I read an interesting string of articles today starting with a followup to the first article by Fabulously Broke, and then the article that spurred the followup over at A Gai Shan Life. Both articles shared different viewpoints concerning whether or not one would take their parents into their home when age, illness or both strips the parents of the ability to live independently.
Let me share a couple of my thoughts on the subject.
I don’t recall my parents ever “brainwashing” me when I was a kid, saying things like “remember what I’ve done for you when I am old and need your help” as Fabulously Broke described, though I have heard similar things from friend’s parents in jest. My parents have talked seriously about buying an RV and staying a month+ with each of their seven kids after they officially retire but as I understood this, they would be doing this while they are still fully able-bodied and don’t require care, but this would allow them to visit us all and get to spend time with the grandkids.
I have no problem with my parents plan. Currently we have a crude RV pad and they are welcome to it, but I have been very vocal about my own family’s space. I have told my parents many times in the last few years (the recession hit my dads company pretty hard) that if they run out of money, there is no way I can support them nor is our home big enough to house my parents and my four siblings that still live at home with them. I’m fairly blunt with my parents about ours and their financial lives and living situation and I want them to know where I stand so there are never any misunderstandings.
My experience with at home care
My parents and in-laws are both too young to require any kind of care now, but my father-in-laws parents live in a special in-law apartment that was built for them in my wife’s parents home. My wife’s grandpa has been in poor health for the past five years at least and it only gets worse as time passes.
At first, he had to use a walker but could still get around with a little help, and could still communicate well. After that, he had several strokes over the course of a few months which really took a toll on his body and mind. Eventually he reached a point where he could no longer use the walker and was confined to a wheelchair.
Now, several hospital-worthy scares later, he is still confined to a wheelchair or found in bed, relies on medical equipment for much of day to day life such as going to the bathroom and eating, and has a nurse that visits on a regular basis to check his various tubes and wires.
And as far as his mind is concerned…well, let’s just say it is tough taking him anywhere in public. His hearing is also close to gone, so anything that comes into his mind is blurted out quite loudly no matter who is in earshot.
We all love Grandpa, but to those around him, I can’t help but see how much of a toll his constant care is taking on them. His wife, bless her heart, is one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met. She is a tiny little old lady who takes care of her husband as best as she can but the mental and physical stress he is putting her through is killing her.
And my father-in-law, who is the rock of the family and sole bread-winner, is looking more and more tattered every day with all the emergencies and daily duties of taking care of his dad. At this rate, I can see him having a nervous breakdown or worse and with a still full house at home, the youngest child being only seven, he is still sorely needed in the rest of his family’s life.
We all love both grandma and grandpa that live downstairs and cherish the moments when grandma comes up for her brief visits, and when grandpa joins us for a rare dinner together. The biggest positive I see from the current living situation is that my children get to spend a tiny bit of time with their great grandparents. That alone has brought much joy to everyone around the house.
I do recall visits to my great grandmother who lived in an elderly community in a nearby city. Those trips were an adventure and made visiting Grandma Great even more special, but it’s impossible for me to compare my memories with those my kids are making now.
When I grow old…
And as for me, when I’m old my wife and I have already decided that we would rather be in a rest home that’s close by family but with paid professionals that would be there to take care of me. I can’t imagine putting that kind of burden on my own kids, nor would I be ok with the mental consequences that having my children have to change my diaper and bath me would take on them or me. I would much rather have paid strangers take care of that, and retain a little dignity around those I love.
I do understand that a good rest home is also a financial burden and am doing things now to insure that burden does not fall on those I love.
I’m just a baby in the grand scheme of things. There are many things in life I have yet to experience and maybe when I’m a bit older, I will have a completely different view on things than I do now. I know a decision like putting someone into a rest home or keeping them closer to family bears a huge weight and can’t be taken lightly, but I also think all parties and consequences of that decision should be considered.
Image by Sailing “Footprints: Real to Reel” (Ronn ashore) br>