elderly abandoned by their kids

celticmoonFebruary 10, 2006

This is a branch off the 'will I regret not having kids thread', requested by Woodlnder.

My fault for bringing it up, so I'll start. I see a lot of elderly in my consulting work, and there are many, too many, who have little or no contact with their kids.


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What kind of consulting do you do? Maybe it's one of those self-selection types of situations. IOW, there may be far more who don't need your consulting services because they get support from their kids.

I have no statistics but know that both sets of parents in my family get (and got) extensive support from their kids. I can imagine, however, that it might have been different if we had had abusive or neglectful parents.

Another possible factor is that the parents have moved to retirement destinations (or the kids moved away), and the children are unable to be of much help because of distance.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 4:41PM
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I can't answer why, but neither my parents nor my dh's parents have been or will be abandoned, and we hope that we are raising our children with the same values. I am Jewish and my dh is from a tiny village in Greece, and you just don't see parental abandonment in our cultures.

Could it be that in the sample of elderly you see in your work, the rate of abandonment might be higher than the general population? In what situation do you work with these elderly?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 4:47PM
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I've seen it, at the retirement community I worked in for 3 years. There were some elderly people "abandoned" by their children - and most of them deserved it! Sad to say.

Good parents who raise decent kids don't get abandoned by their children. More often than not, the parents refused the contact, not wanting "to be a burden", or made such outrageous demands on their children, that the kids had to set limits.

The more tragic case is the parents who are abused and robbed of all their assets by their kids.

You reap what you sow.

The saddest group was the elderly, single women (and a few men) who had no family at all or only distant great necies/nephews who hardly knew them. We had a fair number of these residents who had their affairs managed by banks or lawyers. Some times they were the only person we could call in an emergency, or that distant relative who lived thousands of miles away. That was really heartbreaking.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 5:42PM
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I'm a psychologist who crossed over to more contact with elderly when I burned out on my acute inpatient service for chronic and severely mentally ill after 20 years. I have a nice quiet parttime home based forensic consultation practice. I see elderly around court questions of competence, need for services or placement, etc. Not mental health, no therapy, just hit and run evaluations and expert witness testimony. For a year I also consulted with one of the large, upscale, faith-based geriatric service systems: primary care clinics, adult education, swank elderly independent housing, assisted living, nursing home - huge system offering everything.

The last couple years I've been in every nursing home, assisted living, independent apartment complex, etc in this large midwest urban area. From the top dollar to the bottom, suburb to ghetto, independent apartment to nursing home. Every day. And I'm seeing no visitors anywhere. Not just no one visiting the person I'm seeking out, no visitors for anybody.

I have never had a problem parking. I have never had to wait my turn at the information desk. There are usually no other outsiders there. I sign in the log and see few other names.

And then there is what these people tell me. And what the record and the staff say.

I wish it was as simple as these particular elderly being somehow different from the rest of us. In their history or behavior or parenting. But I don't see it. Plus we are talking lots and lots of people - they can't all have been mean to their kids or brought this on themselves.

Snookums has a point that some cultures just may build in more intergenerational connectedness.

All the relocating and cross country moves folks may not be helping the situation either...

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 6:10PM
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celticmoon - it's interesting because we saw quite the opposite yesterday. My daughter's Daisy Girl Scout Troop went to visit an assisted living facility in our town to give them flowers and sing songs. While we were there we saw several visitors coming and going, seeming to be adult children of the residents. No, it was nowhere close to *everyone* having a visitor, but I wouldn't say that nobody had a visitor, like you witnessed. It was also a Thursday afternoon - I can imagine that on Saturdays and Sundays you see a lot more family coming and going. In the meantime, the group of 5 & 6 year old Daisies who didn't walk, but skipped, flowers in hand, all the way there and back, brightened their afternoon.

When I am old, whether my family visits with me once a week or once a month, or never, I still would not have grown old being the woman that never had children. My mil's next door neighbor was the woman that never had children. When she died, there were very few people at her funeral. It was very sad, and I know she was very lonely during her last years. My brother lives across the country from my parents, and while I know that when they are old (they're old now, but I mean dependent-old) that my brother will not get to visit with them nearly as often as I will, that the cross-country visits and phone calls and e-mails that they get from him, his wife, and their kids will be all the more meaningful.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 6:57PM
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I think part of the problem is our culture, and part is the personalities of individuals.

I am currently up to my eyeballs in the tough time of possibly selecting a skilled nursing facility for my dad who has severe dementia, and figuring out how my mom will pay for it or qualify for Medical, etc. Even though my dad was incredibly mean to us as we grew up & very condescending to my mom, I now find myself really caring how he is and trying to do all the right things for him.

My poor mom is 80, he's 77, and she is completely overwhelmed with caring for him. I take them to the doctor, am helping her visit nursing homes to decide(there were a few visitors, not many), make phone calls every day about health-related issues for them. My sister has 2 small kids, works full time & hardly bothers to involve herself while I work out of my home so am the default daughter who gets to stress out dealing with the entire issue! She will probably rarely visit him; I will probably feel it my duty, even though he never knows who I am, to visit him regularly.

