Can I Refuse to Care for Elderly Parents? – The Caring Generation®

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The Caring Generation® – Episode 46 July 8, 2020. On this caregiver radio program, Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert answers the question, Can I Refuse to Care for Elderly Parents when I might hate my parents?  Guest Dr. Monika Lopez-Anuarbe from Connecticut College shares research about Male Caregivers: The Emotional, Financial, and Physical Burden.

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Can I Refuse to Care For Elderly Parents?


00:00 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation® with host Pamela D. Wilson is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.


00:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation radio program, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves and loved ones, all tied together with humor and laughter that are a must to being a caregiver. In this radio program for caregivers and aging adults, we will talk about caregivers who ask the question, “Can I refuse to care for elderly parents?” This question, can I refuse to care for elderly parents?—may have the hair on the back of your neck bristling from the belief that children are expected to care for elderly parents, and spouses are expected to care for spouses.

01:40 Pamela D. Wilson: While this may be a common expectation, there are situations that you might not be able to imagine if you won the parent lottery like me or if you have a marriage that is not so great. I had good parents who taught me a lot of positive skills. I had other friends growing up who weren’t in the same situation. Some of them would say, “Oh, I hate my parents. I hate living at home.” To answer the question of can I refuse to care for elderly parents?—we’ll begin by looking at children who experienced what is called parentification, and I’ll explain this in a minute. These are children who are very firm in saying, “I hate my parents. I’m not going to care for them.” There are situations of neglectful parents. Those who were and still are mean, critical, and harmful. For millennials, the struggle to care for elderly parents may result from trying to manage life, work, marriage, raising children, maybe even working and going to college. It’s easy to understand why a busy adult building a career might ask the question, can I refuse to care for elderly parents?

Insights, education, and practical tips for caregivers interested in managing feelings of frustration and overwhelm are available in Pamela’s online course Taking Care of Elderly Parents: Stay at Home and Beyond. The program offers a step-by-step process to manage care for parents and avoid unknown pitfalls that most caregivers don’t know. 

02:51 Pamela D. Wilson: We will also talk about caregivers who are nearing retirement age. Those in their 60s or 70s who are caring for elderly parents or a spouse. The elderly parents, in this case, may be in their 80s, 90s, or even 100 years old. These caregivers are also asking the same question—can I refuse to care for elderly parents? The reasons for saying, “I hate my parents,” at any age, may vary. Our guest for this show is Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe. She is Associate Professor of Economics from Connecticut College, and she specializes in aging, caregiving, and health inequalities about family, money transfers, and unpaid caregiving for aging relatives and friends. Dr. Lopez-Anuarbe will share information from her research study, Understanding Male Caregivers: The Emotional, Financial and Physical Burden on Caregivers in the United States.

03:48 Pamela D. Wilson: To answer that question—can I refuse to care for elderly parents? Let’s talk about parentification. Parentification is when a child is forced to take on the role of an adult. Young children may have the responsibility of caring for younger brothers and sisters, or they may feel stuck in the middle between arguments with mom or dad. In some cultures, children take on adult-like responsibilities that can be viewed by the parents as preparing children for becoming adults. While there can be positives to this idea if managed well, when managed poorly, young children can experience stress, anxiety, trouble in school, and behaviors. Parentification is more likely to happen in dysfunctional families when parents have alcohol or drug addiction issues, extreme poverty, parent abandonment, death or divorce, chronically ill parents, or a disabled brother or sister.

04:43 Pamela D. Wilson: These are situations where young children may be more likely to say, “I hate my parents. I don’t like this situation.” According to research by Earley, Cushway, and Cassidy, youth report feeling burdened, resentful, embarrassed, and worried about their caregiving responsibilities, and angry that other people don’t understand the pressures that they face. Caregivers of all ages, do these concerns sound familiar? Young children who are caregivers can experience more health issues. Imagine having the level of caregiving responsibility that you have today if you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, beginning at age 8, 10, or 14. Considering this, in my opinion, it is understandable that children experiencing parentification ask that question—can I refuse to care for elderly parents? And they also say, “I hate my parents.”

