Morality of Nursing Homes


Is it moral and honorable for children to place their aged parents into nursing homes?

Is placing aged parents into nursing homes a parallel to children throwing their parents away and neglecting them?

Question for spouses:
If you are a husband or wife, have you ever encountered this scenario:

You have just married your wife or husband, and overtime your parents are becoming old and weak and need financial support (or any other support). However, you, as a child of your parents, cannot donate money to your parents because your spouse wants the money for herself or himself.

Have your spouse ever stopped you from helping your parents?


I had to put my mother who was dying of cancer in a nursing home, as she required constant, round the clock, specialized care that I could no longer give.


I think it all depends on the reasons why children place their parents into a nursing home. My mother had me promise her a few years back that she will never go into one, so if it comes to my mother needing much more care later on in life, it will be up to me (hopefully my siblings will help as well) to give the appropriate care for my mother. If I go against my mother’s wishes and the promise I made to her, then I believe it would be immoral of me to do it.

My father is of a totally different mindset, though. He doesn’t believe that he or my mother should expect their children to be 24 hour caregivers to either one of them. Instead, he had me promise that if needed he’d be placed in a nursing home. Going against his wishes and breaking my promise to him would be immoral as well.

There are many different kinds of nursing homes and assisted living homes as well. Some are really nice which offer everything to monthly concerts and such as the residents were people who were very much into the arts. I’ve been booked in such placed to give vocal recitals and such. The places are sort of like mansions. There are others which are middle of the road and still give excellent care. My husband’s grandmother is in such a place and she loves it there because she has a lot more interaction with other men and women of her age, loves the nurse/aid staff and gets the 24 hour care that she needs. The children who live near by visit her often like they would have if she was living in her regular home. The difference is she’s no longer alone in a house during the week with not much interaction and stimulation. If she lived at one of the children’s homes, she would especially be isolated since both people in the households work all day. So, actually, it is better for her to be around many people and care and she prefers it.

But you also have really horrible nursing homes which give bad care, have very clinical-looking rooms, etc. I think if family can give care from home if all they could afford is this kind of facility, then it might be better to have their parent at their home or hire a person to be there for the parent.

It is a very difficult situation, no matter what. Many older people need constant care which requires medical professionals and in some ways, depending on the laws of each state, it is much more affordable to have a parents receive that constant care in a nursing home rather than have a private caregiver come to the house. My father brought up an interesting observation. He’s a doctor and takes care of many elderly patients, visiting them in nursing homes and such. It’s one of the reasons he doesn’t mind going to a nursing home if needed because the ones he’s been to are nice and have excellent staff. There are more people living longer today than there were 30+ years ago when he started his practice. His parents and many people in his parents’ generation, for instance, didn’t have this dilemma of how to care for aging parents who need extra care than what they can give. Of course there were nursing homes back then as well. The baby boomer generation (his generation) has been experiencing it with their own parents and he knows that our generation will feel the same thing as his generation continue to age. It’s not a coincidence, I think, that there are so many more nursing/assisted living homes popping up all over the place. They are making room for the baby boomers.


My parents had to put my grandmother in a nursing home. Even though someone was staying with her, she managed to fall and crack her ribs. She needed constant attention that my parents, both with jobs, could not give her. I think that, in this case, they did the right thing. My grandmother wasn’t happy there, but she wasn’t happy anywhere; she wanted to go back to her long-gone childhood home. There was not a good solution for her.

My dad has asked that I place him in a nursing home should the time ever come. I plan on respecting this, although of course I would visit him as much as possible.

I don’t think that either of my in-laws would want to go to a nursing home. I would take in my mother-in-law very willingly if this becomes necessary. However, we don’t get along very well with my father-in-law, and taking him in would probably devastate our family life. What do the rest of you think about cases like that?


Something similar happened to a grandfather of a friend of mine. The children visited the grandfather every day at his home and he had a person come during the day to care for him, but during the time that neither the caregiver and children were there to visit, he fell, and laid their for a couple of hours before one of the children came in to find him lying on the floor.

That is so difficult. My parents have heard of stories like that in my father’s practice. In those cases the parent is usually very overbearing, belligerant and demanding. For some it almost broke up marriages because of the child’s guilt of not wanting to place the parent in a nursing home even though the parent’s behaviour was destroying the family. I don’t know what the solution would be for it as each case is different.


We were able to keep Mom at home when she was dying of cancer. Hospice care helped with bathing, a nurse was always available. I did have to “abandon” my family for most of that summer to help care for her. (I live far away - my sibs live very close.)

