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How Do I Get My Widowed Father to Take Care of Himself?

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From the U.S.: My father is a widower and also just got out of a destructive relationship. My father is from a time where the woman takes care of the man and he expects others to do the same. My mother was a good woman and she took care of my father until she passed almost 9 years ago.

I married and moved out of state seventeen years ago and I thought I had a good relationship with my father. Until recently. He has a number of mental issues last year with the ex, which is a long story. Anyway, he sold his house and moved in with his brother and family. He expected them to take care of him and to do what he wanted. He got a surprise when they expected him to take care of himself.

I also discovered that he wished I was back where he was so I could be there to take care of him. I work full time as does my husband so I would not be able to do that. We all have been giving him ideas to go out, join senior groups, the VFW, and the YMCA. All he gives is excuses as to why he can’t do this and that.

We were talking one day on the phone and I finally had enough of the excuses and called him on it. Of course he denied it several times, which caused me to get pretty frustrated with him and we soon hung up. That was almost (as of this post) two weeks ago and we have not talked since.

I have been in contact with my uncle and aunt to keep tabs on him. I love my father but i wish he would understand that he has to learn to take care of himself and not expect others to take care of him. He needs to be independent, not dependent on others. I also learned some news that he won’t move up where I am because he feels that he will be competition with my MIL and he is envious of my relationship with my husband.

I wrote him a letter telling how I felt, but have not heard anything. I just need some advice on how to move forward.

How Do I Get My Widowed Father to Take Care of Himself?

Answered by on -


I’m sure this is very, very frustrating. Your father is fortunate to have family who are concerned. But that concern doesn’t have to translate into giving into his demands.

I’m guessing your father is in his late 60s. Although I have successfully worked with many seniors as they adjusted to major changes like the loss of their spouse, they, unlike your father, wanted to make changes. Your father doesn’t. He has had an entitled life for many years and sees no reason to give it up. It doesn’t matter how “right” you are. You aren’t going to reason with him into behaving differently. He’ll have to experience the lack of help in order to finally get it that his comfort depends on him.

All you can do is state the reality that it’s up to him to take care of himself, give him choices, and then leave it up to him. There’s no need to argue. There is no need to feel guilty. Stay friendly. If he starts complaining, calmly remind him that he is capable of being independent and change the subject to an update on kids’ activities and family news.

The one caveat is if the “mental issues” you referenced are legitimately getting in his way. In that case, you may need to convene a meeting with a counselor for yourself and your aunt and uncle to talk about how best to care for him. If he is, or becomes, incapable of caring for himself, then the family needs to look into what resources are available to provide support for all of you as you try to provide care.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

How Do I Get My Widowed Father to Take Care of Himself?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). How Do I Get My Widowed Father to Take Care of Himself?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Oct 2018 (Originally: 15 Oct 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 11 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.