05:35 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s translate these thoughts to experiences that many children had growing up, where one might say, “I felt I had to be responsible. I don’t remember ever being able to play or being allowed to be a kid.” Times when parents gave you responsibilities that you didn’t feel were appropriate for someone your age, puts you in the state of possible parentification. Were there times, though, when a parent complimented you for being good and so responsible? I had clients in their 50s who had this type of experience as a child. They had lifelong health issues that began in their teens. Some ran away from home. Others had difficulty holding down jobs, and they became the person needing care. The answer for them of—can I refuse to care for an elderly parent?—was yes, because they became the ones who needed care. Other childhood caregiving situations may not have been as extreme. The children, now grown, who say, “I hate my parents, and I can’t be a caregiver,” may have had a different experience.

06:38 Pamela D. Wilson: This idea though illustrates the differences in families when one child from a very young age is that responsible person. The stress can grow as other brothers and sisters who didn’t have that responsibility look at this sibling and say, “How can you not take care of mom or dad? What on earth are you thinking?” Let’s look at millennial relationships, people between 20 and 30, or thereabouts. Many millennials find themselves caring for younger parents in their 40s to 60s. Millennials also ask that question—can I refuse to care for elderly parents? They also say, “I hate my parents.” Similar to children caregivers, the effects of caregiving on millennials are poor physical and mental health. Some millennials lose their jobs or frequently change jobs, because of taking time off to care for sick parents. Others struggle with work, marriage, raising children, pursuing additional education, and trying to advance their careers.

07:38 Pamela D. Wilson: These caregivers are worried about survival and trying to plan for a future that is disrupted by caregiving. Serious thought may be given to the question—can I refuse to care for elderly parents? We are going to continue this conversation in the second half of the show, and we’ll talk about the emotional aspects of judgment for caregivers who say, “I hate my parents,” or answer yes to that question of, yes, I can refuse to care for my elderly parents. Up next, Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe, she is Associate Professor of Economics from Connecticut College. She joins us to talk about her research, understanding male caregivers, emotional, financial, and physical burden in the United States. I have had the pleasure of emailing and talking to Dr. López-Anuarbe the past couple of weeks.

08:29 Pamela D. Wilson: Her research is amazing. She does a lot of research on local groups in Connecticut, also among Hispanic caregivers, male caregivers. Her research is wonderful. The work that she does is amazing. You can look her up on the website, just by Googling her name—Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe, over at Connecticut College. We’re going to talk about men who are that group of caregivers who might answer yes to can I refuse to care for elderly parents? Helpful information and practical tips for caregivers and aging adults are in my Caring for Aging Parents Caregiving Blog that is on my website at, as well as my caregiving library. This is Pamela D. Wilson on the Caring Generation, live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.


11:39 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, I’m your host. This is the Caring Generation radio program for caregivers live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100, and TuneIn radio. Joining us is Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe, Associate Professor of Economics from Connecticut College, to talk about male caregivers. Dr. López-Anuarbe, welcome, thank you for joining us.

12:02 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Good evening. Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.

12:06 Pamela D. Wilson: Caregiving is viewed as women’s work, but about 40% of caregivers are men. What leads men into caregiving roles?

12:17 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Indeed, I think the first thing to note is that men are not a monolithic group, right, that are behaving homogeneously. Which is why in our study, we also control for relationship, because think about the difference between a caregiver that is a son, versus a husband, or a partner, a grandson, a friend. But it is definitely true that men caregivers are a growing minority. They used to be about 30% of the caregiving population about ten years ago. Now they’re 40%. And for the case of millennials, the likelihood of caregiving between men and women is equal, 50-50. So, they will not become a minority anymore.

13:08 Pamela D. Wilson: Wow, that’s amazing.

13:08 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Some of the reasons—yes, isn’t that interesting?

13:11 Pamela D. Wilson: Yes.

