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Is Leaving Your Parent in an 'Old Age Home' Right?
When it comes to caring for your aging parents, there are often more questions than there are answers. Since there are so many issues and ways of looking at caring for them, the answers are numerous. There are questions of financial limitations, your parents’ independence, your parents need for social community, the ability to care for them round the clock, along with intervening medical issues to name a few. So when the question about putting your parents in an old age home comes up, what is the right answer for you?
First, you have to begin with your morals and the value you place on human life. Although it might be romantic and noble to say that every family values human life, the reality is that many do not place a high value on life. Some families place more emphasis on convenience than on life itself. Even when you value human life, you have to consider how far you are willing to go in caring for an aging parent. Are you willing to have them on life-support until every organ system becomes machine dependant? How far are you willing to go in terms of cost and heroic efforts? Is their quality of life a concern for you? Who are you keeping them alive for, yourself or themselves? These are tough questions that you may want to avoid rather than face. Since all your other choices will be made through the filter of your value system, this is where you need to start.
If you have never considered these concerns, you may want to study the religious writings of your faith. Those writings can provide some guidelines and examples that you can use to operate within. Since the various religions differ on value of life, your answers may be very different than those from other value systems. When you ask about right and wrong, the religious writings are the best place to start. If you do not have a faith, then you may have to use your own personal ethics and logic to sort out what will and will not work for you. The challenge is often in being consistent in your choices. When you are dealing with aging parents, there are often intense emotions to consider as well.
In my own experience, there are some parents that believe that they are entitled to having their children care for them in their old age. Never mind that those parents berated, verbally abused, manipulated and threatened their children over the years. When parents abuse their position as ‘parent’, the responsibility of children in caring for them needs to be re-evaluated. When a parent abuses you as a child,and abused their role as a parent, in my mind they forfeit to demand that they be cared for due to their position. Being a parent does not entitle them to abuse their children and them demand that their kids care for them.
Parents have a responsibility to the children. When those responsibilities have been abused to the point of having a sense of self-centered entitlement from their children, caring for them changes. Many of the generation in the United States that was raised with Social Security have developed an independent mindset where they have operated independent of their children. With social security, many aging parents have been arrogant in raising their children, thinking that the government will take care of me, so it does not matter how I treat my children. That mindset led to a massive increase in selfish entitlement.
The advent of social security has changed the care cycle between parents and children. In the 19thcentury and before, caring for parents was part of the cycle of life. They cared for you and then when they were old, you cared for them. When parents have been loving and caring throughout their lives, then as a child you may feel that caring for them is only ‘fair’ and ‘right’, which it would be.
Another difficult challenge that previous generations never had to deal with are the advances in medical technology. With all the life support machines now available, aging parents can be kept alive longer than they used to be. The increased longevity often has a financial and emotional price tag with it. These advances which have saved lives, now force you to consider the quality of life. You can prolong your parents life, but is it a good way to live? Would they want to continue living as an unresponsive, comatose body that is kept alive through technology alone? Is that kind of existence good care?
Your parent may want to live in the old age home rather than with you. Although living with family sounds nice, many aging parents prefer to live in a community with people their own age. There is something vibrant about living in a community. In the 19thcentury there were many old veterans that preferred living in the old soldiers homes due to the sense of community that they provided. Those old age homes can also provide around the clock care for an aging parent. You may want to care for your parent, but can you change their diaper and pick them up when they fall. In the old age home, the staff know how to care for aging parents, which you may not know or have the ability to do. Although you want to care for them, providing around the clock care is taxing on your functioning and time. You may be in poor health yourself, which would limit what you would be able to do. What is ‘right’ for you may be very different than what is ‘right’ for someone who has the financial and physical capabilities of caring for an aging parent.
You will also need to consider the wishes of your parent. They may or may not want to be in in old age home. Making choices that are blatantly against their wishes often has bad outcomes. What you consider the 'right' thing may be the opposite of what your parent wishes. The wishes of the person needs to be weighed heavily in the overall decision. When they want to go to the old age home, that is an option that you need to consider. What they consider good care may be different than your definition.
What all this means is that the old age home may be the right thing to do depending on your situation and values. You will need to consider not only your values, but also your parents. Do they want to stay in the old age home, with you or some other option? You also have to consider their physical condition, financial condition and mental condition. Although you love them, they may have mental conditions that require the assistance of an old age home. That weird behavior of theirs may not be eccentric. Their behavior could be a mental problem that you avoid dealing with. Old age homes often have the medical support to deal with those issues.
Caring for your parent has challenges. You need to consider if you are ready for those challenges. It would be nice if children cared for their parents. It would also be nice if parents protected their children from danger and abuse. It would be nice if parents did what they could to care for themselves and followed the care directions of their care givers. It would be nice if all aging parents were cooperative and appreciative, rather than being abusive and combative. You need to be aware of these many issues and then decide for yourself and for your parents if you caring for them is the best choice.