9 Situations When Walking Away From An Elderly Parent May Be Necessary

Walking away from an elderly parent can be one of the most difficult decisions a person can make.

It’s a heart-wrenching choice that can leave you feeling guilt-ridden, ashamed, and overwhelmed. 

After all, elderly parents are often viewed as pillars of wisdom and guidance.

But what happens when walking away may be the only viable option? 

What if it’s the best choice for everyone involved?

What then?

While it’s a tough call, there are situations where walking away from an elderly parent may be necessary. 

Read on to find out more.

Is It Selfish to Live Away from an Aging Parent?

The answer to this question isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” It depends on the context of the situation and individual circumstances.

On the one hand, living away from an aging parent can be seen as selfish if it’s done without considering the parent’s needs and well-being.

For instance, if your parent requires daily care or is in poor health, and you, the adult child, chooses to live far away without making arrangements for their care, it may be considered selfish.

Additionally, it’s selfish to prioritize your personal desires over your aging parent’s needs without providing them with the support they require.

On the other hand, moving away from an elderly parent can be completely justified in some cases. For example, if you have your parent’s full support and understanding, moving away may be the best decision for you and your family.

Living away may be a reasonable choice if your parent can still care for themselves and encourages you to pursue your career or personal goals.

Why Do I Feel Guilty About Moving Away from An Elderly Parent? 

Are you considering moving away from your elderly parents, but the guilt and shame you feel keeps getting in the way? You’re not alone.

Many people experience similar emotions when moving away from their elderly parents. But why is this the case?

  • Sense of obligation: As a child or family member, you may feel obligated to care for your elderly parent, especially if they have cared for you in the past. So the guilt you’re feeling may stem from your desire to be an obedient, respectful, and loving child. After all, It’s your turn to take care of them, right?
  • Personal expectations: Do you have expectations of what it means to be a good child or family member? If so, moving away may clash with those expectations, leaving you feeling like a bad son or daughter.
  • Fear of abandonment: Moving away may trigger a fear of abandonment in your parent, and you may feel guilty for causing them distress. While moving away may not be easy for your parent, it’s important to remember that loving someone means wanting the best for them.
  • Cultural expectations: In some cultures, especially those with conservative values, children are expected to care for their aging parents once they retire. So, moving away may be seen as a lack of filial piety and a breach of those expectations.
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO): You may feel guilty about missing out on quality time with your parent or important events in their life if you’re not physically present. This, accompanied by their age or disease, may make the guilt more palpable.
  • Guilt trips: It’s also possible that your parent may express disappointment or make you feel guilty for moving away, which can amplify any feelings of guilt you may already have. From “You’re going to abandon me, just like your siblings did” to “I’m not getting any younger, and I need you here,” your parent may use these guilt trips to ensure you don’t leave them.

According to filial responsibility laws, adult children are legally obligated to care for their aging parents. While you can walk away from your parent, the law still requires you to provide them with food, clothing, medical attention, and housing.

senior couple talking to mature son walking away from elderly parent

In the U.S., different states have different filial responsibility laws, so it’s important to check the specific statutes in your state before moving away.

But in 30 out of 50 states, you are legally obligated to take care of your elderly parent’s basic needs if they cannot care for themselves.

This means that depending on how stringent the laws are in your state, moving away could potentially put you at risk of being sued.

For example, Pennsylvania has the broadest and most stringent filial-support laws in the nation, while Arkansas has the least stringent laws. 

This means that in Pennsylvania, parents have the right to sue their adult children for financial support if they cannot afford their own basic needs. The law applies to both biological and adopted children and can include stepchildren, depending on the circumstances.

Likewise, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities can legally go after family members for unpaid medical bills. So moving away may mean you’re liable for any medical expenses your parent incurs.

Walking Away from an Elderly Parent: 9 Situations Where It May Be Necessary

While moving away from elderly parents is a difficult decision, there are several situations where it may be necessary, each with its own unique circumstances and considerations. Below are nine such examples:

1. Your Parent Is Abusive, and You Need to Protect Yourself and Your Family

Moving away from a parent is never easy, especially as they age and may need more care and support.

But what if your parent is abusive? What if their behavior is threatening your safety or the safety of your family?

In such cases, moving away may be the only way to ensure that you, your spouse, and your children are safe.

Remember that abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and financial, and can have lasting effects on your well-being and that of your children.

Before making a final decision, it’s important to consult an expert or someone who understands how the law works in your state

2. You Need to Follow a Job Opportunity

Sometimes the best opportunities come in the form of a job that requires you to move away from home. For example, if the only job offer you receive is in a different state or even country, relocating may be your only option.

woman putting on slippers of an elderly woman walking away from elderly parent

Sometimes, you may not be able to bring your parent along with you, or they may be unable to leave their home due to advanced age or medical conditions. In such circumstances, weighing the pros and cons before making a final decision is important.

Check whether you can take full advantage of the job opportunity while providing your parent the care they need.

3. You Can’t Afford to Care for Your Parent

Another difficult situation is when you cannot financially provide for your elderly parent due to a lack of resources and support.

Maybe you don’t have a job, or you have too many financial obligations and can’t afford to add to what you’re already providing. If this is your situation, you can leave your hometown for better opportunities without feeling guilty.

Also, moving away may be an option if your parent has other resources and support systems in place, such as family members or friends in the same city who can look after them.

Remember that you don’t have to shoulder all the responsibility – it’s okay to ask for help from others.