What I find very sad is the attitude of many healthcare professionals we've been in contact with. It is my opinion that placement in an SNF is the LAST resort. But you would not believe how everyone we talk to tells us he needs to be in a care home. The Kaiser nurses when he had a minor heart attack in Dec. urged us to put him in a care home, then commit him permanently. My mom & I said he could still come home. They told us we were in denial. Can you believe it? His adult daycare providers (2X weekly) keep asking us to talk about "placement" with them. The Vet. Admin. nurses who come out say he needs to be "placed."

We know he is bad, and my mom needs help. But he is safe, cared for, and around people who talk to him at home. In a SNF he will be alone most of the time. I know there are cultures where people care for their elderly till they die! It is not automatic that at some point in your life you decide the work is too demanding and give up & let someone else do it.

I know they are saying it will be better for my mom, but geesh... I think my dad is lucky to have me & my mom instead of someone who will just ship him off & ignore him.

But those care homes are not fun places to visit. I know that when he does move into one, I will visit several times a week, and my mom also. But the visits will be brief because he doesn't know us anyway. It's a very difficult thing.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 8:51PM
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diykitchen - I know it is a very difficult thing. I want to mention my mil for a moment. Like my dh she is Greek, coming out here to the US with my fil when my dh was a toddler, and went back and forth for many years after that. My mil is 66, and her mother (dh's grandmother), who is still back in Greece at the age of 92, lives one story up from her brother and his family in Athens and is cared for there. Once a week they drive her out to their home in the village so she can attend church and make cheese. Skilled nursing facilities are practically non-existent in Greece. She has a LOT of medical issues, and will be cared for directly by family until she dies. I asked mil how come she doesn't bring her out here to live out her years as she'd probably have better medical care. She said that she'd be worried that she's wind up alone in a nursing home in a foreign country should something happen to her, and that she'd be better off in Greece surrounded by her large family.

Anyway, back to mil. Four years ago my fil had a massive, totally debilitating stroke. He was already blind, but the stroke left him unable to walk, talk, feed himself, use the restroom, etc. He spent their insurance policy's 100 days in the hospital and a nursing facility, paid for by Kaiser. After that, she brought him home. Kaiser brought a hospital bed and all of the equipment she would need and sent out a home nurse 3x a week. Mil did everything else, down to changing his diapers. (She could have hired help, but she refused, but she could have done that and still had him at home.) Was fil happy? You bet - after some initial depression from the shock of what had happened to him, he was thrilled to have a full house of family around him every day, loved it when my daughter would curl up on his lap, loved to be outside with my mil while she gardened, loved to sit at the dinner table and laugh along with us, loved having the cat curled up in his lap, loved to watch (listen to) tv with his family, loved everything about being at home. He died a year ago October of complications from the stroke and he died a happy, fulfilled man, and he did not die alone.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 11:22PM
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Oh diykitchen, have a hug and a hopeful thought that you will find a way through this stressful time.

I agree that facilities should be a last resort and much of my work is advocating and brokering alternatives to "placement". I'm fortunate to be in an area piloting aggressive use of creative resources to keep people at home or in homelike small homes. Last resort is right.

I wish every older person had family as caring and involved as you are. And I wish in turn every family had access to enough resources to do what they know is best. It really does take both.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 11:31PM
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I think that one issue present in our culture, with it's emphasis on consumerism and the demands of attaining the American dream, is the unending pressure on families to work non-stop and engage in fulfilling, personally rewarding activities around the clock. As a result, many people become far too busy to care for dependent individuals. And afterall, if families put their young children in daycare, why should anyone be surprised when their elderly relatives wind up in nursing homes?

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 7:49AM
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During the last few years of my mother's life, she lived in a senior retirement home in her own apartment. There are perhaps 150 residents. In the last few months, she also had additional assisted living services. And for 7 weeks last summer she was in a SNF in rehab for recovery from a kyphoplasty.

I was at the SNF everyday while she was there. At her apartment house, I was there several times a week. I was with her night and day during the last week she was hospitalized for pneumonia.

My three brothers all declined to come visit because they "want to remember her the way she was."

