Living with elderly parents
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - September 14, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — As people grow up, they begin to live a life of their own. They pursue careers and soon leave their parents’ home to have a family of their own. Then the ageing parents will have to get by on their own.

The elderly parents themselves may pass off on their children’s invitation to live with them if it’s not in the old home. They feel that it’s too late for them to change home environments, to try to familiarize themselves with a new household.

Most grownups who already have their own families still have the burning desire to personally take care of their ageing parents. But, often, they want to take their parents with them to their new homes so they – the kids – can establish their independence. This is usually where the problem starts, because the parents won’t want to give up their own sense of independence, either.

In the past, the norm was for even married adult children to live with their old parents. The setup gave the elderly parents many caregivers – the whole family – to look after them. Back then, the family residences were bigger and there was enough space for everyone.

It worked well, for the most part. There would be one of the couple – usually the wife – who’d stay home the whole time to take care of the elderly and the little kids, if any. The quirks that go with advanced age were tolerable, because the homebound spouse had all the patience to deal with it.

These days, however, the spouses are both at work. Even if the old parents they’re living with are still full of energy and are still healthy and don’t require a caregiver for company, the situation at home is often awkward – if not volatile. The working spouses are always in a hurry for work and already too worn out when they return from a workday, often unable to give their parents the attention that the old people so much need.

It’s common to hear old people complaining that their children have no more time for them and take them for granted. Such complaint would draw sharp remarks from the adult children, who’d consider it too selfish for their parents to say. The relationship deteriorates.   

The home environment can get more complicated when there are also teenage grandkids in the family. Tensions often crop up between teenagers and their grandparents. Some call it a “generation gap,” where the young and the old seem to be speaking their own foreign languages.

It’s much harder with sickly old parents, who can now be more irritable aside from needing close care and attention. A full-time caretaker may have to be hired – a significant addition to the family budget along with possible maintenance medication. It can be quite a burden living with infirm elderly parents.

The burden, however, is only half of the equation. The presence of elderly parents in the home can have a positive effect on growing children. Grannies are generally more doting of their grandchildren, and young kids may learn responsibility if tasked to assist their old grandparents.

If the elderly parents are retirees receiving regular pension, they need not cause added pressure on the family finances. Old people, being generally finicky about tidiness, can also help keep the house in good order. They can greatly help in the raising of their grandchildren, too. 

But even if their presence in the home totally means inconvenience and sacrifice on the part of everyone else, caring for aging parents is a great way for adult children to show their gratitude for the care they got when they were little and solely dependent on their parents. Most of all, when adult children take care of their ageing parents they give their own children the perfect example of what commitment means in a family relationship.

It is not in the Filipino culture to send old parents away to institutions. Living with elderly parents is an endeared tradition in the country. Hence, as that time is certain to come, it has to be planned and prepared for properly.

The level of care that ageing parents need will always be higher with time. Families just have to be ready to increase the time and energy devoted to them every year. It’s just the way it is.

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