|Dinner Time Parking at Adult Care by ol slambert|
Whatever happened to multi-generational living in homes? Why did we give up the responsibility of personal care of the now-elderly folks in our families... those same folks who hand-fed us and changed our diapers, wiped our tears and put band-aids on scraped knees when we were mere helpless infants and children?
I guess my real question is, why did I? Were the subtle messages broadcast over the years about the elderly being disposable so strong in my psyche? The message that we never needed to plan ahead for elder care because someone else would care for them... (usually with money provided by our tax system, and the gained profits for BigPharma meds and "medi-care")?
That we needn't ever get our hands dirty changing their adult diapers if they became incontinent? That message rode right along on the message about throwing things "away"... "away" being simply some "other place" where we didn't have to look at the mountains of our unwanted things, or dirty, smelly garbage, or the unpleasant drooling mouth of a stroke victim who still needs to be fed.
Until about a hundred years ago, it was accepted that families would care for the elderly in their own homes, however unpleasant it might get to be, or however cantankerous they might be. It was also accepted that as the younger generations married, they might still live at home too, and raise their families in the same home with their parents, and maybe even grandparents. I am coming to believe the interactions and responsibilities of multi-generations living together were healthy for everyone, on many levels we don't see or even acknowledge today.
By the time I was in my 30's, nursing homes were accepted as the norm, and my father's mother was put in one. I never saw much of her after my parents divorced when I was 5, so I wasn't close to her. I wasn't even living in the same part of the country later on, and I don't know why she was put in a nursing home. I flew down and visited once; she was ambulatory (with a walker) and had all her mental and physical faculties. My retrospectoscope tells me now that she was angry about being thrown away, though.
For 40 years since then, I have thought that nursing homes need to have a nursery or day school school attached, and an animal care facility... so that our elderly are not deprived of those daily interactions. I also believe they need a wheelchair-accessible garden so they can continue to grow flowers... or tomatoes. Now I am questioning if that's enough, and I'm thinking not.
Now I wonder... had always known and believed that sooner or later I would have the responsibility to care for an aging parent, would I have planned accordingly, enough so that I could have done things differently?
At this moment I am going through my step-mother's rapidly failing physical and mental health, and her desire (when lucid) to forsake all medication and end it all. Would I do differently? No, I'd do whatever it took to never be thrown adrift into a nursing home, if I was able to take such action. Most of us are never able, by the time we are candidates for nursing homes.
My step-mother probably had a huge say in my father's mother being put in a nursing home, rather than have Grandmother live with them. Is that action now a retribution? I doubt it, but who understands The Fates? My step-mother's home (for 30+ years) houses her oldest son and wife, 1st grandson, and now a great-grandson (whose mother abandoned him at birth).
My step-mother has lived in this multi-family household for many years, yet now she's mentally confused and in failing health after imagining herself as being discarded in recent years where meals, household responsibilities etc, are concerned. So I have to consider that just living with multi-generational family is not enough... it might also require good communications and interactions, as well as real food for good physical health. To be sure, that whole family has eaten the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) for many years, and no one in the household is in optimum or even acceptable health, not even the 12 year old chubby great-grandson.
But my point is: What have we lost, that thing deep and essential within ourselves, the pure need to connect to another... by treating our elderly as unloved, and unwanted trash to be thrown away?