I know so many of Mother's old neighbors all thought I was unusual just because I DID visit. So many of these people, in independent living, had few visitors. Sad, very sad.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 12:40PM
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snookums, nursing homes are not an option in our family either. at on time, my parents had my grandmother, my grandfather from the other side of the family and my step grandmother living with them. my parents moved out of the house i grew up in to a one level to accomodate the elderly relatives. my parents were retired at the time, but what a way to start you retirement years! grandpa lived in their very nice finished basement because he was a P_I_G slob! after he died, my parents hired an industrial cleaning service just to get the basement back to normal. my stepgrandma liked to get out her bedroom window after everyone else was asleep. one time, the paperboy found her outside the window with a busted collar bone. after my mom died, my oldest brother and his family moved into dad's house until dad died. my mom was sick a few years before she died. i didn't work full time in case of an emergency and i had to help out. i put parents before the paycheck and we are 23 years in our 'starter' home. i would take a week off from my job and family every summer and stay with my parents who would put me to 'work' for the week. one year, i installed a irregation system and relandscaped the front yard. another year i built a new porch and handicap ramp, another time storage shelves for the basement. every time i came over, mom had a list for me - no arguement. they had a housekeeper come in once a week and mom had a visiting nurse.i guess families in with strong ethnic backgrounds, this goes with out asking, it is expected so you adjust your life accordingly...i am not a saint, it's just what is expected to be done.
if anyone in our extended family would of have put their elderly mother or father in a nursing home (granny dumping)for other than life or death reasons, they would of have been seriously discussed...
i know, every family handles this differently...

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 1:20PM
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We have several older folks in our neighbourhood (it's an old neighbourhood), and they hardly see their children much less the grandkids. We try to stop by and say hello, give them little gifts on special occasions or offer to help with yard work. There is a younger couple next door (thank goodness) without kids and they help mow the lawns for these seniors. Sometimes they get calls or cards, but many times they'd tell me they haven't seen their grown children for anywhere from 2-8 years!! They're so busy with their own families, that they have no time to visit. It's very sad...

Good topic.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 3:15PM
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Snookums, what a horrible, sad thing to happen to your fil. I think I know what kind of work your mil went thru, similar to my mom. Wow. Sounds like he was a very lucky man to have you all.

I know Kaiser will send out bed & equip when hospice kicks in, the last 6 mos. So far my dad's not there. So many things to check out & decide. Celtic, you're right about needing resources... doing what we want and having the $$ are 2 different things!

Fairgold & Momcat, you are awesome, too. Giving of yourselves & your time is precious... I know after our parents are gone, we are/will be more content with ourselves for having done all we could.

My bil's mother just died, and her 2nd husband is still alive in a care home. His kids have basically abandoned him and actually told the attorney they were just waiting for him to pass. This is what this thread started asking about... uncaring kids. How can people be this way? I just don't get it... some must have absolutely NO sensitivity or compassion. And if nothing else, no guilt complex.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 3:44PM
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About 30 years ago, when I started my formal working life, one of the first jobs that I ever held (at the ripe old age of 18) was that of a nurses aid in a convalecent hospital (aka "old folks home"). In the 2 years that I worked there, almost no one came to convaless from a surgery or illness, and then go home. In truth, it was the last stop in life for elderly paintents who could not care for themselves any longer, and who's families had put them there, probably because they couldn't care for them either.

For the most part, our paitents were of lesser means as well, and resided with our facility because we took their social security money and monthly pension as full payment for their care. They didn't have to come up with any extra money, which was good, because they didn't have any. In those days, retirement planning for the elderly consisited of whatever standard savings account they might have had, maybe some savings bonds, and that was it.

There were very few visitors in those days - just like today. Almost no one ever came to get their family member and take them out for the day. I can understand their reluctance to visit in a way..it was a fairly depressing place, full of people who didn't want to be there. The visits would be more frequent at first, but would taper off quickly - especially if the person had dimentia and didn't know who they were. In most cases, it would settle into a routine of hour-long visits on the holidays, and the individual's birthday. They'd bring flowers or little presents and try to be cheerful....but in some cases, it would almost have been better if they had not come at all. Their presence would stir up memories of family, and the elderly resident would be tearfull when they left, and depressed for days afterwards.

These days, with the aging of the baby boomer population looming on the horizon, our challenge is to provide elderly care with as much dignity of life as possible. Assisted living facilities can provide a good level of care, but to be honest, they vary in quality, and can be a very expensive, often unatainable option for many. It's nothing for the fees to top $3000/month or more. Given that many families now don't have the physical resources to care for a partially or fully disabled elderly relative, what do you do if you don't have the money to fund their care? If your elderly relative can't live in their own house alone, they can't live in yours alone with both of you working either. In-home care around here can easily top $2000/month, and many senior's incomes don't match that amount. It will be an ever increasing challenge to assist our elderly that are in need of assistance in securing a comfortable, safe and hopefully nice place to live.

I for one think that if we can brighten up the places where our elderly reside that need care, and the facility kept up more communication with their families, they would come to visit more often. Something as simple as a monthly newsletter to the families of the residents, outlining activities and visitation opportunities (luncheons, outings, activity days that the grandkids could participate in along with their relative, etc...) could spur families to remember that they need to visit their relative. I hope those changes are taking place already, even in the facilities for the less fortunate.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 9:34AM
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Although I think a lot of the problem has to do with mobility, I think a bigger problem is that people are living so much longer. It's not unusual for a parent to be 80 years old and the child to be 60 years old and starting to have their own aging problems and illnesses. This is a problem that is actually going to get worse as people live longer. And many people do not have the resources to either help their aging parents or even to help themselves. It's tragic.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 10:20AM
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Good thread, with no easy answers...

