Returning the Favour: Our Parents and Old Age

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As adults, we sometimes neglect our parents. We get so caught up in our lives that we forget to look out for the same people who took care of us, without expecting too much in return.

When we were sick, who was the one person we wanted to take care of us? Our mummy, daddy, or a guardian who would dutifully be at our side, whether it was to rub us down with Vicks, feed us soup, or coax us to swallow some sort of ungodly concoction they conjured up, thinking it would make us better.

What is it worth the life of a man, if…he is abandoned by his offspring, or his relatives?

But, I often wonder about how many of us would be willing to reciprocate this, when our parents have aged, and they become ill (God forbid). When incontinence has set in, and they can no longer take care of themselves. What is it worth the life of a man, if, when he becomes ill, he is abandoned by his offspring, or his relatives?

Having visited the hospital numerous times, I have realised that most of the warded patients are elderly persons, who have passed the designated three score and ten, and who have contributed what they could…until society casts them aside. They became ill, and their care quickly becomes the responsibility of someone else – especially if they live in homes. Not everyone has a spouse who is alive and well enough to take care of them, or children who can care for them.

There is the occasional Jane and John Doe – persons who have been found somewhere unconscious, and have been taken to the hospital by the Emergency Health Service (EHS). Visiting hours come and go, and no one ever comes to identify them.

There are the persons who live alone or with family, who are taken to the hospital, and are warded, and their relatives do not visit them. It is ironic, though, that when a warded patient’s pension cheque is received, relatives turn up for them to sign it. I have even heard of instances where comatose individuals sign their cheques, when family members allegedly hold their hands and have them sign it.

I know of a case where a lovely, yet severely ill, aged man was hospitalized. His condition eventually improved steadily. Hospital staff even grew quite fond of him. A relative might visit him every other day or so – until, one day, he was discharged.

The patient was quite happy and excited to go home, after all he had been anticipating it for some time. The only thing is…no one ever came to pick him up. Calls to his relatives remained unanswered. The patient eventually realized what was taking place, grieved, and died a few days later. I was surprised to learn that this was not an unusual case in the hospital.

If your parents or grandparents were to become really ill, would you sacrifice your usual routine?

Not that many aged people have relatives who are concerned enough to go the extra mile to care about them, and this got me thinking…Do we love and respect our elders the same way we did, as children? If your parents or grandparents were to become really ill, would you sacrifice your usual routine to take the time to care for them to the best of your ability?

Do you think you could go through the daily rigour of rushing home from work to clean them, liaising with a nurse, opting out of leisure activities, or shouldering the burden of possibly being the only sibling willing to take that responsibility? Let’s be real…sometimes that’s exactly what happens. You might have four other siblings, but because everyone knows that you’re most likely to accept responsibility, or you’re the only one resident in the same country as your parents, they leave it all in your hands.

In an article about the top five regrets of the dying, the second regret is, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” I could be wrong, but at times we were part of the reason they worked so hard in the first place. Most persons want to give their children a better quality of life, and better opportunities than they had. So, how should we treat them in their senior years?

I think that we do still love and respect our elders, but the relationship certainly is not the same. At times we are rude, disrespectful and impatient with our parents, but the reality is that – at times – when we are far from our parents, we tend to cherish and appreciate them more.

We suddenly remember all the sacrifices they made for us, and the unconditional love they showed us, growing up – even throughout the stormy, teenage years, when we thought we were the best thing since sliced bread, and came across as ungrateful, little wretches.

Sometimes if you take a little time to sit and have a chat with an elderly person, you will be amazed by how much they can tell you. Their stories may fascinate you, while bringing feelings of warmth, joy and nostalgia to them. Even if you heard the story a thousand times, let them have their moment. They have lived the very same lives we live, and they have struggled the same way we struggle. What makes me laugh is that sometimes we grow up to be almost just like them.

Taking care of your elderly loved ones is a serious responsibility, but I’m sure that when they pass on, you’d be much more comforted knowing that you did your best to help them, when they needed you the most.

The bible says once a man, twice a child. Sick or not, elders are human too. In my humble opinion, just because we are young, and moving on, that doesn’t mean that we should turn our backs, and ignore the elderly. And we should be prepared for the day, when our parents need us to return the favour, and take care of them in their weakened years, just as they did for us.


Image credit:

Denesia Venus

Standing at the threshold of her career, Denesia Venus is a public health nutritionist, and a registered dietitian, who is very passionate about nutrition, music, spirituality, make-up, tennis, yoga, and physical fitness. Denesia is a girly-girl by nature, who adores the twin isle of Trinidad and Tobago, yet has a strong love-hate relationship with London, where she spends some of her time. Once you have met her, you will either just love her or leave her alone. 


  1. Emil B. Garuba

    May 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Its inevitable. The circle must be complete.

  2. sganpat

    May 14, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    When a man and woman is old enough the parents want them gone – gone to start their own lives and have their own families – the connection broken. Now when they are old and not able to care for themselves they want them to come back and care for them? This is a consequence of the nuclear family – that the family is my spouse and children, no one else.

    In an extended family everyone cares for each other, because we are one. When the parents get old, the children are there with them. The connection is never lost. The parents are cared for until they are gone.

  3. Nightangel

    May 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    When we honour our parents…we live long. People must always remember the saying “ah come it a come” If someone refused to take care of their parents when they got old, lets hope that they are not expecting their children to take care of them when they are old.

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