Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you have a moral duty to personally care for elderly parents?
Your mother and father will not be around forever. Are you prepared for the day their declining health requires assistance for daily functioning? What will you do?
TODAY’S DEFAULT ANSWER
Modern culture has a plan in place for you to take care of mom and dad. The popular answer is to let someone else care for elderly parents. Your parents.
It is sad, really, but that is the default answer.
Granted, the Baby Boomer Generation is getting into that elderly stage and there are a lot of people in that age group.
But look how few get to spend their twilight years in the comfort of their own homes. Too few get to spend their last few years in the company of their family.
CARE FOR ELDERLY PARENTS IS A MORAL DUTY
Personally providing care for elderly parents remains a moral responsibility. The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies the principle in play:
“The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor” (2208, emphasis added).
The Catechism then goes on to explain that only when this principle cannot possibly be upheld, does it fall on others to assist in the care of elders.
“There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs:
“‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world’ (citing James 1:27)” (2208).
The next section of the Catechism gives further details as to what subsidiariness would look like in care for the aging.
“The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures.
“Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family.
“Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life” (2209, emphasis added).
That last line is the kicker.
WE MUST RETURN TO THE CHRISTIAN DUTY AS THE DEFAULT
The default should not be that grandma and grandpa will go live in the retirement community with folks their age. They may get to play bingo and backgammon there every week, but they will be playing those games without you.
The aging should be spending their last few years in the camaraderie of their family. They should be passing on their wisdom to their grandchildren.
As the Catechism states, this ideal is not always possible. Some elderly have no one to take them in. Their grown children may not be in a situation where it is possible to care for them.
If mom and dad need help, the automatic response should not be to find the phone number to the closest nursing home.
Rather, each Christian should do an honest assessment of their circumstances. If care for elderly parents is feasible, then it must be done.
Such care honors one’s parents, as a token of gratitude for the gift of life. And, as the Exodus 20:12 promises, paying honor to one’s parents carries with it a blessing of a longer life.
Were you aware of your moral duty to care for elderly parents?
What are your thoughts on this teaching of the Catholic Church?
What can we do to encourage more people to take it seriously?
Please share below.