Changing times: Man charges his elderly mother for visiting her

By Allix Denham 

Recently the British press ran the story of a financial consultant son who charged his 87 year old mother £400 each time he visited her in her care home, as well as for managing her financial affairs, just as he would any client. He also quibbled over monthly expenses, such as for ‘hair-tinting’, because he didn’t deem them necessary.

The story garnered well over a thousand comments from readers, the highest-rated of which referred to him as a ‘nasty creep’, ‘vile slime-ball’ and ‘disgusting’.

He is obviously an exception, because, as we all know, the rest of us are clamouring to look after our ageing parents, while the parents among us can rest easily at night knowing they’ll be well cared for in their twilight years.

“Who’s going to look after you in your old age?” goes the cry on message-boards following any article about a woman who doesn’t have, or want, children.

You’d think that care homes exist only for the child-free, who sit there, sad and alone, regretting their lack of progeny, while oldie parents are being conscientiously nurtured by their adoring offspring.

Perhaps siblings squabble over who’s going to take them in, each of them itching to give up their spare bedrooms, careers and time spent with own offspring, not to mention all the other obligations a normal life accumulates, for the privilege. “At least let me have Mum on weekends,” they cry. Or, “I so very much want to take Dad scuba-diving in the Maldives, you had him last year for your ski trip!”

And as the aged parent becomes increasingly confused, there’s that delightful frisson of the unknown. What might they get up to while you nip out to the supermarket? Will they put on an empty kettle? Fuse the house, lose the dog, leave rubbish in the fridge and get through the gin, just as your back’s turned?

Still, they’d never be a burden, oldie parents, because if there’s one guarantee in life, it’s that having children means they’ll see you right, no matter what. You brought them up, you fed them, you put them through school – it’s the least they can do in return.

Only life doesn’t always work out that way, does it?

The charity Age UK reports that just 48% of those aged 25-54 say they plan to spend Christmas this year with their parents. Last year, Age UK found that nearly 400,000 people aged 65 and over in the UK were worried about being lonely over Christmas.

Such statistics undermine the theory that offspring will step up – even just once a year.

The financial consultant son might be an extreme case, but, given Age UK’s findings, the outrage that followed him rings hollow.

Allix Denham is a writer currently based in France. She and her partner have no children, but entertain the neighbours’ cat on a regular basis.

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