Is It Really Time For Parents to Go To the Nursing Home?
Save Me From Being A Burden
I have heard it said by many people that they do not want to be a burden to their children when they grow old. We do not want to fall into the abyss that is dementia and revert back to childhood, unfortunately, with an old used up body. When have we outlived our usefulness on Earth? At what age should we have already gone so we are not a burden on our children? Where is that line? I need to know because I do not want to be a burden to my own children.
When Is It A Good Time To Go?
Where is that fine line between being a useful and productive member of society --or at the very least, a useful and productive member of a family -- and being a cause of disagreement with other family members and a major inconvenience? As we age, most of us go through a period of time where our children love and respect us. We are there for them as they go out into life to make their own way and to start their own families. They come for Sunday and holiday dinners. They call to tell us what is going on in their lives: they are engaged; they are having our first grandchild. They call to get their favorite childhood recipes. They want our opinion on the house they are thinking of buying. They throw us 50th Anniversary parties. They ask us to baby sit. They send us cards full of love and admiration for being there for them all their lives.
Is Something Wrong With Mom?
Then they start watching. Is Mom acting funny? Forgetful? They start comparing notes. Mom sure cannot handle the house by herself. She gets scared to stay alone while Dad is at the nursing home or Mom dies and Dad cannot cook for himself. He falls for the woman down the street and starts acting like a crazy old loon, spending all that money that he had been saving for so many years on his new love. If he keeps it up, there will not be any left for everyone else! Maybe the family should think about going to court to get conservatorship. He surely is not in his right mind! He is being taken advantage of!
If Mom outlives Dad, well, she has never driven. She does not even know how to pay the bills. Dad always did that. She has to be watched. She might burn the house down trying to cook. She might be better off in a “home.”
Does Mom Have A Choice?
These problems arise in most every family that is dealing with an aging parent. Back in the old days, families took care of their elderly, unless they required care that was beyond their scope. Nursing homes were for the unfortunate folks who did not have children that were lovingly raised by a devoted parent or two. Assisted living facilities, in which limited or no nursing care are available, but that offer supervision with daily living skills and medications, are multiplying all over the country.
While it takes normally most to all of the income that elderly residents have to live in an assisted living facility or nursing home, it is much easier on the family to put their parents there, often against the will of that parent. While I agree that, it can be difficult to care for an Alzheimer patient at home, for elderly people who still have their minds, it is heartbreaking.
This One Didn't
Just this happened to an elderly woman I know who still had her mind. At 89, she was living alone with her dog. One son lived close by, but four sisters lived about an hour away. She started getting a bit scared to stay alone at night. At the time, three of the sisters were retired and each came in about once a week to take her to lunch. They got tired of coming and wanted her to go to a “home.” They picked her up one day, drove her down to an assisted living facility and dropped her off. As a group, they raided her home of her furnishings and rented the home to a young couple.
She was heartbroken at the “dirty trick” that was played on her by her family. Her daughter-in-law, in fact, had offered to have her at her own home. She was the only one who offered. Ultimately, the son and daughter-in-law went to get her and she now resides with them. The daughters do not want her at their homes, not even for one night. It is beyond disgusting to me.
I have told the daughter-in-law that she is doing the best thing in the world to teach her own children about caring for the elderly and she will reap the benefits. She is showing her own children, by example, that we are responsible for our elderly parents. The sisters are showing their children and spouses that, by the time you are 89, you have outlived your usefulness to your family. We do live in a throw away society, but how can we throw away our parents?
Why Can't Everyone Help?
Why does the care of an aging parent seem to fall so squarely on one child when there are more in the family? It would be so easy for these three sisters to help out, but they do not want to be bothered. Is it because Mom is an embarrassment? She does not have the manners, perhaps, for eating in public that she used to, but she is still a very witty lady. They think she is “backward.” She grew up in Kentucky and maybe her ways are not as sophisticated as some other mothers that her daughters know, but she is their mother.
This woman devoted her life to her family. Sixty years ago, as she was raising her family, most women still stayed home and the men went out to work. She never drove or really had a life outside of her home, except for her church. She is being repaid this way for being a devoted mother. It is so sad.
From Caregiver to Patient
When my own Granny, who lived in another state, became sick at 93 years old, the care fell to my father. This was in spite of the fact that two daughters lived less than one mile away and another one son lived right behind her. Either my father or my stepmother, who lived across the street, went to stay with her nightly and brought her food in. She still had her mind, but her body was going due to a recurrence of colon cancer. My father had to beg his siblings to take over so he could get away for a weekend during her long illness until she passed away. For a time, my father was able to get away for short periods by installing a baby monitor in the house. In the end, my father spent all his time there.
My Granny had lovingly cared for her own husband who had Alzheimer’s for seven years. He lived in a hospital bed in a side room off the kitchen. He had deteriorated to the point that my own Granny diapered him daily. One day, I happened to overhear her talking when I was visiting. She spoke to him so lovingly, just as if he understood every word she spoke. I was so impressed. I have never forgotten her loving words or the care that she gave so freely to him. She resisted every suggestion by anyone to put him in a “home.” He already had one, she said. She also said that he had been good to her all her life and she was going to be good to him, whether he knew it or not.
Still the care of him fell solely on her, with little help from any of her children. Of course, at that time, her children were still raising their families, though most all of them lived just minutes away. However, most of them did come quite often, something that did not happen when she was lying in the bed dying. How can children do this to a beloved and devoted mother who still has her mind and knows that this is happening? I do not know.
When We Have No Choice
Why is it that these duties cannot be shared between all the siblings? No matter how busy our lives are, we have to make time for our mothers and fathers, especially the ones who devoted their very lives to our own. How can anyone turn his or her back on that love?
There comes a time when, no matter how devoted our parents were, that there might be no alternative to a nursing home. It can be very difficult to deal with a parent with dementia. At some point, they will not know the difference. At that point, the parent does not have to face the heartbreak of being “unwanted.” Of course, there are other times that it might become necessary. For example, there are times when the parent requires more nursing care than we are capable of providing. While it might be heartbreaking to a loving child or children, if there is no other options, we just have to accept that.
Elder Abuse Happens
Look Out For Elder Abuse -- It Happens In All Types of Places
Often, there are less expensive alternatives to nursing home care. In home care agencies have also proliferated around the country. It might be less expensive for the state to assist in paying for in home care as opposed to a nursing home facility. At the very least, by checking out all the options that are available, it will help to assuage the guilt that we might otherwise feel. Sometimes the situation makes the decision for us and we have no control over the outcome.
Either way, it is the children’s responsibility to make sure that, whether at home or in a nursing home, the care that the parent receives is of the highest possible standards. To ensure this, today we have “granny” cams that can be installed inexpensively, even at the nursing home. We need to visit frequently, and at odd intervals, to make sure that our parent is being kept clean and safe. We need to check for bruising and other signs of rough handling and abuse. If the parent complains, we need to take those complaints seriously.
For so many loving children, sending their parent to an assisted living facility or nursing home is an agonizing experience. For others, it is merely a decision made to avoid having to care for the parent. For those who are so selfish, shame on you.