Like many others these days, my siblings and I all moved far from home to start our careers and families. My widowed mother, now 70 and in 'so so' health is now the only one still living in the town where we grew up. She lives in an apt. complex for seniors, has many friends there, is active and still does volunteer work.

But since we all live so far away (at 2,000 miles away, I am the closest), and have busy lives with young children and careers, we aren't able to visit often. And aside from weekly phone calls and the occasional e-mail, there's not a lot we do to stay in touch. I feel guilty about that, but am wondering what we can realistically do to change that.

We can't move to where she lives, and have invited her to move to our city. And she's said she probably will, when she is unable to care for herself where she is. But my Mom is very independent, and I worry that her assessment of "being able to take care of herself" might be very different from anyone else's. I know she doesn't want to be 'a burden,' so she'd never move until she absolutely had to.

Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 11:29AM
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Sweeby, have you looked at senior apt complexes near your home? You might want to do some homework and scope out the local resources. Then invite her to come visit, and take a tour. Assure her that having her live nearby is not being a "burden" on you. In fact, having her so far away IS a burden on you, should she ever need your help.

That worked when I moved my mother 750 miles to a place about 20 minutes away from me. Yes, Mother was a lot older than your mother, but she also didn't want to be a burden (I have come to hate that word, since it was Mother's favorite whine for years), and my driving down to AZ every month WAS a burden.

All I can do is encourage you to investigate the local resources, and start up the process.

Oh, and I think if you move your Mother, make sure that she lives closest to the child who is least likely to ever move, due to work or whatever.

I hope this helps. I honestly do not believe that having an elder live in a senior complex, or assisted living or even a SNF is a bad thing at all. Most people today cannot take care of an elderly person in their own home, and I don't think we should feel lesser of anyone who does not take in the elder, nor think that we are forced into that position when it's a strain on our own family or our own health. But having the elder close by and having strong ties and many visits will make all the difference.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 12:15PM
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one worry I'd have for Sweeby's mom is that she'll move when she's frail, and it'll be harder for her to make friends of her own.

A friend of mine's mom moved to my friend's town while she was still youngish, and active. The mom figured she'd find it easier to make new friends, get involve din new activites, while she's spry and healthy; then, when she gets older and less energetic, and maybe less mobile, she'll have already gotten to know people, gotten involved in organizations that will help her feel connected, etc.

My personal fear is of the elderly parent who doesn't do anything to entertain themselves, and instead waits passively for the rest of the world to care for and entertain them. I worry sometimes about my MIL and FIL; they're focused outside our immediate family now; they have friends, etc. But I do worry that if they get ill, and when they get much older, that the burden of entertaining them,a nd feeding them, etc., will fall totally on us--and that THEY will bear little to none of it.

I can understand why visiting someone in a nursing home could be really uncomfortable--the visitor feels "on stage"--and the resident doesn't contribute much to the conversation, or the sharing of experiences. Because they don't have any.

Maybe THAT is the thing that would keep people visiting--a project they do together, perhaps, or some other conversational topic.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 12:46PM
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my parents in law's moved to florida in 1982. my MIL was 49 my FIL was 58. they moved there so MIL could play golf everyday, so basically we felt she chose golf over family. when my FIL got cancer 15 years ago, we were hard pressed with 3 preschoolers to visit and help out. my husband would of have liked to help and spend more time with his father, but by them moving to florida, it was all but impossible. MIL is 73 now. my kids hardly know her, having only seen her a week or so out of the year. we asked if she could watch the kids last summer so DH and i could go on a trip for our 25th aniversary. we offered to pay her way, spending money and the boys are teens now so all they need is supervision. she said no, she had a tournament that week. so we said we would adjust our schedule to fit hers. she said she was uncomportable because the boys drove cars. man, it's always something. i think this such a loss since i was so close to my grandparents...

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 1:11PM
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celticmoon, thanks for starting this thread. It's really helpful to read the different perspectives and ideas, and there must be many more. Such a complicated problem.

There's so much to say about my family that at the moment, I can't even begin to write about it, so I'm just grateful to read what others have to say.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 2:05PM
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Thanks for the suggestions Fairegold and Tally_Sue. I have checked out the seniors complexes in my area and there are three lovely ones within 15-20 minutes away with a full range of assistance options. My Mom visited with us over Christmas, and I asked her if she would be willing to look at them while she was here, but she was not at all interested - reluctant even. She said she was far from ready to need one, and that she didn't want to make any important decisions while she was still adjusting to widowhood. I can understand her reluctance and respect her opinions, but isn't it better to know what the options are so you can make an informed decision about what you do and don't like?