13:11 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: So some of the reasons why men are indeed adopting these roles might be out of choice or necessity. We have demographic factors, so perhaps we have a care recipient who only had boys. [chuckle] And one or several stepped up to the roles. We also have economic factors, so maybe these parents had boys and girls. Maybe all of them work, or they don’t. But it could be that they’re still—the man is going to become the caregiver because maybe the sibling who is a lady might have a more demanding job and is just not able to care. There might be geographical factors, as well. So it could be just a proximity thing. Maybe the relative is—the man lives closer. There could be societal norms that are slowly but surely changing, and men could be embracing their identities so that they include caregiving responsibilities among them without feeling that their masculinity is necessarily threatened. Maybe their employers are more open and supportive, about men being caregivers. Perhaps they provide more flexible work policies. And also it could be that this percentage has been vastly underestimated from the beginning. So the role of men as caregivers could be underestimated. Sometimes they are automatically eliminated from research projects because the samples are “small”, but what does small mean? Right?

15:08 Pamela D. Wilson: Right.

15:08 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Or maybe the, maybe the research questions are excluding men from caregivers, and maybe the question is, “How do women caregivers feel about this?”

15:18 Pamela D. Wilson: I think we wish more men would be caregivers. [chuckle]

15:20 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Right. Right. Or it might be a weird term for men. The term caregiver is more of a natural term for women that women have been hearing since they were maybe even sisters. But when someone says, “Are you a caregiver?” Even if you conduct the same tasks that your female counterpart does, you might not consider yourself a caregiver. Maybe you consider yourself a brother or a husband, even though you might still be bathing your mother, right? So the term is a little bit complicated.

15:58 Pamela D. Wilson: And do men approach caregiving differently than women?

16:03 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Yes. Yes. Research shows that there is a tendency for many men to adopt a more problem-solving, task-oriented approach to care compared to women, and in that approach, they sometimes also have a desire to emotionally disconnect from this role. So another thing that we’ve noticed is that while both men and women caregivers under-utilize support systems, men access them at even lower rates than women do. The problem is that the problem-solving approach only works if caregivers, men, and women, but in this case, men know what they’re doing and how to engage in these tasks. And also, just because you are emotionally trying to disconnect, whether subconsciously or on purpose, that doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing emotional burden either. And this strain might be compounded by men’s higher isolation rates and smaller networks.

17:16 Pamela D. Wilson: Well, and talk about that word burden. So does the son experience different burden than a husband who would be caring for a wife?

17:23 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Yes. Yes. So in our research and I think this is a pretty universal definition, caregiver burden refers to the strain or load borne by a person assisting one or more ill disabled or elderly persons. They’re usually a relative, but it could be a friend. And our research found that in particular, sons and sons-in-law reported higher levels of emotional and financial burden than spouses. For example, even though sons, do not always provide more caregiving than spouses and even though they actually receive more support than spouses do. And this might be because sons could be part of that sandwich generation and maybe caring for their own children, nuclear family, working outside of the home, juggling more responsibilities. It could be that the relationship with the recipient is more strained or less reciprocal. Less sentimental than the one between partners.

18:32 Pamela D. Wilson: And so we’re going to head out to a break, but I’m going to start a question before the break so that when we come back, you can think about this. But you talked about the burden between the sons and the husbands, and a lot of male caregivers tell me that they’re uncomfortable doing personal care tasks like bathing and that they don’t have any training. And not a lot of them talk to medical teams or social teams. So when we come back, I want to know if there’s a trust issue with men asking for help. We are going to continue our conversation with Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe, Associate Professor of Economics from Connecticut College, about her research understanding male caregivers after this break. I’m Pamela D. Wilson on the Caring Generation, live on the BBM, Global Network Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. Stay with us. We’ll be right back.


21:39 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host on The Caring Generation on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. We’re back for more on the subject of male caregiving with Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe. So Dr. López-Anuarbe, can you answer that question that I started before the break about the difference between support for male caregivers who are sons and spouses and burden?

