Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Laestadian Family Values: Caring for an Aging Parent

LLLReader recently wrote: On both sides of my family there is one person in need. I have carried the financial responsibility for both of them for years. Also on both sides of the family there are people who could help share the load--but refuse even though they could easily do it. I have had it with that, and laid it out there about their selfishness. My sweet daughter-in-law said that they see my kindness as weakness and have taken advantage. My belief is that family looks out after each other.

Reading this quote, I was immediately touched by LLLReader's generosity, but it also prompted another question: Is there an expectation in Laestadianism that children will take on the financial responsibility for their aging parents?

As our population ages, medical advances allow people to live longer, and the recent stock market and financial market turmoil erode retirement savings, this becomes an issue not just for Laestadians. However, do Laestadians expect more in this regard than the general population?

I know a Laestadian who had a very large family with the explicit expectation that "they are his retirement plan." He has not saved a dime for retirement, expecting his children to take him in when the time comes. Is this fair? The particular case I'm thinking of is made even more interesting by the fact that I know he has been very irresponsible with jobs, money, and saving --far beyond just the expectation he has of his children.

Should his kids have to "bail him out," and if so, is this part of the Laestadian mindset?

4 comments:

  1. I really don't think expecting the kids to bail out elderly and needy parents is a purely Laestadian mindset. But I'm wondering what's ahead as far as generations helping each other more and more as our economy changes... something many of us may have to face at some point.

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  2. There should be a distinction of attitudes. Lovingly wanting to take care of others and lovingly accepting that care is far different that acting expectantly and irresponsibly out of that expecation. Our world is so full of people expecting everything, feeling they deserve everything... for nothing; and maybe they do, but there can still be a loving, positive attitude about it.

    We also have two parents in our families that need care. One has worked hard thier entire life, and through circumstances of the economy and businesses will need some help. They have stayed positive and appreciative and we are more than happy to help out for as long as needed. Also, the help has been reciprocated over the years as needed.

    The other parent has always asked for help and always ended up right back in the same starting place -with nothing. They have not tried to work or take care of themselves but have specifically said (with anger) they expect and deserve to be taken care of. They have loudly complained and refused to help others out, in ways they could have. Well we have a much harder time wanting to help this parent, and over time have now refused. We've been accused of being unfair, but I consider it descretion.

    Yet I know that when this second parent gets to be old enough to need a nursing home, my heartstrings will be stretched and I will help. Several siblings have written this parent off, but others have agreed to help when it gets to that point. I just dont know...

    But financial help is different than emotional support and a relationship; No one deserves to be left alone and forgotten, and even though we now refuse financial help, we have refused lovingly and continued to make efforts to point in a direction of helping themselves, encourage efforts and maintained the relationship.

    I dont believe its unchristian to help those who help themselves. Jesus himself said, Give a man a fish and you feed him for that meal, but teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

    Yet, what does Jesus say about the man who refuses to learn, and will not let you teach him how to fish?

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  3. It is amazing we end up the same way we started out. Needing complete care. Our parent's did it for us as infants/children and we end up doing if for them in old age. I agree, attitude makes a world of difference.

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  4. Yes its amazing how we end up in the same physical state as we started. Whats funny is that with a baby, we love them unconditionally, and when we look at them we see them and love them as who they are and the potential of who they will become. With an elderly parent, we have a lifetime of memories, good and/or bad, and when we look at them we see all that they are and who they did become.

    Life is so amazing and such a wonderful gift. Its a little scary how simply a life can be summed up; and motivating!

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