adult children caring for parents

Dad and I love each one of you more than you can possibly imagine. We would do anything to make your lives the best they can be. Over the years, we said ‘no’ to various things because we believed it was in your best interest. The thought of you all as adult children caring for us, your parents, inspired me to write this.

Depending on the circumstance, you may or may not have agreed. Some call it ‘tough love’. I call it true love.

It would have been so easy to just give you what you wanted, when you wanted it. Doing things for you, instead of teaching you how to do it for yourself would have taken far less time. That’s not what you needed.

Watching you light up when given something you wanted brought great joy. Watching you cry – for whatever reason, was heartbreaking. We made you earn your spending money, we wouldn’t allow you to go to a house if we didn’t their parents, and we didn’t let you go to a party if the parents weren’t going to be there. These were not easy things for us.

You may have thought we ‘weren’t cool’ but we loved you enough to make choices that were wise, even though we knew you may have been angry, hurt, sad, and more. That the role of parents.

So, what is the point of this letter?

Dad and I are telling you that we want you to be honest with us, brutally honest with us whenever you believe we are not making decisions in our best interests. This may be a challenge for you. Dad and I are both adults, currently of sound mind. It may not be so easy to know when the choices we make not less than ideal. After all, we quit lucrative careers to start a home care agency and work 24/7. Some may think that was ‘less than rational’.


We have learned a great deal by running a home care agency. Our philosophy is “Guiding your way” because we understand that people are going to make their own decisions. They may not be the ones we would make, but as long as the person is competent, they should live the life they choose.
There are times aging parents make choices that we think are not be in their best interests – they refuse to make small changes to their homes that will improve their safety and perhaps prevent a catastrophic injury from a fall. Some changes may help conserve their energy so they can continue to do the things they enjoy. The result of these choices may significantly impact the quality of their life and of their children’s lives.
Every day, we work with families grappling with these challenges. But, none of them have been more challenging than our mothers. One has a sound mind but suffers from a chronic debilitating neuromuscular disease.  The other, unfortunately, suffers from both chronic disease and a failing memory. Both provide us with ongoing challenges.

My mother says to my sister “I wish someone would tell me what to do.” My siblings look to me because of my experience and ask me to give Mom advice. No matter how I gently explain things, offer advice, etc. to my mother, I am dismissed. I am in good company as she does not accept what the doctors are telling her.

My brother will comment how differently Mom ‘hears’ what the doctors says. I believe it is the same for my advice. So I will no longer give it. She is exhausting my brother who lives 20 minutes away without realizing it. He works full time and has a very active family. He loves her and truly doesn’t mind, but he’s run ragged and this can’t last.

So, dear children, I love you enough to tell you to be honest with us and to be tough with us. There are services, facilities, and options available to help seniors. Families should be family. They are also caregivers- for short, acute episodes when needed. Caregiver burnout is very real. The physical and emotional tolls can be devastating.

We want you to dedicate yourself to your family, your spouse, your children, your church, your community, and your profession.  Being dedicated to us (as your parents) does not mean being at our beck and call all the time.

We know you love us but it is not your responsibility to help us get dressed, take a shower, fix our house, go food shopping for us on an ongoing basis. In an emergency, or if a sudden, acute medical problem arises that requires assistance for a brief period of time AND you are willing and able to help- that’s fine.

For chronic, long term, no end in sight assistance, your aging parents are NOT your responsibility. We are asking you to love us enough to give us the tough love that we gave you. It’s harder to say no than it is to say yes.

I’m asking you to love me and Dad, as well as yourself, enough to say – I will find help for you. I will now apologize for anything I may say or do in the future that contradicts this.