22:05 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Absolutely. So I believe that question had to do with personal care, tasks, and trust.

22:11 Pamela D. Wilson: Yes.

22:12 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: And as we know, personal care tasks are intensive. They’re intimate activities. They include bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding. They’re not things that are necessarily something that you can intuitively do. You might need some training. And research shows that while these personal care activities are burdensome for both men and women caregivers, men are even less prepared to adequately perform these tasks, and this lack of preparation is conducive to burden, and part of that lack of training might be for personal reasons. Maybe men are too embarrassed to ask for help. But there are also systemic reasons for this. Perhaps there are a few resources out there, maybe they are not properly advertised. They don’t, for men specifically, the support services mostly cater for women caregivers. They may be too expensive or inconvenient, culturally incompetent, and all these barriers cause untrustworthiness.

23:14 Pamela D. Wilson: And a lot of your research deals with the emotional, the financial and the physical aspects of caregiving, what do the trends show about the differences and the significance of that?

23:24 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Yes. So we decided that caregiver burden is not necessarily only emotional. Which is why we also studied and included physical and financial burden because burden can be manifested in multiple ways. One can cause the other or a person such as a male caregiver may under-report one kind but not the other. And what we found is that despite all of these potential issues, our research still showed that men caregivers reported greater levels of emotional burden, particularly sons and sons-in-law, then the sons and sons-in-law also reported high levels of financial burden and spouses reported higher levels of physical burden.

24:18 Pamela D. Wilson: And there’s mention in your research about care systems not having either enough information for caregivers or caregivers having hurtful interactions. Elaborate on that.

24:29 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Yes. Well, I believe that information can be useless if it’s incomplete. If it’s confusing, irrelevant, even if there’s a lot of it, because if it doesn’t apply to our needs, what’s the point? Sometimes I read some of these caregiving sites and end up more confused [laughter] than before I started even though I have a Ph.D. in this thing. [chuckle] So I always go for less is more. It’s more about quality over quantity, applicability, and usefulness. And regarding these stressful interactions or hurtful interactions, if you are a caregiver, you are in a vulnerable position. And if the people who are supposed to help you are callous, condescending, or incompetent, it’s not really surprising that you may never want to reach out again. So it’s very important that when you do reach out in your vulnerability, you get some [chuckle] positive support.

25:35 Pamela D. Wilson: Helpful persons. So a lot of caregivers say that they want help, but they just don’t go there until they’re so overwhelmed. What does the research show about why that happens?

25:45 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Yes, well definitely inadequate, they, inadequate knowledge is an issue. But we also must remember that caregiving is a dynamic role, which depends on the evolution of both the care recipient and the caregivers’ needs. So we want to continuously update the help and training that we’re getting. So we can continue having a healthy relationship and not wait until we can’t go it alone. Because the chances are we will not be able to go it alone. So even if we seek for help once upon a time during the early stages of our care recipient’s chronic conditions, we need to continue updating those caregiver skills for our own well-being and our loved ones.

26:35 Pamela D. Wilson: In a perfect world, what type of support would make caregiving easier for men?

26:41 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Yes, I think that I’d like to give answers based on two areas, the first one is that there should be a mind shift. We should ask caregivers, and men in particular in this case, how to be able to support our own health, well-being and also value our role as caregivers. Men should take actually pride in this role and take care of themselves as well, so that, I think, is important to me. Also, men should acknowledge that there are many positive aspects of caregiving. It is a difficult and oftentimes long commitment, but there are times to celebrate these wins. You can celebrate that you were able to cook a meal for your care recipient that maybe you didn’t know how to do. You should perhaps celebrate your relationship with the recipient, even if the recipient might be a difficult person to deal with. Maybe find some spiritual fulfillment. In other words, this is a noble service.