My dad is another story. He had to be in a nursing home for nursing care, then we moved him to an adult foster home. If the time comes that he needs more nursing care than the foster home can give him, then it will be back to a nursing home for him. There simply is no one available to give 24-hour care for an unknown length of time.

We were able to find a foster home that is within walking distance of one sister, a short drive for the other. So between them, he gets a visit every day. I write a lot of letters & visit once or twice a year. Wish it could be more often. :frowning:


Hi “NguyenKimPhat” I didn’t vote in the poll… because I didn’t see an option, which adequately described my feelings on the subject.

The placing of parents into a Nursing Home, or Assisted Living Facility is usually a difficult decision. There are many “variables” in making such a decision. I speak from extensive experience. I’m sole caregiver to my 87 year old mother… who suffers from advancing Alzheimer’s Disease… and a myriad of other health concerns.

For me… the decision to follow Our Lord’s “Call”… that I care for my mother… was not an easy one. In answering this “Call”… I was forced to abandon my job of 8 years and my own freedom; we now live solely on her pension. And with the state of the economy here… who knows how long that will last. :shrug: We struggle, somewhat… financially.

For now… my mother lives with me. And it is my great blessing and privilege to care for her. However, I fully realize… that there may come a time when I can no longer do this. If our economy worsens… I may have no choice… but to find a place for my mother to live… since she needs 24 hour supervision… so that I can find an outside job. Another aspect… if she comes to a point in her illness, where she no longer recognizes me… or allows me to care for her, I would have no choice (again) but to find a place for her.

This breaks my heart. :frowning: And I pray that it never comes to any of this. I love my mother dearly. And since she has been in and out of several Nursing Homes (on a rehab basis) I know how horrible they can be. I don’t want my mother in such a place, but HOME with me… where she is loved.

It’s a difficult question. I thank you for posing it, to the forum. May God bless you.



My brother had Dad move in with him after surgery when he could no longer take care of himself (he was 89). Both were miserable: brother because felt he had no choice, that because he was single people would think he’d abandoned Dad if he put him in a nursing home; Dad because he was lonely and wanted to move into a nursing home where he’d see friends all the time.

Neither was able to voice his preference to the other and after several months of this Dad was admitted to the hospital bed where he died after 4 months. It would have been much better for Dad to admit himself to the nursing home but I honestly think he didn’t want to have to give up his property as the rules in our province were at the time.


Don’t forget that many nursing homes offer socialization that they otherwise would not have.

Imagine being able to roll a wheelchair down to a common room to talk or play games with others on a -10 degree snowy day in Wisconsin when it would be exceedingly dangerous, if not impossible, for elderly people who have trouble with mobility to go outside.

Also, as others have pointed out, if there is a medical emergency they can get immediate care without having to wait for you to get there from work, wait for an ambulance, etc…


There are always, always two sides to everything. Always.


Agreed. Even tho Daddy was living with 1 sister, she works. So for most of the day he was by himself. And poor sis was becoming a nervous wreck not knowing when she walked in the door if Daddy would be in his chair or on the floor. That’s how he ended up in the nursing home - he fell & hurt himself pretty badly, tho no bones broken. But with poorly controlled diabetes something had to be done.

He’s never been much of a talker, but he does like sitting around listening to others chat. After all, that’s pretty much what he did when Mom was alive! :smiley:


You are assuming it is children who “place” parents in nursing homes. Many times people place themselves in a nursing home because they need skilled care. People live longer now, and sometimes that means they live with conditions that 50 or 100 years ago would have simply killed them. They live because they are receiving full time care.

There certainly are cases where children fail to care for parents when they need help, but I don’t think you should generalize in the way that you have, assuming it seems, that there are not legitimate circumstances and legitimate needs that nursing homes fill.

My grandmother is a great example. She needs full time care since she has MS. She absolutely refuses to live with her children because she wants her “space” and she’d have to move to where the kids live (4 kids in 4 different states). If she had not been provided for by her husband and brother when they each died so that she can have in-home help in her own home, she’d either be in a nursing home or very *reluctantly *living with one of the kids. They’ve all offered, she refuses. She wants to stay in her apartment.

My husband and I discussed this at length before we married. Fortunately, our parents are all in pretty good health. His are much older than mine. His live nearby, while mine live far away. But, we discussed how we would handle any eventual care issues. We agreed on our priorities and strategies before marrying.

No. Sounds like yours is doing so. You need to sit down and settle this. You should not be made to feel guilty for honoring and supporting your parents. Neither should you insist on giving money to your parents if you cannot afford to do so. You may come from a culture that places a high value on children caring for parents at any price, but maybe your wife has other ideas. We don’t know the particualrs of your situation, how serious, etc.