I definitely tried the "not a burden" speech and did make the argument that she would have a much easier time making friends and building a new life here while she was still healthy and active, but no dice... There's even the same type of volunteer work opportunity for her here, where she would be very needed and appreciated.

I guess I'm just wondering if there's anything else I can do - or maybe should do - to make sure my Mom isn't "effectively abandoned" by our distance.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 2:54PM
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I'd just keep the discussions of the subject open, but not nagging. 70 really isn't very old. Just keep the options open. Not much more that you can do, I guess.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 4:21PM
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Transitions like the one your mother will eventually make take years to come about, and are a very sensitive subject for most people. I think you did the perfect thing by researching and letting your mom know what was available should she want it.

As Fairegold said, 70 isn't very old, and your mom is going through a huge transition now, with having to adjust to life on her own. Such things can bring a lot of fear and lonliness to the surface - with the person clinging to their home, as it contains so many memories of their life with their spouse. I'm just 48, and if I lost my DH, the last thing I would want to do is move - as I would want to stay in the home we shared together. She probably feels somewhat disconnected now, and doesn't even want to entertain a major move that would take her away from the only surroundings and friends she is familiar with.

It's enough for now for her to know that you've thought about it, care a lot about it, and will be there for her when she needs you. That's more important than anything.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 4:40PM
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Tough one Sweeby. It would be nice if your Mom would move while still active and healthy enough to forge her own new life near you. But I guess she sees it as asking a lot for her to leave everything she knows. No good answer.

My parents did a Florida move after retirement to escape New England weather. Several years later my mother got lung cancer. They opted to stay in Florida even as she went through surgeries, chemo and all. At the end she stayed home with visiting hospice and the last months we 8 kids took turns being there a week at a time. My Dad couldn't do it alone.

After she died he stayed on there alone for another 10 years. All these kids and grandkids thousands of miles away, but he wouldn't consider moving to be near family. Just like your Mom, Sweeby. He liked his independent life and his friends, and he didn't want to go back north to the cold weather.

He truly feared and dreaded becoming infirm or dependent more than anything. Fiercely independent his whole life (I take after him, and it's often not very attractive.) At 84, he was on his way to a party and was killed walking across the A1A highway toward a phone booth after getting a flat tire. Clean house, bed made, laundry folded, full social calendar on the wall, fresh broccoli, chicken and salad fixins in the fridge.

All us 8 sibs spent the next week in his little 2 bedroom house (no kids or spouses), an unforgettable and precious time reminiscing and being together. A high point was finding a cache of his letters to my mother - every single day for over 3 years while he was overseas during WWII! Priceless.

(regrouping) got a little OT there...I don't know the answer. I do know that every older person I meet with really, really enjoys talking and telling me the story of their life. And that every story ends up unique and interesting, rich with so many relationshis and people threads woven through. And then there they are sitting there. All alone for no reason I can see. Sad.

Makes me want to relive my life in a small village....

    Bookmark   February 13, 2006 at 10:34PM
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I have been following this discussion with interest. I agree with those who say that this is a cultural problem.

I am an Asian American and within the Asian culture it is almost unheard of to have a parent placed in a home. When an elderly person reaches a point where they cannot take care of themselves, they live with their children. It involves sacrifice and inconvenience but it is viewed as an inherent component of being part of a family. Raising children also involves sacrifice and inconvenience but it just goes with the territory - and that is how taking care of the elderly within the Asian culture is viewed.

About 15 years ago, my adult brother who was going through a transition in his life came to live with us for over a year. This was a matter of amazement for my colleagues at work who could not comprehend our willingness to accomodate him long term. My wife's colleagues were even more amazed when she said that she was entirely amenable to the arrangment. What also shocked people that we neither expected nor would accept any payment from him - he would once in a while buy groceries that we might need if he was going out.

Today he and his family live relatively close to us and he talks with gratitude and fondness of how we provided a welcome environment for him - with no strings attached. His children refer to us as their "second parents". He is certainly grateful to me but he is even more so to my wife who was unreserved in her welcome. We know that if we ever needed his help, he would be there for us.

