Caring for elderly parents: An emotional and financial crisis

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With each passing day, our parents are growing old and their ability to be independent is gradually diminished. Elder care or senior care is a young, but rapidly evolving business, however, the ground reality is that, even if we are willing to pay, the competence and training levels are nowhere near adequate.

If there is one event that shakes up your finances it is an unexpected recurring expense. These days more and more middle-aged Indians are facing such an expense: finding someone to take care of their parent(s) while they need to work or go about their lives, often in another city or country.

I can visibly see the guilt in the eyes of their children as they realize that cannot leave their work, or their country of residence and come back to be with their parent at the time of their need. I have no intention to moralize and only wish to discuss a practical problem.

A salaried job can be a trap. We cannot survive without it and often can only exist with it.

There is nothing wrong in hiring elder care assistants or even asking our parents to move into a retirement home. The problem is with finding competent people or homes when the need arises.

If mom or dad is independent but only need assistance with household chores, then the situation is a whole lot manageable either in their own house or in a retirement home. As of now, able parents can and do live in retirement homes.

The moment they become bed-ridden and/or require frequent monitoring, then the requirements suddenly scale up. In India, labour even technical labour is inexpensive. Honest labour is not too much of a problem either, but competent labour can often seem non-existent!

That is when it becomes an emotional crisis for both the children and parents. All this would cost more money (and not many can afford it), but even if we can spend and are willing to spend, finding a trustworthy (in terms of speed and efficiency) person or institution is a  serious problem. We often need to play attender to the attendar!

Photo credit vinoth Chander (Flickr)


If you are salaried, try to achieve financial independence as soon as possible at least for the sake of your parents! So that you can quit your job (and come home) when they need you (if you want to, of course).

Disclosure:  I have non-zero experience with multiple patient attendants when my late father was bedridden for about 1.5 years, and for the last 3 years when we have had a day attendant for my mother.

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  1. I am not sure if anybody wants to achieve financial independence for the sake of their parents, in fact one would want to change his job for a more lucrative one and wants to take better care of his parents. Maybe we could get competent help in a few years when such help evolves into an absolute profession.

    I do understand when you write something like this Professor, I could relate to your writings. You are doing a lot and I admire you for that.

  2. The article is rightly timed. Even I am thinking of moving nearer to home because of my parents. Although they are in Kolkata and can do all the things on their own, I would still love to be with them. I am very thankful to god that they do not need any help. (Both of them are above 70). I intend to do this as soon as possible. My heart cries for them. Hopefully even if it means sacrificing my salary and growth I am willing to do that. This is something which makes me feel real sad…

  3. I am facing a severe crisis because of this very fact. The attender industry in India is all about fleecing the customer by putting often poorly prepared rural folks in urban surroundings, and they have to be trained intensively. The agent takes a heavy cut & the attenders flee when they see constant renumeration (in addition) is not available. All I can say is
    1. Become financially very stable (as Pattu sir rightly said)
    2. Manage your familys finances from day 1
    3. Get health insurance as soon as possible for your aged elders

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