Can You Refuse to Care for an Elderly Parent?

Medically Reviewed on 5/18/2022
Can you refuse to care for elderly parent?
Filial responsibility laws were enacted to guarantee that the elderly are cared for after they are unable to care for themselves.

Everyone is obligated to take care of their elderly parents. Yes, you can refuse to care for elderly parents. However, filial responsibility laws obligate children to provide their parents with clothing, food, housing, and medical attention. In the United States, each state has its laws requiring children to take care of their elderly parents.

In 30 states, an adult is liable for their old parents’ care after they are unable to care for themselves. However, the statute establishing this filial obligation has never been implemented in 11 of these states. So, depending on your living situation, you may or may not be required to care for your old parents.

What are filial responsibility laws?

Filial responsibility laws were enacted to guarantee that the elderly are cared for after they are unable to care for themselves. When old people are unable to care for themselves, their children must take care of them. Filial responsibility laws are only found in 30 states.

  • In Arkansas, the child is exclusively liable for mental health-related medical expenditures. However, children of elderly parents are not forced to pay for nursing home or hospital visits.
  • Some state laws are less stringent, such as Arkansas, while others, such as Pennsylvania, take these regulations very seriously.

According to regulations in 27 states, including Puerto Rico, children have a filial responsibility to take care of financial commitments if their parent is unable to do so. These laws fluctuate based on where you reside, as do the degrees of enforcement.

Ethical considerations

If you are leaving your parents, you may have made enough preparations for care, yet you still feel as if you are abandoning your loved one. Consider speaking with a professional about your thoughts and get assistance to develop a strategy for going ahead.

Be prepared to cope with familial repercussions. Assume you have been the primary caregiver and you refuse to continue, or you reject to begin caregiving in the first place. Your family may be upset by this and may express their displeasure to you. Your actions may make your parent feel abandoned and neglected. This might irreparably damage your relationships.

7 reasons why someone would reject to care for their elderly parent

  1. Financial crisis
    • Families who care for their loved ones spend an average of $140,000 a year. This is not the complete cost but only the portion that Medicaid does not usually cover.
    • This is a substantial sum of money for any family to take on. It is not an amount you can budget for, and it is difficult to do so when your relationship with your aging parents is damaged.
  2. Lack of time
    • Everyone's schedules, occupations, and families are unique. Due to demanding jobs, it gets difficult for many to care for their aging parents. Caring for an aging parent requires time and money, which some individuals cannot afford.
  3. Difficult relationship with parents
    • If you do not have a healthy connection with your parent, your parents and your mental health may suffer. When an aging parent requires care, they should be placed in the best possible circumstances. Living in a toxic environment may impact their overall health negatively.
    • When determining who will care for your aging parents, you should consider your emotional and mental health.
  4. Your physical and mental health is affecting
    • Caring for another person takes a lot of time and energy. When you must give up hobbies or a career that you enjoy to care for your parents, it can have an impact on your quality of life and happiness.
    • A bad influence on these two areas can have a substantial impact on your mental health. If caring for an older parent has a detrimental impact on your quality of life, you may need to examine other possibilities.
  5. Parents refuse help
    • If you have a terrible and stressful connection with your parent, it may be time to distance yourself from them. Despite your best efforts, some parents refuse your assistance. 
    • You might feel frustrated. 
  6. Your family responsibilities
    • You may have your family to support, including your partner and children. There is frequently insufficient time, energy, or finances to adequately assist them while caring for elderly parents.
  7. Moving to a new location
    • This occurs more frequently than you may expect. It is not uncommon for family caregivers to reach retirement age and desire to relocate to a more temperate and economical location. When you move, there may be no other family members to give care to.


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What to do when you cannot take care of your elderly parent

Admitting that you require assistance is the first step in caring for your parent. It seems difficult or frightening at times, but they are not growing any younger. When you have accepted that your parents need care, the next step is to figure out how to break the news to them. You may grieve or feel guilty after understanding this.

It is never easy to know what to do when your parent requires further assistance. Do not beat yourself if you have difficulty providing a good life for them. Even the most skilled family caregivers ultimately struggle to provide adequate care and might benefit from the support of specialists who have dealt with similar situations.

Aside from the legal implications of not being able to care for someone, there are other remedies to consider. You should take the opportunity to educate people about your decision before jumping. It will give them time to process your choice and will aid in planning.

Consider the following options if you cannot care for your elderly parents:

  • Home care
    • You can get private caregivers from a home-care service. Based on state regulations, these caregivers can provide several services. There is a cost connected with this sort of care unless your parent has long-term care insurance. Home care, however, can enable someone to remain at home while receiving much-needed help and companionship.
    • Home health care is medical treatment provided by a home health agency for a certain period. At the very least, it can give some short-term assistance. If your parent has extremely low means and is eligible for Medicaid, home services may be a viable option.
    • If the home health benefit has expired and private caregivers are unable to undertake some medical duties owing to state rules, private nursing may be an option. This is a costly alternative, but it provides a degree of medical care that may be reassuring.
  • Advanced planning
    • If you have chosen to discontinue caring for your elderly parent, consider creating end-of-life care and advance planning agreements.
    • If no other family member is ready to take on this task, consider hiring a professional service. Contact an elder law attorney who can help you sort through your options.
  • Assisted living
    • Assisted living is a possibility if you or your parent can afford it. Most assisted living organizations can certainly provide much of the care that you presently provide. The higher the degree of care, in most circumstances, the higher the expense.
    • If your parent's care needs are minor, consider cohousing or other forms of congregate housing. However, support services in these environments will be restricted.
  • Professional guardianship
    • The word guardianship refers to a person or organization being appointed by a court to handle a person's healthcare and finances because they lack the competence to do so on their own. Consider hiring a professional firm if you feel your parents need a guardian but are unwilling to take on that responsibility. Otherwise, you risk exposing your parent to exploitation.
    • Guardianship is often seen as a last resort because individual rights are taken away and handed to someone else. Because the courts prefer a family guardian, you should talk to other siblings who might be willing to step in and aid.
  • State resources
    • Funding and eligibility requirements vary with states, but it is worth looking into any programs that might aid your parent.
    • Planning for substitute care might help you and your parents relax. They may not like the notion at first, but they will most likely adjust over time. Be at ease if, after evaluating all your alternatives, you are certain of your decision.
Medically Reviewed on 5/18/2022
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Sturiale J. Am I Responsible for My Aging Parents? WebMD.

Kapok. Can I Refuse to Care for an Elderly Parent?