The above comments are not intended as a value judgement. It just offers a perspective on how the care of elderly and other relatives has a cultural component to it.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 9:16AM
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What you described for the Asian culture was standard American culture, too, until maybe two generations ago. It was almost unheard of (and shameful) for families to place elderly parents (especially those who needed assistance in the activities of daily living) in nursing homes, which were known to have deplorable conditions. But in those days (before Social Security), few elderly people, except for the very wealthy, had an independent income, so they would have been destitute without their family's support. Most women didn't work outside the home, and unmarried children lived with their parents into their twenties (married children lived close by), so there might be several family members available to help. My parents brought both of my grandmothers into their home (at different times) and gave them loving care; they even slept on a convertible sofabed in the living room and eventually bought a larger house so Grandma could have her own room. But, in the next generation, my own mother and mother-in-law each decided that they would prefer to live on their own. My Mom considered moving near me but ultimately preferred an apartment in Florida, among her friends. My MIL tried living in our city in an apartment house for elderly residents, but she quickly decided that the population was "too old" for her (she was only 70 and was depressed to see so many people in wheelchairs and with other signs of physical decline). She carefully selected a retirement community (3 hours away from us, but in her own city) that offered independent apartment living (with dining hall and facilities for many activities and social events); it also has a "personal care" wing for those who need some assistance, and a nursing wing for those who require medical services. This was her CHOICE, and she has been happy there. For the children of elderly parents, there is less guilt now, but economic circumstances and the preferences of the elderly themselves have probably driven this change.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 10:40AM
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Anovaguy, I've been thinking about the issues you wrote about. My daughter-in-law's parents live in China. She says that she must care for them as they get older. No choice, in China that is what is done. She's surprised that my mother, who has a lot of problems living in her house, lives alone instead of with one of us.

Very soon, some decisions will have to be made. For me, it's not about convenience, but rather my relationship with my mother: She has always been cruel and psychologicaly abusive to the women in our family, first me and now my daughters. I won't go into the details, but I actually and literally become physically ill when I spend time with her. And I live in a different state, though we plan to move near my family within the next year.

What does one do in a case like that? My grandmother was cared for in my aunt and uncle's home because she was kind and loving, and always a part of our lives. I find myself thinking Why can't my mother just be more like her? But she's only getting worse.

I guess I'm wondering how one reconciles the obligations of an adult child to those of a psychologically destructive, unloving parent. How do families who want to do right by the parents work out a situation like this? I am hoping that someone from a culture where the elderly are expected to move in with the children, or someone else, might have some insight and ideas.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 1:44PM
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I dispute this "cultural" label, good families like to take care of each other because they love each other. In my family, we take care of each other, and I'm 2nd generation Swedish, so I'm an American. My grandmother lived with us before she died, and she died in our home. She was loved and a real treasure.

My parents made a decision to live in a retirement community. My XH and I offered to have them live with us, but my very wise father said no, and he was right. He made a great decision. If they had moved in with us, they would have been isolated and unable to socialize with all the new friends the made. I loved my parents, they were wonderful people and I miss them terribly, but I don't regret for a minute their decision to move to a retirement community. I think having mom and dad around 24/7 would have driven all of us crazy, rather quickly.

I don't think you have any obligation to let your mother live with you and destroy your life, over and over again. (I often think of the grandmother of a childhood friend - a real witch, who was in a nursing home when she died many, many years ago. She was so abusive to everyone, not only her daughter, but the staff, I think someone snuck in one night and did her in!!)

In the past, of course elderly parents lived with their children (if they had them), when they could no longer take care of themselves, there were no alternatives. (Maybe the bad ones died young!) Then, in the last century, there were nursing homes, not always great places, but useful. Now there are so many good alternatives - Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), faith based and municipal retirement communities, as well as assisted living, group homes and nursing facilities. Many of these work on a sliding scale and provide wonderful care and socialization.

You have to make the boundaries very apparent. If she expects to live with you, make it clear that she will be living somewhere else, it can be near you, but not with you, but you will visit with her. If she wants to live somewhere else, you can certainly help her select a place and move but don't let her destroy you with guilt. You may have to lay it all out for her, but your priority is you and your family. You can't allow her to destroy your family.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 10:05PM
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Sue, you are right in that circumstances have changed which have, in turn, resulted in different perspectives when it comes to the care of the elderly. Even among the Asian American elderly they prefer to maintain a level of autonomy as long as they are physically and financially able to do so. But, invariably, when a situation is reached that they cannot function on their own, they would move in with their children.

wooderlander, you raise some very legitimate issues which ultimately only you can answer. Quite frankly, there are conflicts in Asian families as well when parents come to live with the children. Some of it relates to control issues - parents who are reluctant to cede to their children decision making. Sometimes it has to do with the raising of the children/grand-children. In other instances, there can be conflicts between parents and a daughter/son-in-law. But the over-riding issue among most Asian Americans is that the care of the parents is an obligation and responsibility of their adult children - and such care does not, except in rare instances, mean placing the parent/s in a home.

momj47, you started your post with the statement:

I dispute this cultural label, good families like to take care of each other because they love each other

You ended it with:

You have to make the boundaries very apparent. If she expects to live with you, make it clear that she will be living somewhere else, it can be near you, but not with you, but you will visit with her. If she wants to live somewhere else, you can certainly help her select a place and move but don't let her destroy you with guilt. You may have to lay it all out for her, but your priority is you and your family. You can't allow her to destroy your family.

Therein lies the difference in cultural perspective. My parents - and my wife's parents - ARE my family. They are as much my family as is my spouse or my children. By your line of reasoning, there comes a point when parents cease to be part of "your family". I am not sure when this transition occurs. Upon marriage? When one has children? When one is not longer financially dependent on one's parents?

