My mother is elderly and needs special care. My sisters and I have tried to shoulder this responsibility together, but I would like to have her with me all the time. I am married and have two children….

One of my sisters has told me that we should admit her to a home for the elderly where she will be cared for, but I don’t agree. I think that we as her daughters can still care for her ourselves. I’d like to know if it’s right to put her in such a home, or if it is our responsibility as daughters to honor our parents while they are here on the earth. Our mother was the kind of woman who helped us all to get ahead.

Dear Friend,

We are sorry to have to tell you that there is no right or wrong answer to your question. Yes, the Ten Commandments say that we should honor our parents, but honor consists of much more than where a parent should live.

There are various factors that make it impossible to provide a definition of honor that is pertinent across time and cultures. In past generations, circumstances were much different than they are now. And even today, in different areas of the world and of particular countries, circumstances are not the same. Those who live in rural areas tend to have room for multiple generations to live together, while those who live in cities may find themselves squeezed into tiny apartments.

There is also a great difference in life expectancy around the world. People who live in areas where there is access to good medical care and nutrition tend to live longer than those who live in primitive conditions. Parents who live longer obviously need more care than those who don’t.

Furthermore, families differ in composition. Some adult children have never married, while others have married but have never had children. Some have married and have children who still live with them, while others have children who live on their own. Some of these family environments are better than others for elderly people.

Because of all these differences and more, it is not reasonable to say that all children must take turns having their elderly parents live with them. However, ideally each child is responsible to contribute substantially, whether that be time, money, or both. To honor a parent is to be concerned, considerate, compassionate, and involved.

Some parents prefer to live apart from their adult children, in a place that has constant care and medical help at hand. When this type of home is available and affordable, the children of those parents can still be concerned, considerate, compassionate, and involved.

Many circumstances in life can be fair without being equal. It is best not to try to measure your effort or financial support against that of your sisters. Show your mother the honor that you feel for her whether or not your sisters do the same.

We wish you well,