A couple marry. One spouse is carer to an elderly parent. The other spouse marries in the full knowledge that this is the case, and is content to accept a “weekend marriage”. Three years go by and the second spouse decides they’ve had enough, that the weekend arrangement is tougher than they had expected and they want their spouse with them. This necessitates putting the elderly parent in residential care, which the carer spouse believes, with the best will in the world, will shorten the parent’s life. Does the right of the second spouse to have their spouse beside them override the duty of the first spouse to do all in their power to protect and lengthen the parent’s life? If the carer spouse accedes to the wishes of the second spouse, will the carer be morally culpable if, as they fear, the parent’s will to live is eroded by being put into care and their life shortened?


I would not tell anyone how they should respond in such a situation. I was a few years ago the "second spouse " in the scenario. We had been married nearly forty years at the time my wife moved in with her dad. She stayed with him about 14 months before he passed. We are still married several years later and I do not regret the decision that was made(she asked for my input). I do know that we have no control over anything anyone else does in thought, word, or deed. If we do have that control they are our slave. I didn’t and don’t wish to have a slave as a spouse. Blessings to you and yours.


Counseling with pastor, stat.




However they decide will be acceptable, morally speaking.


Thank you for your replies. As a Catholic, it’s always been my assumption that there is ALWAYS a right answer, it’s just that the right answer might have a huge price tag attached. I don’t want to rationalize my way into doing the easy thing. There are far too many people in the world doing that already. We’re constantly told that life is in and of itself valuable, which is why we as Catholics have always stood four square against abortion. We sometimes forget that if it’s easy to kill the child we don’t see, it’s often just as easy to neglect our old and our sick, reasoning that their lives are past and nothing much is to be lost. Too easy, in fact. As far as I’m concerned, standing by an elderly parent is every bit as much standing up for life as standing against abortion. Am I wrong?


I for one do not believe you are wrong. Human life is human life. What’s more is that unless there is dementia the elderly are aware of how they are being treated or abandoned or whatever the case may be. Even if there is dementia, how can we say they aren’t cognitive of more than we think. I lead chair yoga classes in an assisted living facility and wonder how aware these folks are(memory impaired) because as they leave the room almost all are smiling ear to ear and saying thank you. I have no idea how far"gone" any of these folks are, but they are certainly able to enjoy moving and breathing. Thank you and blessings.


Development - parent’s GP has now unequivocally stated that residential care will be an effective death sentence.


Blessings to all involved. may they all be filled with loving kindness. may they all be well. may they all be peaceful and at ease. may they all be happy.


The simple answer would be to have the elderly parent move in with the married couple, however; we all realize that nothing is simple! My parents both died before I turned thirty so I never faced them growing old. I have nothing but compassion and respect for caregivers,and I’ve added this situation to my daily prayers.


I wouldn’t agree that there is no right answer to this situation. There is a right answer to almost every situation. The problem is, you are not going to find that answer here or in talking to friends or loved ones. Sometimes you can, but in really difficult situations such as these, you have to pray and ask God what the right answer is. He will tell you.


How true. Listen to the still inner voice that is the divine within each of us. Blessings.


The marriage is of higher priority according to God’s will than the relationship with the parent. Sacred scripture says “let no man separate what God has joined” (Mark 10:9) and (Matthew 19:6).

If a parent takes precedence over the marriage for a long period of time, that is dysfunctional and codependent. It would be grounds for an annulment.

The parent’s lifespan is in God’s hands. No one can assume that residential care will shorten a life. However this fear must be addressed as a valid concern. In God’s mind there is no time. If we are truly faithful Christians we are focused on eternal life, not on counting the length of our days on earth.

It sounds as if the one spouse fears that they are contributing to taking the life of their parent by putting them in a long term care facility. This needs to be addressed in person with a chaplain or pastor. I’m certain that a loving parent would not want to destroy a marriage simply to extend the number of days of their own life. May God give you hope and peace through these times of change.


I believe Jesus said something to the effect that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend. This could be meditated upon from several different view points/perspectives.

 Parent taking precedence. I believe one should look at how the parent takes precedence and also believe giving parents as much relief from suffering as possible in the winter of their time on this earth is more in line with god than letting them feel unloved, unwanted, etc... I believe in many if not most marriage vows the bride and groom state that they take the other for better and for worse. Where is the truth in that if I can say " no-me first, not them." One doesn't have to be left in a nursing home or have a spouse, parent walk out on one to be abandoned. We can be abandoned by those that  profess to love us and live in the same space but aren't there for us when needed.

 "I'm certain a loving parent..." When we are suffering, in pain, depressed, etc... the ego really comes forth, loving individual or not. Me me me, Mine mine mine. This is not a black and white situation. Much meditation and communication are needed. Both spouses should be prepared to listen to the divine that is in each of us and let go of the egotism that we all experience. Blessings to all.


As someone who works in the field, I find this statement, especially from a physician, very troubling.

The care given at the skilled nursing facility I work in is top notch. We love our residents and try to do what is best for them, and allow them to make their own decisions.

In addition to being a “professional” care-giver, I have also been a care-giver to a couple of family members and there are times when residential care can be the best thing, for the patient and the family care-giver.

OP, I don’t know where you live, but I do know that in the US, skilled nursing facilities (i.e. nursing homes) are very highly regulated and the push is for more “resident centered care”. Sadly, you hear the horror stories on the news, and never the "good’ stuff. There is lots of it, and many aging people can and do thrive in residential settings. It also allows the family care giver to go back to their role as “family member” and spend quality time with their aging loved one, instead of just meeting their physical needs.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit