Walking Away from Elderly Parent: How to Deal with Guilt

Are you struggling with the decision to walk away from an elderly parent? It’s not an easy choice, and the guilt that comes with it can be overwhelming. But sometimes, it’s the best decision for both you and your parents. In this blog post, I will help you deal with that guilt and make the right decision for your family. So let’s dive in and navigate this difficult terrain together.

Signs it’s time to Walk Away

As a caregiver for an elderly parent, the decision to walk away can be a difficult one to make. It’s a decision that may come with feelings of guilt, but in some cases, it’s necessary for the caregiver’s well-being and the safety of their loved one. There are several signs that indicate it may be time to walk away.

Physical and mental exhaustion is a common sign. Caregiving can be emotionally and physically draining, especially when it’s a long-term responsibility. If the caregiver is experiencing burnout, they may not be able to provide the care their loved one needs.

Another sign is the impact on personal life. Caregiving can take a toll on a person’s social life and relationships. If the caregiver is unable to maintain personal relationships or has to sacrifice their own needs and goals, it may be time to consider walking away.

Inability to provide adequate care is another indication that it may be time to walk away. As a loved one’s health declines, their care needs may become more complex and demanding. If the caregiver is unable to meet those needs, it’s important to seek alternative solutions.

Lastly, health and safety concerns should never be ignored. If the loved one’s care needs are beyond the caregiver’s abilities and there is a risk of injury or harm, it’s important to take action to ensure their safety.

Here are more reasons:

  • Chronic stress and burnout
  • Serious health and safety concerns for both parent and caregiver
  • Negative impact on personal relationships
  • Financial strain due to caregiving costs
  • Lack of support from other family members or resources
  • Resistance to outside help or care solutions
  • The parent’s needs surpass the caregiver’s capabilities
  • Feeling guilty or resentful towards the parent or caregiving responsibilities.

Overall, the decision to walk away from caregiving responsibilities should never be taken lightly. It’s important to consider all options and seek support and guidance from healthcare professionals to make the best decision for both the caregiver and their loved one.

The Guilt of Walking Away

The decision to walk away from an elderly parent can be an incredibly difficult one. Society has long held the expectation that adult children will care for their aging parents, leaving many individuals feeling an intense sense of obligation and guilt when they cannot provide that care. 

However, it is important to remember that balancing self-care and parental care is essential for both the caregiver and the care recipient.

Cultural expectations and social norms can make it challenging for individuals to make the decision to walk away from caring for their parents, but it is important to recognize that each family’s situation is unique. 

No one should feel guilty for prioritizing their own well-being, especially when it comes to managing physical and mental exhaustion. Caregiving can be physically and emotionally draining, and it is okay to recognize when it is time to step back and take a break.

The guilt of walking away can be further compounded by the fear of the unknown and the unknown impact on the elderly parent’s well-being. 

However, it is important to remember that there are often alternative solutions, such as hiring a caregiver or finding a care facility, that can provide the necessary care while still allowing for the caregiver to prioritize their own well-being. Balancing the needs of the caregiver and the care recipient is key, and it is okay to seek outside help when needed.

Making the Right Decision

Caring for an elderly parent can be a challenging and emotionally draining experience. It can be especially difficult when the time comes to consider walking away from that role. However, making the decision to walk away doesn’t necessarily mean you’re abandoning your loved one. Sometimes, it can be the best decision for both parties involved.

Before making a final decision, there are several factors to consider. It’s essential to evaluate your parent’s current condition and level of care needed, along with your own physical and emotional well-being. Seeking professional help and support can provide clarity and guidance in making the best decision for both you and your parent.

Exploring alternative care options, such as assisted living facilities or in-home care, can be another consideration. It’s crucial to research and evaluate all available options before making a final decision.

Communication with your elderly parent is also essential. It’s crucial to have an honest and open conversation about your concerns and limitations. This conversation can help your parent understand your perspective and may open up the possibility for alternative care arrangements.