27:55 Dr. Mónika López-Anuarbe: Then, in terms of what to do. Well, one thing that diminishes burden and increases competence is investing in improving our ability to provide good care. So we’ll feel more competent, and this will help reduce burden. So find training, support, also respite rest. Don’t feel guilty about resting. Use technology and apps to maybe help you manage prescriptions, finances, schedules, and remember that this is, caregiving is not a one-to-one type of relationship. Take a team-based approach made up of formal and informal care, so you can delegate even if you don’t have relatives nearby. Befriend your healthcare providers, pharmacists, social workers, case managers, grocery store managers, Uber drivers, senior center workers. Find allies and advocates. Because if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire country to care for our loved ones.

29:05 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. López-Anuarbe, thank you so much. You are amazing. I love you. Listeners, we are going to be right back after this break. I’m Pamela D. Wilson on The Caring Generation live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.

Interested in learning more about what it takes to care for a parent with memory loss? The online course How to Get Guardianship of a Parent offers practical steps for knowing if getting guardianship of a parent is a practical next step. 


31:40 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers, and aging adults live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. The Caring Generation focuses on the conversation of caring, giving us permission to talk about aging, the challenges of caregiving, health, and everything in between. Let’s return to answer the question—can I refuse to care for elderly parents when I hate my parents? Let’s talk about the emotional aspects of answering this question and the pressures that adult children face from caring for elderly parents, brothers and sisters, and even friends.

32:20 Pamela D. Wilson: Let’s say that you—like me—won the parent lottery, great parents, your relationship with mom and dad is really good, you are or will be their caregiver. You can’t imagine anyone saying, “I hate my parents” or answering yes to that question, can I refuse to care for elderly parents? Putting yourself in the place of the caregiver who feels the opposite way than you do about caring for an elderly parent can be difficult. What if this person told you that he or she is envious of the relationship that you have with your parents? That he or she was and is continuously criticized by an elderly parent and was neglected as a child. What if this mother left the children behind when they were young and never returned? The husband who raised the children may have done everything to poison the children’s thoughts and beliefs. When the real story was that the father was an alcoholic who beat his wife and almost killed her, so she had to leave. True story with one of my clients. We have an adult child now who wants no reconciliation with mom and says, “I hate mom, don’t want to have anything to do with her.”

33:25 Pamela D. Wilson: We have a mother who left her children to save her life. There are two sides to every caregiving story. Depending on the severity of the situation, the answer to can I refuse to care for elderly parents may also be impacted by guilt or responsibility or duty. Many caregivers want to believe that relationships with parents will improve or work out. Some do, some don’t. As caregivers, we must realize that we can’t change our parents. We can change ourselves, our behaviors, our beliefs, our thinking. The same applies to the idea of rescue. We can’t rescue our parents or save them from their choices or behaviors. We can rescue ourselves and answer no to can I refuse to care for elderly parents—or I should say yes—so that we can preserve our physical and emotional health. In families where multiple children can participate in caregiving, fear of family disruption, or disagreements with brothers and sisters can be that guilt card that pushes the child over the edge to care for elderly parents.

34:31 Pamela D. Wilson: If an adult child has children, there might be concern about spoiling the relationship between the children and grandma or grandpa, if that relationship with the parent ends. For sons, responsibility and duty are significant reasons to put aside thoughts of I hate my parents,” and the question of can I refuse to care for elderly parents? Because like Dr. López-Anuarbe said, men choose to treat caregiving like a job or a project, and they can emotionally distance themselves.  They may be better at distancing themselves from unpleasant emotional childhood memories and fractured relationships with elderly parents. A man’s response to can I refuse to care for elderly parents might be yes. But then the answer may be, I’ll do it anyway. Some caregivers worry about what other people will think of them if they refuse to care for elderly parents. A lot of pressure exists to do the right thing, even though doing that right thing may negatively affect the life of the caregiver and the caregiver’s family.

