Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In all likelihood, my perspective, on this topic, is skewed.

My father died when I was 8 and a half years old. That one traumatic event impacted my life as a child and continues to do so to this very day. I can tell you, quite honestly, that from the moment my father passed away, I lived in terror that my mother would die, too.

Thirteen years later, she did, and I was orphaned at the tender age of 21.

Losing my parents when I was young, therefore, has given me a bias on the subject that’s been on my mind these last few days. That subject is how we, as a society, treat our elderly.

I’ve seen a few cases first hand of people traversing a path I never had the opportunity to follow; that of adults having to deal with their elderly parents.

I’m not sure I understand why one would “handle” their parents by sticking them in a “seniors’ care facility”. Yes, I know that sometimes there really is no choice. If our loved one needs more care, especially medical care, than we’re capable of giving, for example, then I can understand the need for using this alternative. But in my mind, and in my heart—unless the senior in question truly wants to go and live in such a place—this should be a last resort.

I’ve known of a few families who have “sent mom to the home”. The parent was old, and moved slowly, but was not really sick, and not really in need of constant medical supervision. Yet plop, plop, there went the poor grannies dropped off to live in a small room, surrounded by other small rooms, to be tended to by strangers for the rest of their lives.

Is this another case of Morgan being overly naive again? Maybe it is easy for me to talk, as I’ll never have to back up my words with actions. But, don’t we owe our parents every bit of care and attention we can give them? Don’t we owe them some of ourselves?

See, I can’t decide if the trend—taking your aging parent to a facility for them to live out what’s left of their lives—is motivated by laziness, carelessness, or some immature desire for payback. I’m just a bit cynical that this action is taken to be in the very best interest of the elderly person in question.

I’ve seen firsthand the heartbreak that comes to a person whose children more or less abandon them to live among strangers.

How can anyone do that to their mother? This is the same woman who carried them in her womb for nine months; who gave birth in a fog of pain, eschewing drugs in case those drugs brought harm to the baby.

Mothers and fathers are very special, and very precious. You only ever really have one of each in your life.

There are cases when there are few alternatives. In this age of two-career households, it might be a challenge leaving an elderly person alone all day. I get that. Of course there are agencies who specialize in home visits, people who for a very reasonable fee will come by as often as you need them to, to see to it all is well with granny.

I have no doubt that it could be a challenge incorporating an elderly parent into your household. It would require patience and care and maybe a little juggling. I also bet it would be quite a bit of work, having an extra person to see to. It certainly wouldn’t meet anyone’s definition of easy.

Just as, I imagine, it was some work, and challenge, and frustrating for that parent to have taken care of you.

I’m sad that as a society, and in this area, we allow ourselves the opportunity to choose between doing what is right and doing what is expedient.

Because I am a great believer in the law of sowing and reaping, I would like to add this caution. As you deal with your elderly parents, your children are watching and taking notes.



  1. My mother was 52 when she died. She was home until she had to be hospitalized with terminal CA. Dad was 89. He lived at home with my sister until he could no longer do anything for himself. He was placed in a very good nursing home for just a few months before he died.

    Dad built a house on the farm for my mother's mother. She stayed there until she needed full time care. Several years after she was gone Dad's mother came to live in that little house. She lived there until she was 98. She then became dependent on full time nursing care. On her 99th birthday there was a huge birthday party for her in the shed where my brother kept his boat. I was there for that party.

    My sister-in-law took care of the family members who were in the nursing homes. She went every day to see that they were being fed and getting their medication and enough stimulation to keep their minds active.

    My wife's grandmother was cool when she was in her eighties. She would go on seniors trips with a group in her home town. She gave us a description of her trip to New Orleans. "It was fun, except for all those old people." The "old" people were all from ten to twenty years younger than she was. She walked from her second story apartment to the post office one mile round trip every day. She had to walk up hill and then down in both directions. She would do her own grocery shopping on foot. She cried when she went blind and could no longer read when she was in her nineties.


  2. That's what I'm talking about, and that's what we all need to do.
    What a wonderfully rich family experience you've had, Ray.