Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Caring for An Aging Parent

What does your character want? This is an important question to answer because it determines what your protagonist hopes to achieve by the story’s end. If the goal, or outer motivation, is written well, readers will identify fairly quickly what the overall story goal’s going to be and they’ll know what to root for. But how do you know what outer motivation to choose?

If you read enough books, you’ll see the same goals being used for different characters in new scenarios. Through this thesaurus, we’d like to explore these common outer motivations so you can see your options and what those goals might look like on a deeper level.

Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): Caring for an aging parent

Forms This Might Take: Taking on the caregiving role for a parent who is no longer able to care for him/herself. This may mean the parent is declining due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, is suffering from a terminal or chronic illness, or is simply unable to get around safely on his or her own. While the character could choose to pay for a parent’s care in a separate facility, this entry will focus on the character who makes it a goal to care for the parent him or herself.

Courtesy: Pixabay

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Renovating one’s home to accommodate the parent’s needs
  • Moving into a home that is easier for the parent to access
  • Educating oneself on the parent’s illnesses
  • Planning meals for the parent (if there are special needs in this area)
  • Researching and purchasing necessary accommodations (a wheelchair, walker, toilet, etc.)
  • Revamping one’s budget to cover caregiver costs
  • Meeting with a lawyer to discuss wills, power of attorney, and other end-of-life considerations
  • Making changes to one’s insurance policy
  • Redistributing duties between other household members to create extra time for the parent’s care
  • Coordinating duties and care between siblings
  • Hiring out certain duties (lawn care, house cleaning, grocery deliveries, etc.)
  • Finding a job one can do from home, or one that has more flexibility
  • Joining a support group for caregivers
  • Becoming more organized to stay on top of the additional duties
  • Bringing in someone to help care for the parent (a health care professional, a companion, etc.)
  • Researching activities or hobbies that would be good for the parent

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Quitting one’s job, or losing one’s job because of too much missed time
  • Giving up on hobbies or dreams due to a lack of time
  • Having no “me” time
  • Strife with siblings and other relatives (when they won’t help out, over differences of caregiving philosophy, when finances become strained, etc.)
  • The deterioration of one’s health due to stress and “caregiver burnout”
  • Depleting one’s retirement fund or nest egg to cover costs
  • Missing out on opportunities with one’s own children due to having to care for one’s parent
  • Growing apart from friends due to having no time to get out and socialize
  • Falling victim to a scam or con-artist
  • Strained relations with the parent, who may harbor resentment over the loss of control and necessary changes being made that she isn’t happy about

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • The parent refusing to comply
  • Legal issues that make it impossible for one to make necessary decisions on behalf of one’s parent
  • Siblings and other relatives who disagree about the proper care for the parent
  • Immediate family members who don’t want to make the required sacrifices
  • Limited finances
  • Insurance limitations
  • Desperately needing to keep one’s job, but having a boss who is inflexible and unsympathetic
  • Personal health problems that make caring for someone else difficult
  • Having a child or spouse with special needs that also require attention
  • Growing resentment over the situation
  • The pain of having to watch the mental or physical decline of one’s parent
  • Second-guessing oneself; doubting one’s ability to carry on

Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:

Basic First AidGood Listening SkillsESP (Clairvoyance)EmpathyHospitalityMultitaskingOrganization

Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:

  • The parent sustaining an injury or dying while living on his or her own
  • The parent’s quality of life falling to an unhealthy level
  • The parent receiving poor care or being abused in a facility
  • Broken relationships with relatives who won’t forgive one for giving up or not doing what they believe was rightTortuous guilt over having failed one’s parent
  • Losing everything (one’s job, life savings, important relationships, etc.), and still having to stop caring for the parent when one runs out of resources

Clichés to Avoid: 

Taking in a parent with whom one has a strained relationship, and the relationship being healed because of the decision.

Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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One Response to Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Caring for An Aging Parent

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