As an only child, do I have a legal responsibility to take care of my father?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 16, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Who would be responsible for taking care of my father? I was told by a family member that I was legally responsible to take care of him. He is dying, taking many pain medications, and needs assistance. I have two small children that I do not want around this situation and medications that I do not want in my house. I am an only child and I am not able to accept this task, financially or physically. He does have Medicare. I think he needs a nursing home.

Expert Answers

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

NO! Fortunately, none of us have a legal responsibility to provide care for our parents. We must provide for our children but not our parents.

Yes. You are correct, he needs more care than you can provide, he should be in a nursing home. You will need to find one that accepts Medicaid. In Texas the correct term is "medicaid pending", meaning that he needs financial assistance from the day he enters; that he cannot pay for care in a nursing home. If you find a Medicaid nursing home that has an opening for medicaid pending patients, it will pay for his care until it is reimbursed by Medicaid. Finding his facility may take your time and effort, and you are NOT legally obligated to do it.

If you cannot, then his case can be assigned to Adult Protective Services, and they will find the proper placement for him.

Medicare does not pay for long term care, the type of care your father needs. Medicaid pays for care after the patient's assets are depleted.

Community Answers

Patsaison answered...

Others have answered your question about legal responsibility. I just like to point out that whether you take care of your parent or not is a question of moral responsibility and whether you care enough to do so, regardless of legal responsibility. Taking care of aging parents is hard, I did it for 20 plus years for both parents. I still feel guilty about not having made correct decisions in some areas in retrospect. But I am glad that I did take care of my parents--if I did not, I would not be able to live with myself. My conscience is clear, although I regret not having been stronger, more loving and caring and understanding in many instances. My sister did not take care of my parents and did not care as much. There is saying in Chinese (I am Chinese) that being able to take care of parents is a blessing--I did not understand that fully before--sometimes had thought it was a curse and burden--burden it was, but now I understand that it was a blessing--to have been there, to have been able to take care of parents in their time of need. I was fortunate, not unfortunate, to have had the opportunity.

Rubyjb answered...

It sounds like you are approaching this logically and honestly, and that is excellent. Do not let anyone make you feel guilty for refusing to get involved in a situation you can't handle. Sometimes saying "NO" is the kindest thing you can do. You can choose to be involved a little, a lot, or not at all. Make your thoughtful decision, and do not get sucked into a potentially destructive vortex.