Parents take care of their children when they are incapable of taking care of themselves - and down the line, children take care of their parents when the latter are no longer able to fend for themselves. It is just fundamental to the Asian culture.

As I stated in my original post, none of the above is intended to be a value judgement on how others approach this issue. But I know that the grounding of my views on this subject are based on my Asian American heritage and hence my comment about this having cultural moorings.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 10:09AM
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Just by way of clarification, I chose to show in bold font, the excerpt from momj47's post - "You can't allow her to destroy your family" - for reasons of emphasis.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 10:15AM
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I have an abusive father. I had a horrific childhood. My siblings and I haven't talked to him in about six years, heck he doesn't even know where my brother and sister live or have their phone numbers. He has my phone number and calls every now and then (he leaves messages). He says that he's lonely and that he thinks he had a stroke and would I please come to take care of him. Am I supposed to take care of him? I hate him and don't want to have anything to do with him. Does society actually think that I have an obligation to this man?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 11:03AM
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anovaguy, I think you missed the whole point. I was referring to the specific question asked by wooderlander. Parents never cease to be part of a family, but there are people so destructive that clear boundaries must be set, they cannot be allowed to continue their destruction on generation after generation, Asian or not. My sisters and I cared for my parents until the moment they died. My former in-laws could die on my doorstep before I'd let them live with me.

I don't think wooderlander and kellyeng should let their parents into their homes for years and years of continuing abuse. You should read the horror stories on the Caregivers Forum about caring for abusive, destructive parents when they are old.

Good, healthy, respectful, loving families (even some not so healty families) do take care of each other, but not becasue of societal expectations, fear or guilt. Those are lousy excuses for destroying a family by bringing an abusive parent into a home.

It's a painful, heartbreaking choice, but sometimes it has to be made, for the safety and well being of the family.

Good luck to both of you.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 1:17PM
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Can we please make a point here. To "Take care" of an elderly parent does not mean the same thing as having that person live with you.

Caregiving does not have to mean an under-one-roof situation, not by any means.

OK, some people think that a parent living anywhere except under their own roof is a great bad thing. But many/most seniors in our culture, if they are at all able-bodied and have financial resources, will choose NOT to live with a child.

Some people are simply not capable of assistance for someone who needs help, either. If you have a bad back, can you endanger your own health by doing physically demanding care? Of course you can injure yourself! Then, is every one capable of doing the adult diaper care? Or more skilled things like feeding tubes?

No, not everyone, regardless of cultural background, is capable of handing these things. i know that I was not capable.

But the original question is not about about taking someone in under our roof, but about abandoning them. Leaving them without contact and family.

Maybe you do take care of an abusive family member by ensuring that, from a distance, the person is cared for. If he needs a SNF, then it may be up to you to make sure that he makes it there. You may hate him, and have no use for him in your life, but maybe there are things that you might be able to do. Maybe not.

No one ever said that these decisions are easy. And the range of problems that we face, and the range of personalities involved are as vast as the face of humankind.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 1:44PM
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I just want to chime in about age. My dad will be 77 in May and still works full-time as an aerospace engineer for Boeing. He retired at 70, then consulted for them for a while, then retired full-time and almost drove all of us to insanity. Then Columbia crashed, and they asked him to come back, and he went SKIPPING back. When the shuttle was grounded for so long last year due to a faulty fuel sensor reading - he was in Florida for a month as that fuel sensor box was his creation. He designed the main propulsion system for the shuttle. He worked in the control room during the launch, as he has since the Gemini days. Is he ready to retire now? No way! 77 and he still heads out the door every single morning at 7 to work on the task of space exploration. Oh, and his health? He's had three bypass surgeries and has heart disease and diabetes. But he keeps himself healthy as a horse.

My mom is 66 and also still works full-time as a teacher at three different community colleges. I don't know how they created ME, the one who doesn't want to work! LOL (Fwiw, she was a sahm when I was growing up) My mom joked with me the other day that she pulled some strings with the JCPenney furniture delivery guys because she complained that they were "elderly," then laughed her a$$ off at that concept.

That's why I said that they were old, but not dependent-old. I think myself at almost 37 and my 39 year old brother still depend on them more than they depend on us.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 2:10PM
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Thank you all, so much, for this discussion. Reading the various points of view is very helpful to me, almost like having a conversation with a group of people who all have their own ideas, expectations, and experiences but no specific agenda with regard to what I personally should do. This really helps me, and I am grateful.

Kellyeng, my answer to your questions is No. Don't destroy yourself. Enough damage has been done.

Anovaguy, momj47, Fairegold, Kellyeng, thanks.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 2:14PM
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I found this thread after doing a search on "guilt." I'm feeling guilty that I'm spending thousands of dollars on this renovation, when I know that my DF could use (but would have trouble accepting) the help. We live 11 hours apart, see each other once or twice a year; and I guess that's just the way it is right now. His life is in his state; our life is in ours. Especially in this jobs and housing market, it's hard to see how we can change the situation.

