Friday, June 16, 2006

Who Cares?

This morning I got calls from my cousin Honey and my pal Soozie. The conversations revolved around the same topic. What to do in order to care for a parent or one another. It has become clear to all of us, over thee last few years, that we are aging and that our children — if we have any — are not going to take care of us. It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that we haven’t taught them how.

When we were children and our grandparents got sick, our mothers immediately went into action and figured out how and who and when. There was no doubt Zaide and Bubbe would live with one of the siblings. When their husbands or sisters were taken ill, it was the same thing. There was never a question about finding some facility or a stranger to care for them. It was expected they would take care of each other. In fact, they prided themselves on the fact that no one in our family was ever in a nursing home – and I mean no one. So that was their expectation. They were sure we would never put them away. Luckily, most of my Aunts and Uncles got sick and died. There was not much lingering. Not much chance for facility living, even if it had been considered.

Things are a little different now because there are independent living communities, which then become assisted living facilities — but there’s that word again. My mother is on a list for an independent living community. My mother saw it and thought it was pretty wonderful. Clean and cheery and lots of women her age with similar backgrounds and interests. It is an apartment with a stove and all the fixings but you’re never alone because there is twenty four hour care available if it is needed. It seemed to be this would be the answer to all our problems. She could make friends, have activities and be safe. That’s what I would like for me someday -- if I need it -- although my X husband says he has a pill for me, so I don't have to worry. But my mother still thinks we’d just be putting her away. No one will visit. It is only five minutes from where she lives now and I assured her it was not out of the way. But she thinks she will die if she leaves her house, so she wants to be at home with a companion. It’s ridiculous really, but that what she wants so, as you have read before, we’re in a constant search for the perfect au pair. Her twin, my Aunt Peppy, who was always more active and involved in things, is in worse shape, physically and mentally than my mother. It’s hard to believe but it has just happened so quickly we’re all trying to catch up. Peppy told us a long time ago that, unlike my mother, she did not want to be at home or in an independent living community. If she couldn’t take care of herself, she would live wih one of her daughters — she has three. We all expected they all would be happy to have her – their claims of “my mother, my mother!” echoed loudly for us and there was not doubt Peppy would have her wish. This is not to happen. None of them can get it together to fulfill her request. So they will have to look for help and keep her in this house that should be demolished, with some stranger who she will never trust. It’s very sad, but it makes one think.

My mother always had limited expectations and she absolutely doesn’t want to live with me. Peppy thought her kids would step up to the plate, we know ours won’t. So what do we do? There are so many of us going through the same thing. I think it makes sense for a number of us (friends and family) to invest in a big house where we can be independent but have fun, care, activities and each other. I guess this is such a popular idea we will see communities of baby boomers popping up all over the place. It is an appealing solution. That way there is no burden for anyone, we won’t have to be put away and we won’t have to worry about who cares. We’re just sayin…

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