop daily and do all of the things you listed. You are blessed to have such support.

Now on to the question as to what is reasonable to expect from your children. This is a tough one because there are many factors at play, with no two situations being identical. To start, consider the situation:

  • How many of your children live close to you?
  • Are they working full-time, part-time, or retired?
  • What is their health like?
  • How much help do you require?
  • How willing are the children to do your yard, house, and personal care work?
  • How easy are you to assist? Are you grateful or irritable?
  • How much work is there to maintain you in your home?
  • What are your financial resources like?

As you can see, the considerations are many, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. 

Maintaining your household plus their own is a lot of work. Assuming that you live in an average-sized home with a yard, you’ll need some daily and some weekly maintenance. If you can’t do any of the work, it might be reasonable to hire some assistance. Yard work is heavy and time consuming. You may tax your children beyond their capacity at some point. Use your children to do the shopping, run errands, and help with light housekeeping. Consider a weekly housekeeper for deeper cleaning and a landscape company or hired neighbor for grass cutting and snow removal.

I do think it’s wonderful that your children are able to do the bulk of the work needed at this time. I would, though, consider setting up some outside help for some of the heavy-lifting type tasks. The goal here is being able to stay in your home. Setting up a sustainable situation is what I would consider.  While it is maybe “fair” in your mind to expect the children to care for you, it is not quite the same, caring for an adult in their home, as it is an infant in your home. We are dealing with two households here. Children can often sustain it for a while, and as your need grows, their ability to assume more may be taxed. Planning to supplement their support is my recommendation for the future, and I would start planning now.

You seem like a wise, independent individual with the wherewithal to seek the answers you need. Please put those skills to use. Talk it over with the kids and prepare. It is work to live independently in your home. It seems like you have a wonderful network of support. Strengthen your network to live independently for hopefully your entire life.

I wish you and your family success as you navigate this journey of life together.

 

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