So, sit down and talk to your wife and explain how you feel.


I absolutely hate the idea of nursing homes, and would hate for someone I love to be in one. My dad is currently in one and it breaks my heart. But, if the responsible family member can no longer give their parent or grandparent the care that they need, or can’t afford to quit their jobs and stay home to watch them all day…then yes, I believe those situations are morally neutral.

But visit them as often as you can…it’s one of the corporal works of mercy.


As much as it is admirable to care for a parent in one’s own home, I also think that it is immoral for a parent to sacrifice the good of his minor children in order to care for his parent. I don’t think there are all that many cases when there is a direct conflict, fortunately.

Unless a parent is able to afford his own care I don’t think it’s fair for him to make a child promise never to put him in a nursing home. If that parent should come to a point where he needs 'round the clock care then it often isn’t feasible for families to have the parent at home. It usually costs more to have a caregiver come to a private home than it does to care for someone in a nursing home.

If children can care for their parents without using nursing homes I think that is wonderful. That would be my hope for my father. But this is just one of those times where everyone has to do what makes sense based on the specific circumstances.


I was sole carer for my elderly mother. In the final years she was unsteady on her feet, having frequent falls, she was ‘legally blind’ and deaf it it wasn’t for maxed up hearing aids. I ran my business of 30 years into the ground in the end because I could no longer be away from her for more than a few hours and my work would often require 3 hours on the road. It was pretty tough looking after her because she was strong willed and because she had many needs, plus my life was pretty much on hold.

I was determined to look after her myself, and as I used to say then, ‘until she becomes a danger to herself or a danger to others’. She was getting pretty close to this point.

The point is that it is a negligence, even an abuse, to look after an elderly person if you can’t look after them properly whatever the good intentions.

In the end the whole thing was taken out of my hands when she had a fall accompanied by a stroke. The stroke wiped out about 60 years of memory and she could no longer walk unassisted and she had become incontinent. The doctors and specialists told me I would no longer be able to look after her because she required 24 hour care.

The nursing home was the only option. If she hadn’t lost all that memory she would have been horrified that she had been placed into care like that (she still asks to go home but doesn’t remember what her home is like… doesn’t even recognize her home when she visits it). She has been in care for four years now. Her health improved, she looks better than she did ten years ago, she has built up quite a few new memories, she can converse again and she is an utter pleasure to visit. It really is as if she has come back from the dead. I am so thankful to God for that.

I probably should have arranged for her to go into a nursing home several years before I did. It may have been a combination of my pride and my fear of her fear of going into a nursing home that was the real motive for not arranging for her to go into care earlier?

Even though I am getting on these days. I retired from my previous employment (or as I say ‘semi-retired’) and trained to do basic nursing (Cert III) and have now been in aged care (high and how care and dementia) for a few years. It’s tough work mentally and physically and doesn’t pay a lot but the rewards are so great and it has definitely brought me closer to God.

It’s a bit of a ramble but that’s my experience with parents and aged care.



I forgot to mention that she turned 93 in June. She has either myself or my sister to visit her most days of the week. We take a very active part in making sure the nursing home looks after her properly and we are on her case all the time. We take care to check on any health problems and even check her skin for skin tears, and pressure sores (vital). She has become a favourite with many of the nurses which makes it more pleasant for her.



My Grandmother, who passed away in June had Alzheimer’s. When she lived with her husband, a physically and emotionally abusive man who divorced her as soon as she was diagnosed, we only saw her a few times a year.

For the last three years of her life she was in a nursing home that was a three hour round trip drive from our house (it was the closest with the level of care, because she was bumped out of other homes because of frequent falls out of bed). Once she was in the home we saw her a minimum of three times a week.

Sometimes a nursing home can better meet the needs of a person than their family can… but I felt horribly for many of the residents who never had visitors…


I should add that I chose 3 in the poll because if the children are too poor they won’t be able look after their parents which will lead to unintentional neglect.

I didn’t choose 1 because you would be surprised how few children actually do visit their parents regularly, despite their best intentions.



Have these questions regarding the morality of nursing homes struck a sense of guilt within any of the posters that answered the poll? Has anyone in these forums placed their unwilling parents into nursing homes just to neglect them… and justify their actions by saying that nursing homes are nice and comfortable?

Regarding the logic that children are sometimes too poor to support their own parents outside nursing homes, how can anyone agree with this argument when parents, even if the parents themselves were poor, still took care of the children when they were young?

If you are a spouse, and your husband or wife wanted to donate money to his aging parents and you wanted the money for yourself and your own family, would you ever even consider stopping your spouse from financially supporting his family?

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