Many Aging Parents Expect Their Kids To Take Care Of Them

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

I hate thinking about getting older, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts from creeping into my mind. Sometimes I lie awake at night, wondering about what will happen when I get to be a senior citizen.

Will I still have my wits about me? Will I still be okay enough to take care of myself? Is my son going to have to change my diapers one day? Oh fuck, will I actually have to wear diapers?

These thoughts spin in my mind on loop and it’s scary, especially the idea that I will be dependent on my son to care for me in my old age. I don’t want him to feel like he’s in any way obligated to give up his adult life to care for me, and I will make sure he knows that.

The thing that kind of blows my mind is, many Americans expect their children to care for them in old age. Expect.

Approximately 55 percent of Americans expect their children to care for them, or provide financial assistance. It is one thing to hope that your children care for you when you get older — no one wants to feel abandoned by their family — but it is a very different thing to expect your children to care for you when you get older. Let’s just say it’s presumptuous AF.

As parents, it is our duty to provide our children with what they need to grow up to be adults who can survive and thrive on their own. When we’ve decided to have and raise children, we accepted the responsibility to take care of them. It’s not a tit-for-tat arrangement.

I am a single parent, and have been pretty much my son’s entire life. I don’t know if that will be the case forever, but I cannot fathom expecting him to devote his adult life to caring for me. That’s so much pressure to put on him, and I feel like if he was unable to care for me, then resentment could fester and damage our relationship. And that would break my heart.

He is my only child, and I am almost certain that he always will be. The pressure to care for your aging parents as an only child is real. My parents aren’t getting any younger — my dad is already in his mid 70s, and my mom is nearly 60 — so I worry about something happening to them.

There’s a good chance your parents are Baby Boomers, and a study states that 3 in 4 Baby Boomers expect their children to care for them in old age. It’s ironic, because they’re the ones who are always shitting on Millennials about still having to live at home. When many of us are barely treading water caring for our families as it is, the weight of having to then care for an aging parent could crush us into oblivion. Then we surely won’t be able to afford eating at Applebee’s.

When many Americans are members of the “working poor” — that is, people who can barely support themselves despite working 40 plus hours a week — and can’t get by without things like Medicaid and SNAP, how can they then be expected to bring another person into the fray? Social Security is already bullshit, and many retired people who collect can barely support themselves. By time as Millennials get old, the government will be all like, “Social Security? Lol, I don’t know her.”

Taking care of aging parents has nothing to do with how much you care about them either. I love my parents, but I literally cannot afford to take on the financial responsibility of caring for them right now. We joke about sending one or both of them to “Shady Pines” — because they would be just like Sophia from The Golden Girls and Arthur from King of Queens — but while it‘s cute on a sitcom, it’s not very funny when it’s your life.

I’m not raising my son to think he has any sort of obligation to me as an adult; I want him to know that his adult life is his to live however he wants. If he gets rich, I wouldn’t turn down a housekeeper or maybe a personal chef, but that’s a pretty small request, if you ask me.

It’s important for families to have these conversations sooner rather than later. But according to Market Watch, many aging parents aren’t talking to their children about their expectations. That leads to the children being completely blindsided and ill prepared to step in if the time comes that their parents need them for care. Children may be forced to take leave from their jobs, or quit altogether and relocate to care for their parent — and if they’re not financially prepared for that, it can have lasting damage.

“Communication is vital between the generations in terms of caregiving, estate planning and myriad other reasons,” Edward Kramer, a financial adviser at Abacus Planning Group in Columbia, S.C, tells Market Watch.

RELATED: 36 Caregiver Quotes And Poems Sure To Buoy Your Spirits

If you have a parent who is approaching the age of retirement, it is a good idea to sit down and have the conversation about what the next five or ten years looks like to them. It’s uncomfortable to have, but it’s incredibly necessary. Not everything has to be resolved in the first conversation, but it’s important to open the door and to begin to come up with a plan. And if you’re in a position to, it’s never too early to begin preparing for old age.

If you have older kids, sit down with them and see what they’re thinking about, or let them know what your expectation are for the future. Even if it’s just agreeing to visit you in the retirement home. But really that’s the least kids can do after nine months of pregnancy, hours of labor, and lifelong sneeze-induced incontinence.

This article was originally published on