Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn, My ex-husband and I have been divorced for about 10 years. Our children are adults and are between 20 and 30 years old. My ex and I still live in the same city where we raised our children, but only one lives here.
Our marriage has had happy times and I do not wish my ex's wishes at all. I make an effort to make the milestones for our children as harmonious as possible for the children. But in the last five years of our marriage, my husband was an alcoholic who mistreated me verbally and emotionally, so I do not want to spend time with him alone.
He has recently been diagnosed for a terminal illness related to alcoholism. Our child, who lives locally, asked me to help take care of him, leading mainly to appointments, visiting him and doing some shopping. He will always be the father of my children and we shared wonderful moments together. But I'm not sure I want to be able to spend so much time with him one-on-one. I'm trying to decide what to do, and I have the impression that there is no good option.
Ex: This weight will weigh heavily on your child who still lives in the city, much harder than his brothers and sisters by simple geographical accident. So, even though I feel comfortable saying that you have no obligation to help your ex-offender, I also think it's worthwhile to sort through the possibilities help.
Find those that allow you to take on parts of your child's burden that do not cost you your soul. Shopping? You can do it. Not with your ex, but yourself with a list, of course. To visit him? Nope. Drive it somewhere? Maybe, maybe not, it depends – but can you arrange walks? Taxi, Uber / Lyft? Can you exploit public resources for people with health problems? Can you ask someone to accompany you as a stamp? Can you arrange an exchange with someone who has a similar (other) toxic parent – a kind of "stranger on a train" except carpool instead of murder?
Anyway. When someone asks you for help, you always have the prerogative to say no, especially when saying yes would involve pushing the boundaries of health. But I do not think it's a source of regret if you stop at least making a Venn Diagram showing how to help your child keep your health intact.
Re: Ex: There are several additional options: hiring a caregiver to take care of doctor's appointments and visits to the hospital; hire a case manager to deal with medical issues for the ex-spouse; ask the local siblings to help you when they come to visit you or pay for the caregiver or case manager; find and get the services of the local social service agency to care for the terminally ill dad (the money is financed by your taxes to your state and your county); find and obtain similar services offered by the clergy of the faith of the ex.