I'm writing a new blog post dealing with the life changes that come with a parent suffering from dementia and have been totally unsuccesful in finding any writings of the Church Fathers that address a child's care of their aged parents. Most of the writings say to the effect, once his parents died he left for the desert.
That itself says something, in view of Luke 9:60 etc., that they stayed until they died.
Surprisingly, I haven't even found any writings on the websites of the OCA, GOA, AAOC, etc... dealing with the care of elderly parents. Am I missing something or is there just not much out there?
It might be why you are called to do it. Given what life expectancy was, it may not have been a big issue in previous centuries. Now one can live what was a lifetime, in retirement.
This is a hard article to write because of the tension that seems to come from the biblical injunction to honor our parents, and Christ's teachings which both say love God even above your family but yet he took care of his own Mother on the Cross. I could write my own opinion but I'd rather have patristic sources to rely on.
See what there is on I Timothy 5:4,16, and related verses, e.g:
1 Timothy v. 8
“But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
Many consider that their own virtue is sufficient for their salvation, and if they duly regulate their own life, that nothing further is wanting to save them. But in this they greatly err, which is proved by the example of him who buried his one talent, for he brought it back not diminished but entire, and just as it had been delivered to him. It is shown also by the blessed Paul, who says here, “If any one provide not for his own.” The provision of which he speaks is universal, and relates to the soul as well as the body, since both are to be provided for.
“If any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house,” that is, those who are nearly related to him, “he is worse than an infidel.” And so says Isaiah, the chief of the Prophets, “Thou shalt not overlook thy kinsmen of thy own seed.” (Isa. lviii. 7, Sept.) For if a man deserts those who are united by ties of kindred and affinity, how shall he be affectionate towards others? Will it not have the appearance of vainglory, when benefiting others he slights his own relations, and does not provide for them? And what will be said, if instructing others, he neglects his own, though he has greater facilities; and a higher obligation to benefit them? Will it not be said, These Christians are affectionate indeed, who neglect their own relatives? “He is worse than an infidel.” Wherefore? Because the latter, if he benefits not aliens, does not neglect his near kindred. What is meant is this: The law of God and of nature is violated by him who provides not for his own family. But if he who provides not for them has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel, where shall he be ranked who has injured his relatives? With whom shall he be placed? But how has he denied the faith? Even as it is said, “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him.” (Tit. i. 16.) What has God, in whom they believe, commanded? “Hide not thyself from thine own flesh.” (Isa. lviii. 7.) How does he then believe who thus denies God? Let those consider this, who to spare their wealth neglect their kindred. It was the design of God, in uniting us by the ties of kindred, to afford us many opportunities of doing good to one another. When therefore thou neglectest a duty which infidels perform, hast thou not denied the faith? For it is not faith merely to profess belief, but to do works worthy of faith. And it is possible in each particular to believe and not to believe. For since he had spoken 454of luxury and self-indulgence, he says that it is not for this only that such a woman is punished, because she is luxurious, but because her luxury compels her to neglect her household. This he says with reason; for she that liveth to the belly, perishes hereby also, as “having denied the faith.” But how is she worse than an infidel? Because it is not the same thing to neglect our kindred, as to neglect a stranger. How should it be? But the fault is greater here, to desert one known than one who is unknown to us, a friend than one who is not a friend.
Ver. 9, 10. “Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works.”
He had said, “Let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents.” He had also said, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead whilst she liveth.” He had said, “If she provides not for her own she is worse than an infidel.” Having mentioned the qualities which not to have would render a woman unworthy to be reckoned among the widows, he now mentions what she ought to have besides. What then? are we to receive her for her years? What merit is there in that? It is not her own doing that she is threescore years old. Therefore he does not speak of her age merely, as, if she has even reached those years, she may not yet, he says, without good works, be reckoned among the number. But why then is he particular about the age? He afterwards assigns a cause not originating with himself, but with the widows themselves. Meanwhile let us hear what follows. “Well reported of for good works, if she have brought up children.” Truly, it is no unimportant work to bring up children; but bringing them up is not merely taking care of them; they must be brought up well; as he said before, “If they continue in faith, and charity, and holiness.” (1 Tim. ii. 15.) Observe how constantly he sets kindnesses to our own relatives before those to strangers. First he says, “If she have brought up children,” then, “If she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the Saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.” But what if she be poor? Not even in that case is she debarred from bringing up children, lodging strangers, relieving the afflicted. She is not more destitute than the widow who gave the two mites. Poor though she be, she has an house, she does not lodge in the open air. “If,” he says, “she have washed the Saints’ feet.” This is not a costly work. “If she have diligently followed every good work.” What precept does he give here? He exhorts them to contribute bodily service, for women are peculiarly fitted for such attendance, for making the bed of the sick, and composing them to rest.