I was shocked a few weeks ago when he said he'd consider moving in with us, if we had a private space and lived further south, in a warmer climate. He's always been very independent, said if he couldn't take care of himself that he just "wants someone to take him out behind a barn and shoot him." And he has some health issues and really doesn't expect to live more than 5 or 10 more years. Yet, he believes his health and financial issues are his burden; he doesn't want us to reap what he's sowed.

I'm feeling maudlin about all this. I know there are no perfect answers. I just posted on the other side about gel mats; and every time I consider that (given my upbringing) frivolous purchase I wonder how I can hold my head up when my DF sees my kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 10:20PM
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Cate - your posting has brought this thread back to the forum where I just found it. The posting before yours was Feb. 06, over 2 years ago. I wonder what has happened since then to the people who posted. Were they able to resolve the problems of how to care for the elderly in their families? Maybe we'll get an update.

My own father moved in with us over 3 years ago when my Mom died. He's 88 and luckily still able to handle his own personal care but not well enough to live independently. It has been both a blessing and a burden. Our lives and our schedules revolve around Dad. My brother retired and at least Dad was able to visit him in the South for the winter months which was a much needed break for us.

But even though we do a lot for Dad the guilt is still there. Is he happy? Would he be happier in a community where he could make friends with people his own age? There are times when he is alone for a couple of hours at a time and I worry constantly that something's happened to him.

You are right to say that there are no perfect answers. We're all muddling through this the best we can. Try not to worry too much about the kitchen. Even if you weren't spending the money to remodel you'd be feeling quilty about something else. I'm afraid it's our nature.

There may come a time when your father will need more from you. My son was in college and we were able to give Dad his bedroom and turn it into a bedroom/sitting room with his TV and desk so that he could have some privacy. It's worked so far but I don't know what will happen if he can't take care of himself and needs more assistance. Unfortutnately we can't predict what may come so that we can better prepare ourselves. I'll be thinking of you.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 7:12PM
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Interesting that this thread was dug up after two years! I just wanted to chime in that two years ago I posted that my dad, then 77, worked full-time as an aerospace engineer and my mom was teaching community college courses - she was then 66.

My dad is now 79, and STILL working full-time for Boeing putting the Space Shuttle up in the air. Probably the oldest guy in the firing room. And my mom, now 68, is still teaching. And yes, I'm still prepared to take care of them when they will need it.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 10:19PM
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I know this is an ancient thread but I found it while searching for another thread and read every comment.

Snookums- I had no idea you had been on the boards this long!

This thread resonates with me greatly.

This is WHY we are doing what we are doing (in our 30s, living on the same property as my parents so I can care for them when they do get older and need care). Its nice to see we aren't completely alien!!

We NEVER want our parents to be abandoned and we are trying to change our children's perceptions from a, for lack of a better way to put it, "American dream, go out there, do everything on your own" mentality to a more European mentality where family takes care of family and you don't just run off/shove them in a nursing home when it suits you.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 12:00AM
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Holly- Kay

Snookums, my first DH was Greek also. We were married 22 years when he died of a massive heart attack. I remarried but I am still very close to his DM. She is now in a nursing home and I go to see her often. I love her with all of my heart and if I didn't have a business I would bring her to live with us.

She does love the nursing home that she's at. It is not at all depressing. It is beautifully furnished and the man that owns it is always there making sure his residents are getting the best of care. She is always the belle of the ball though she is going down hill rapidly. I have been so blessed to have her in my life all these years and fortunately my second DH is totally fine with our relationship. She spends every holiday with us. He knows that I will do the same for his parents at some point because I love them too.

The children don't get in to see their YiaYia as often as they would like but fortunately more often than probably most.

Several months ago she had to go to a different nursing home for concentrated rehab after a fall. That place was an absolute nightmare. I had to constantly be after them to get just the basic care for Mom. They lost new clothing that I bought for her even though I supplied washable lingerie bags for her laundry to go in. They would put laundry soiled with body fluids in her clothes closet. I was so glad when she was well enough to go back to the other facility.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 10:16AM
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I think regretting not having children or having had them or not regretting either is not rational. Having children, or not, are both situations loaded with risk and reward, so they're a wash, IMO. I know so many people who have wonderful kids and so many who have suffered SO much because of their children. People with no children are free of the anxiety and worry that comes with having them, as well as the costs and sacrifices, but they also lose the joys.

As far as so many adult children abandoning their parents, it's a scourge and a sin. I think it's part and parcel of the "narcissisation" of American culture, in particular. We abandon the elderly ,our neighbors, while over-focusing on children, i.e.: raising another generation of narcissists, who will then turn around and abandon their parents.

American culture now is all about the self and about avoiding anything that isn't fun and/or easy. Old age is neither.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2014 at 10:30AM
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