35:37 Pamela D. Wilson: The idea of regret may affect a response to can I refuse to care for elderly parents? In some families, if a daughter or a son says, “I’m going to refuse”, there might be no one else to fill that role. In other situations, sons or daughters may just walk away and disappear. Their answer is, yes—I can refuse to care for elderly parents. How many of you know or have a family member or a friend who hasn’t spoken to other family members in years? This type of disappearance can result from family disagreements, disagreeable parents, bad childhood memories, and a lot of thoughts of I hate my elderly parents. I don’t want anything to do with them. Years later, when caregiving is a need, there might be too much water underneath that bridge to work backward to make an effort to reconcile the relationship. The adult child may not view that relationship as necessary. When caregivers agree to accept the caregiving role against their better judgment, unexpected situations may happen.

36:40 Pamela D. Wilson: One caregiver invited her mother, who had a stroke to move into her household, fully expecting that mom would recover and return home. Eight years later, mom hasn’t improved and now has a diagnosis of dementia. The daughter was forced to retire early to care for mom. The daughter’s health and life savings are both negatively affected forever. The decision to walk away and say, yes, I can refuse to care for my elderly parent might be easier when we’re young because there are so many distractions in life. Young adults, millennials working full-time, and raising children might be struggling to keep up with work and taking care of their children. Adding the responsibility to care for an elderly parent and that additional financial expense might not be reasonable, practical, or logical. In these situations, family discussions might revolve around planning for public assistance programs like Medicaid and the idea of living in a nursing home.

37:37 Pamela D. Wilson: The question of can I refuse to care for elderly parents doesn’t always mean that you have to be the hands-on available 24/7 caregiver who shows up in that red cape with the Superman front, the letter S on the front of your shirt. I hate my parents may mean that you help your mom or dad to care for themselves by not being overly involved. Setting boundaries when there may be no one else to care for parents can be an imperfect but workable solution to feeling that you are not abandoning an elderly parent, but you’re not becoming so heavily involved that being a caregiver takes over your life and your health. An adult child in their 60s and 70s also find themselves asking the question, can I refuse to care for my elderly parents who are in their 80s, 90s, and up to 100? Caregiving is hard work. Many caregivers find themselves with as many health issues as aging parents who need care. After the break, we’ll talk more about caregivers in their 60s and 70s, who also may be saying, I hate my parents, can I refuse to care for my elderly parents? I am also elderly myself.

38:41 Pamela D. Wilson: Follow me on social media. My Facebook page is, on Twitter, I am Caregivingspeak, on Instagram, I am Wilsonpamelad. You can also listen to the podcast of this show on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spreaker, and other sites. This is The Caring Generation coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100, and TuneIn Radio. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.


41:26 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, author, and speaker on The Caring Generation, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Information for corporations and human resource departments about caregiving training, development, wellness, and education, on-site or through online digital caregiving programs, is on my website at We’re back to talk about older caregivers in their 60s and 70s, caring for elderly parents in their 80s, 90s, and up to 100. When caregivers in their 60s and 70s ask the question, Can I refuse to care for elderly parents, the considerations may be very different from younger and millennial caregivers. The difference in thinking, “I hate my parents” can be sizeable. Over time, childhood memories may fade, and aging adult caregivers may be more empathetic and forgiving. Caregivers in their 60s and 70s are likely experiencing some of the health issues and concerns that their elderly parents experience. Younger caregivers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, may feel invincible and be less empathetic to the aches and pains related to aging. Older caregivers may have lost friends. That experience of death may offer a greater breadth of empathy and tolerance for the behaviors of elderly parents that might be viewed as mean or narcissistic or difficult.

42:54 Pamela D. Wilson: On the other hand, boundaries about financial aspects and money that caregivers can give to their elderly parents for care might be pretty firm. While younger caregivers may have years in front of them to work to replenish funds spent on caring for elderly parents, older caregivers nearing retirement may not. Answering the question of can I refuse to care for elderly parents may be a financial yes for caregivers nearing or at retirement age. Then let’s throw mixed families into the idea. Mixed families can complicate the question of can I refuse to care for elderly parents? What happens when there are two sets of children who don’t get along, and they’re more concerned about their financial inheritance than in caring for elderly parents? A son or a daughter may be stuck in thoughts of, “Oh, I hate my parents because mom or dad remarried, and I don’t like the spouse, and now I have all of these other family members to deal with, and I don’t like them either.” Answering the question of can I refuse to care for elderly parents doesn’t have to be a yes or no answer. Caregiving can happen in degrees, in bits and pieces. By this, I mean that a caregiver can still say, “I hate my parents, but I’m willing to write a check for $200 a month to help pay for mom or dad’s care that I refuse to do myself.”