Remember, making the decision to walk away from your role as a caregiver is not easy, and feelings of guilt and obligation may arise. However, prioritizing your own well-being and ensuring that your parent receives the best possible care is essential for everyone involved.

Coping with the Emotional Impact

Walking away from an elderly parent can have a significant emotional impact on both the parent and the adult child. It’s normal to grieve the loss of a relationship and feel a sense of guilt and shame. Coping with these emotions is important to move forward and heal. Seeking therapy or counseling can be an effective way to process these feelings and develop coping mechanisms.

It’s important to remember that walking away from a parent doesn’t mean abandoning them completely. It’s still possible to maintain a relationship and provide support in other ways.

It’s also important to seek support from friends, family, or a support group. They can provide a listening ear and help alleviate some of the emotional burden.

Self-care is also crucial in coping with the emotional impact of walking away from an elderly parent. Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as exercise or hobbies, can help manage stress and promote mental health.

While the decision to walk away from an elderly parent is never easy, it’s important to prioritize personal well-being and consider all options before making a decision. Coping with the emotional impact takes time and effort, but seeking help and support can make the process easier.

Legal and Financial Considerations

When it comes to walking away from caring for an elderly parent, it’s not just an emotional decision, but a legal and financial one as well. One important consideration is the Power of Attorney, which is a legal document that allows an appointed person to make decisions on behalf of the elderly parent. This document can be limited or broad in scope, depending on the situation.

Financial planning for elderly care is also a crucial consideration. This may involve creating a budget for the elderly parent’s care, exploring long-term care insurance options, or using savings and other assets to cover the costs of care. It’s important to consider the impact on inheritance and estate planning as well.

It’s important to have open and honest conversations with the elderly parent about these legal and financial considerations. It may be helpful to seek the guidance of a financial advisor, elder law attorney, or other professional to ensure all the necessary legal and financial arrangements are in place.

Walking away from caring for an elderly parent can be a difficult decision, but by considering the legal and financial implications and seeking professional advice, it can be a more manageable process.

What does the Research say?

This study looked at how the mental health of older parents is affected when their adult children move away. The researchers looked at 25 articles that were published between 2000 and 2017, and they found that older parents who are left behind have higher levels of mental health problems than those who are not left behind. These parents also tend to feel more lonely, have lower levels of life satisfaction, and have poorer mental health.

The study also found some risk factors for mental health problems among the left-behind parents. These include factors such as their living arrangements, gender, education, income, physical health, physical activity, social support, age, rural residence, and how often they get to see their children.

Overall, this study shows that older parents who are left behind by their adult children are at risk for mental health problems. The researchers suggest that more measures should be taken to prevent these problems and to help support this vulnerable group of people.

Another study looked at how the health of elderly parents in rural China is affected when their adult children move away to live in cities. In the past, it was common for adult children to take care of their elderly parents in rural areas, but now many of them have moved to cities to find work. The study looked at data from surveys of older adults in rural China between 1997 and 2006. 

The results showed that elderly parents whose children had migrated had worse self-rated health than those whose children had not migrated. The longer the children had been away, the worse the health of the parents tended to be. 

However, this effect was mostly driven by the migration of sons. The migration of daughters or both sons and daughters had different effects on the health of elderly men and women. The study suggests that family dynamics and migration can have complex effects on the health of older adults, and this is something that needs to be taken into account when planning policies to support elderly people in rural areas.


Deciding to walk away from an elderly parent is a challenging decision that can evoke various emotions. It is crucial to weigh the legal, financial, and emotional factors while considering alternative options and seeking professional help. 

Remember, prioritizing self-care is not selfish but necessary for providing the best care for an elderly parent. Acknowledge the difficulty of the decision and seek support from loved ones, therapists, or support groups. Ultimately, making the best decision for the elderly parent and oneself is crucial for the well-being of both parties involved.

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