4. Your Parent Is Financially Exploiting You

Financial exploitation by an elderly parent can cause significant harm to the adult child or caregiver who is being exploited. Exploitation can take many forms, such as theft, fraud, or coercion, and can leave the victim with serious financial, emotional, and legal consequences.

Unfortunately, we may not even know we are being exploited until the damage is already done.

If you’re in such a situation, walking away from your elderly parent may be necessary to protect yourself from harm. Continuing to provide financial support or allowing your parent access to your finances may only enable the exploitation to continue and lead to further harm.

Walking away may also be necessary to prevent any legal or ethical consequences of the exploitation.

More Related Articles

35 Movies That Older Adults Will Love To Watch

Keep Your Mind Sharp With These 65 Trivia Questions For Seniors

Understanding the 5 Emotional Stages of Retirement and How to Deal With Them

5. They Are Engaging in Dangerous Behavior

There is nothing as heartbreaking as having to distance yourself from a beloved elderly parent because of dangerous behavior.

Maybe your parents are constantly engaging in reckless driving or have been drinking too much or using drugs. Maybe they are suffering from medical conditions such as dementia, and being around them has become unsafe.

If so, moving away may be the only way to protect yourself from harm.

Whether you choose to hire someone to look after your parent in their home or place them in a care facility, keep in mind that it’s not your fault, and you are not abandoning them by doing so.

Instead, you are taking proactive steps to ensure everyone is safe – including your parent. Moving away may provide a much-needed break for both of you, and it may be the best solution for all parties involved.

6. They’ve Refused Your Help

Someone said, “Pareting your own parents is the hardest job in the world,” and it’s not difficult to see why.

Some parents make it quite challenging for their kids to take care of them. They may refuse the help or care despite their medical needs, or they may be too proud to accept their children’s help.

This could manifest in a refusal to move into a senior living facility or an unwillingness to take medications prescribed by the doctor. In such cases, moving away and letting the professionals handle their care may be the right choice.

It will also give you some much-needed respite from the stress and strain of haggling with your parent.

7. Your Parents Have Decided to Move to a New Area

While this is more of them deciding to leave than you, it can still leave you feeling guilty for not being around them.

Unfortunately, it’s common for parents who have reached retirement age to relocate to areas with warmer, tropical temperatures, economically beneficial tax incentives, and more affordable living.

If your parents have chosen to move and you can’t follow them, don’t feel guilty about it. It’s perfectly normal to have different goals and aspirations – even if that means not being with your parents all the time.

8. You Have a Difficult Relationship with Them

Contrary to popular belief, growing up doesn’t always make you understand your parent better. Sometimes it just opens your eyes to the truth that you may not have the best relationship with them.

From arguments, conflicts, and constant bickering to extreme emotional abuse, if you find yourself constantly feeling drained by the relationship with your parent(s), then it might be time to distance yourself from them.

Moving away may provide the best solution for both of you and can help create a healthier and more manageable space.

9. You Are Going Through a Financial Crisis

Did you know that families that care for their aging loved ones spend around $140,000 annually? Unfortunately, this isn’t the total amount, but only the portion that Medicaid doesn’t cover.

Caring for an aging parent can be extremely expensive, especially if you are already going through a financial crisis.

If your family is already struggling financially and you can’t afford to take on the additional burden, it might be best to move away. This way, you can look for better job opportunities and take care of yourself first before worrying about your parent.

How to Help Elderly Parents from a Distance

If you live far away from your elderly parents, it can be challenging to ensure they get the support and care they need.

However, there are several things you can do to help from a distance:

1. Communicate Regularly

Regular communication is essential to staying connected with your parents and ensuring they’re doing well. Schedule regular phone or video calls to catch up, and try to keep in touch with other family members or caregivers who may be seeing your parents in person.

senior father with mature son washing dishes walking away from elderly parent

It will not only help you stay in the loop about their health and well-being, but it is also a great way to be a part of their milestones, even if it is virtual.

2. Arrange for The Required Home Modifications

Depending on your parents’ needs, they may benefit from modifications to their home to make it more accessible and safe. This includes installing grab bars, widening doorways, or removing tripping hazards such as rugs, cords, and furniture.

You can also ensure they have the necessary medical equipment or supplies to make movement easier, such as walkers, wheelchairs, or special beds and chairs.

3. Take Care of All the Financial Matters

The older people get, the harder it is to manage their finances. From retirement funds and investments to insurance, taxes, and bills, many moving parts need to be taken care of.

You can help by ensuring all their financial documents are in order, helping them shop for the best deals on insurance and other services, and making sure their bills are paid on time.

You should also consider providing financial assistance if your parents are struggling financially. This could include helping with bills and expenses or contributing to a fund for long-term care.

4. Hire Home Care Services

If your parent is having trouble with basic tasks such as bathing, dressing, cooking, and cleaning, a home care service can help keep them safe while providing much-needed companionship.

Look for experienced professionals familiar with the specific needs of elderly patients and can provide quality care. Talk to your parent about their preferences and make sure you hire someone they feel comfortable with.

5. Manage Their Medical Care

You can also help your parents manage their care from a distance if they have special medical needs.

You can do this by scheduling their appointments, coordinating with doctors and other healthcare providers, and ensuring they can access their medications.

Final Thoughts

“My family is making me feel guilty for moving away. What should I do?” If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely been there – feeling guilty and torn between doing what’s best for your family and following your own path.

Moving away can be a difficult decision, but it doesn’t have to mean leaving your family behind and abandoning your parents.

With the help of technology and regular communication, you can ensure your parents get the care and support they need, no matter how far away you are.

Is it okay to leave home when your parents are old? Find out some situations where walking away from elderly parents might be needed.