44:18 Pamela D. Wilson: Dreaming of can I refuse to care for elderly parents may seem like a selfish idea. Caregivers who can reconcile thoughts of guilt, regret, and lost family relationships, might find themselves happier, less stressed. Especially if you were a caregiver who had health issues, physical and emotional, because of caregiving responsibilities. If you’re in between saying, “Ah, I hate my parents, but I’m willing to do something,” decide what that something might be. Think about what the worst aspect of caregiving is for you. Is it listening to an elderly parent complain for hours? Is the worst aspect of caring for you, doing personal care, like we discussed with Dr. López-Anuarbe? Is it running errands? Are you concerned about having to learn about caregiving when you’d rather invest time and effort into your career. Something that you feel has a long-term benefit? For some family caregivers, spending time in caregiving when I hate my parents is that yes answer to can I refuse to care for elderly parents is stressful. Becoming a caregiver, it’s a significant life changer. It can last for years.

45:26 Pamela D. Wilson: If you’re on the fence about can I refuse to care of elderly parents, can I not, you can set a boundary that says, “I’m willing to do X, Y or Z for 12 months. After that, mom and dad, I’m out. You need a better plan. Let’s start talking about that plan today so that in 12 months, we are there.” The idea of this is part of that middle ground that doesn’t have to be a yes or no answer, but it gives a little to the degree that you feel that you’re not losing your life to caregiving. Caregiving involves a lot of physical tasks, bathing, dressing, running errands, attending doctor appointments, making meals, a lot more. Being a family caregiver, it’s a non-stop job.

46:09 Pamela D. Wilson: You know this. You never really get away from caregiving. Which is why caregivers on this journey are starting to ask, can I refuse to care for elderly parents? Grieving how life before caregiving—BC—can be a tipping point that makes sons or daughter caregivers change their minds about being that primary caregiver. Spousal caregivers don’t have the same out or the luxury to say, can I refuse to care for a spouse? Although in some situations, that does happen. Involvement with mom or dad who may be the healthy spouse may be the reason that adult children hang in there when they’d rather shout, yes, yes, yes, yes to can I refuse to care for elderly parents? You may feel that if you abandon healthy mom or dad, they as the caregiver will fall apart because they’re already struggling to care for your sick mom or dad. In caregiving, it’s vital to be upfront and clear about what you can’t or won’t do. Consistency of behavior and being reliable can be a significant comfort to an elderly parent or to a healthy mom or dad who is that caregiver.

47:15 Pamela D. Wilson: Few people like surprises unless they are good surprises. Caregiving always doesn’t have a lot of good surprises. Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Don’t accept the caregiver position if you feel forced into this role by others. Mixed emotions can lead to caregiver stress, frustration, anger, and resentment. Negative feelings can build up until we feel like we’re drowning. Thoughts of can I refuse to care for elderly parents, or I hate my parents play over and over in our heads like a broken record. How do we get around situations where we feel emotionally challenged? One suggestion is rather than making the situation about someone else, that parent we hate or that person at the office who drives us crazy. We make the situation about ourselves. Learning to treat everyone with politeness and respect even if we disagree is a starting point. Small gestures of kindness go a long way.

48:10 Pamela D. Wilson: You don’t have to overdo it and act as you would with your best friend. But be polite, be kind, try to smile just a little bit. A related tip is to limit the time you have to be on your best behavior. If you know, 30 minutes is your breaking point before that volcano blows, schedule a 30-minute visit with an elderly parent and then excuse yourself. That is one way of boundary setting. We’ll talk more about ways to manage emotionally challenging situations where we’d rather refuse to care for elderly parents after this break. Listen, like, follow, and share the Caring Generation podcasts for caregivers by visiting the radio page on my website Click on that media tab and then the Caring Generation radio program tab. This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving author, expert, and speaker on the Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back.