Strange! what strictness does he require of widows; almost as much as of the Bishop himself. For he says, “If she have diligently followed every good work.” This is as though he meant that, if she could not of herself perform it, she shared and cooperated in it. When he cuts off luxury, he would have her provident, a good economist, and at the same time continually persevering in prayer. Such was Anna. Such strictness does he require of widows. Greater even than of virgins, from whom he yet requires much strictness, and eminent virtue. For when he speaks of “that which is comely,” and “that she may attend upon the Lord without distraction” (1 Cor. vii. 35.), he gives, in a manner, a summary of all virtue. You see that it is not merely the not contracting a second marriage that is enough to make a widow, many other things are necessary. But why does he discourage second marriages? Is the thing condemned? By no means. That is heretical. Only he would have her henceforth occupied in spiritual things, transferring all her care to virtue. For marriage is not an impure state, but one of much occupation. He speaks of their having leisure, not of their being more pure by remaining unmarried. For marriage certainly implies much secular engagement. If you abstain from marriage that you may have leisure for the service of God, and yet do not so employ that leisure, it is of no advantage to you, (if you do not use your leisure,) to perform all services to strangers, and to the Saints. If you do not thus, you abstain from marriage not for any good end, but as though you condemned the state. So the virgin, who is not truly crucified to the world, by declining marriage, appears to condemn it as accursed and impure.
Observe, the hospitality here spoken of is not merely a friendly reception, but one given with zeal and alacrity, with readiness, and going about it as if one were receiving Christ Himself. The widows should perform these services themselves, not commit them to their handmaids. For Christ said, “If I your Master and Lord have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” (John xiii. 14.) And though a woman may be very rich, and of the highest rank, vain of her birth and noble family, there is not the same distance between her and others, as between God and the disciples. If thou receivest the stranger as Christ, be not ashamed, but rather glory: but if you receive 455him not as Christ, receive him not at all. “He that receiveth you,” He said, “receiveth Me.” (Matt. x. 40.) If you do not so receive him, you have no reward. Abraham was receiving men that passed as travelers, as he thought, and he did not leave to his servants to make the preparations for their entertainment, but took the greater part of the service upon himself, and commanded his wife to mix the flour, though he had three hundred and eighteen servants born in his house, of whom there must have been many maidservants; but he wished that himself and his wife should have the reward, not of the cost only, but of the service. Thus ought we ever to exercise hospitality by our own personal exertions, that we may be sanctified, and our hands be blessed. And if thou givest to the poor, disdain not thyself to give it, for it is not to the poor that it is given, but to Christ; and who is so wretched, as to disdain to stretch out his own hand to Christ?....
.....Ver. 16. “If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the Church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.”
Observe how again he speaks of those as “widows indeed,” who are left destitute, and have no resource from any other quarter. It was better to have it so. For thus two great objects were attained. had an opportunity of doing good, whilst these were honorably maintained, and the Church not burdened. And he has well said, “If any believer.” For it is not fit that believing women should be maintained by unbelievers, lest they should seem to stand in need of them. And observe how persuasively he speaks; he has not said, “let them maintain them expensively,” but “let them relieve them.” “That the Church,” he says, “may relieve them that are widows indeed.” She therefore has the reward of this help also, for she that helps the Church, helps not her only, but those widows too whom the Church is thus enabled to maintain more bountifully. “I will therefore that the younger widows”—do what? live in luxury and pleasure? By no means; but—“marry, bear children, guide the house.” That he may not be supposed to encourage them to live luxuriously, he adds, that they give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. They ought indeed to have been superior to the things of this world, but since they are not, let them abide in them at least upright.
Anyone's help would be greatly appreciated, and this will help me personally too since my 87 year old mother has developed noticeable symptoms of vascular dementia just since early November. Her memory had been slipping during the past year, but was brought to a head with some TIA episodes. My siblings and I are in the process now of taking over more of her care and financial responsibilities. It's a very difficult time right now for all of us, but I realize so many people are in the same position. Thanks!
God help you all!