It is, without a doubt, the duty of parents to look after their children; likewise, it is the responsibility of adult offspring to look after their aged or ailing parents. Some elderly parents are financially able or even affluent and are actually in a position to assist their adult offspring while there are many who are dependent on their offspring for their daily needs. Even more important; however, is the need of elderly and/or ailing parents for love and care befitting of their age and years of service to family and society.

The expression “Once a man; twice a child” becomes very relevant when parents become ill and feeble and dependent on others for personal care. It can be heart wrenching to look upon an adult who was once proud and independent and who, through illness has been reduced to a state of dependency akin to or worse than a child. I experienced this with both my parents and can say with conviction that this is the time when offspring are called upon to reciprocate for the years of devoted love, care and attention that they received from their parents and to administer care in a manner which allows the elderly to retain their dignity and pride. Many count it a privilege and take care of their parents willingly and joyously. I did! For me it was an honour! Some do it mainly out of a sense of obligation; while yet others renege on that responsibility and abandon their ailing or elderly parents to caregivers, state or private institutions. Even worse, some abandon their parents to a life of loneliness and misery in their homes with no one to look after their physical, spiritual, social and emotional needs.

Certainly, it can be challenging, with intense work schedules and domestic and other responsibilities, to devote necessary time and attention to elderly or bedridden parents in need of care and attention. However, there are various options which can be used in order to ensure their comfort and well-being. The three principal options to be considered here are family home care, institutional homes and nursing homes.

Family Home Care - In small countries like mine (Dominica), the more prevalent option is for one offspring to take in the elderly/ailing parent into his/her family home so that the parent can benefit from constant care by different members of the household. In the case where all members of the household are out at work , school or otherwise during the day, a caregiver can be employed to live in or to come in daily to provide personal care to the elderly parent. Parents are usually amenable to this option since they are usually familiar or semi familiar with the dwellings of their offspring and the family members who are to look after them there. Often a good relationship develops between the caregiver and the family including the elderly parent so that works out very well.

• Institutional Homes – These homes are becoming more widely used in my country in recent times. Many are subsidised by the state and must comply with state regulations. The residents often come from well to do families who can afford the high cost of private care. Generally, the level of care is good; compliance with state regulations has not been an issue thus far. There are only about eight such homes in my country and they are monitored by the Social Welfare Division of the Ministry of Social Services, Family and Gender Affairs.

• Nursing Homes – These are usually private institutions and are principally for the sick. They administer care, but lack the social and family component and as such are best suited to persons who are very ill and who might have lost touch with or interest in things which are happening around them. There are no nursing homes in Dominica at this time.

I am a firm advocate for family members opening up their homes to elderly parents or relatives. However, I recognize that there may be severe challenges which can seriously hamper persons in providing optimal care to their elderly, no matter how strongly they desire to do so. Also, I recognize that such arrangements can be counterproductive when the elderly find themselves in homes where they are not really appreciated or wanted.

Finally, there is a promise to those who look after their elderly parents as the Almighty called them to do:
“Honour your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth” - Ephesians 6:1-3

Author's Bio: 

Writer, Editor, Joyette Fabien is author of Four Strong Women, Motherless Children and other Stories, Those Youthful Days and It's Different Now -Short Story collections. She takes pleasure in sharing with others her wealth of experience gained through her years as a teacher as well as a lifetime of interaction with people of varying backgrounds. She has therefore published a number of articles some of which can be found at and