51:26 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host on the Caring Generation radio program for caregivers, and aging adults live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio. Visit my website for helpful information. Encourage your human resource department to check out my online caregiver employee development program, Taking Care of Elderly Parents, Stay at Home, and Beyond. Let’s talk about a couple more tips for getting around situations we feel are impossible. It’s okay to side-step conversations that you know will go nowhere. Say things like, “I’m not comfortable talking about that now,” “Give me a little time to think about that,” “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.” Those statements are like pressing the pause button or taking a time out. It gives our brains time to regroup rather than saying or doing something that we might regret. When we think about can I refuse to care for elderly parents or oh, I hate my parents today trying to find common ground is another technique to manage complicated interactions.

52:30 Pamela D. Wilson: When family relationships have been long-standing, and you’re having difficulty seeing things from mom or dad’s perspective, set some ground rules. Create boundaries, set limits. More on the subject of boundaries is in The Caring Generation radio show called, Setting Boundaries with Difficult Elderly Parents. If you’re a caregiver thinking about walking away from a care situation, have the conversation with your parents about end-of-life care choices, and make sure that they’ve executed Power of Attorney documents that don’t name you and a living will. In situations where caregivers answer that question, “Can I refuse to care for elderly parents?” with a yes, you can’t really have it both ways.

53:12 Pamela D. Wilson: If you don’t want to be that caregiver, take steps to help your elderly parents find someone else to replace you and take care of their health and financial matters. This way, you can leave the situation and have peace of mind that you won’t have to become involved again when serious life or death decisions have to be made. That will be taken care of. Mom or dad will have another person, whether it’s another family member, or a professional to help or they’ll be in a care situation, in a care community, where they are receiving all of the care that they need. Making this back-up plan allows you to answer the question, can I refuse to care for elderly parents and have that peace of mind about saying, yes, I can refuse.” But, I help mom or dad make a plan.

54:01 Pamela D. Wilson: Leaving a care situation because you aren’t the right person to provide care, doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden if you set up a backup plan for your elderly parent. Your elderly parent can choose to accept your help or not. Remember, you can’t change your elderly parents’ behaviors or rescue mom or dad. It’s time to put on that oxygen mask and save yourself, your family, your children, your career. You don’t have to explain to anyone why you made the choice to refuse to care for an elderly parent. Many caregivers choose not to share that information with friends who may not understand. Next week, by caregiver request, we will be talking about the meaning of do-not-resuscitate and what is a DNR.

54:40 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. Richard Balaban from Cambridge Health Alliance shares information from his article, A Physician’s Guide to Talking About End-of-Life Care, and why not all physicians are good at talking about end-of-life care with families. If you have suggestions for future shows, visit my website,, and go to the contact me button. You can send me an email. Caregivers, family, and professionals speak up, ask for what you need from your families, and the workplace, HR departments. There are programs on my website at Help and support for caregivers for aging adults are here every Wednesday night on The Caring Generation radio show.

55:18 Pamela D. Wilson: Share information about the program with your friends, your family, your workplace, and the podcast replays. Also, check out my website, On there, my caregiving blog, my book, a lot of helpful information. I am Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, advocate, author, and speaker. God bless you all caregivers. Take care of yourselves, do some self-care, make some caregiving plans. Talk to your elderly parents about care in the future, so that you are not so stressed at the end. Have a fabulous day tomorrow, and a great week until we are together again.


55:55 Announcer: Tune in each week for The Caring Generation with host Pamela D. Wilson. Come join the conversation, and see how Pamela can provide solutions and peace of mind for everyone here on Pamela D. Wilson’s The Caring Generation.


Looking For Answers to Taking Care of Me for Caregivers? Check out these articles by Pamela in The Caring Generation Library.

About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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