I have a friend with a mother now on hospice. For years I have heard him say that his mother complained that if she could raise seven kids, they should be able to take care of one mother in her old age. It sounds like simple math. It is somewhat amusing because she, in fact, only has three adult children. What is not funny is that her logic does not compute for many reasons.
Gone are the days for many that my friend’s mother remembers; the days when subsequent generations all lived nearby one another and could care for the elders of the family. Gone are the days for many when the economy was such that only one full-time income was needed per family, and unemployed daughters were usually available to provide for mom.
For many people, hired caregivers and long-term care facilities are a necessity and not a luxury. Adult children often live far away from their parents and most have to work to pay for basic living standards. Some children can take time away from their jobs to care for an aging parent but it will ultimately cost them their paying job.
Some people, like my friend’s mother, reflect on the days of yore fondly, but the truth of the matter is that the lifestyle we have today is better for aging parents in some ways. It is a common misconception that seniors living in a nursing home are likely to be abused by staff. Actually, elder abuse in nursing homes is rare compared with elder abuse committed by family members. Family members who provide full-time care are not often trained in caregiving; they suffer financially and socially, and are unprepared for the demanding and unending tasks. This stressful scenario is ripe for elder abuse to occur in any culture. Professional caregivers are often trained and rotated in and out of the home or facility so burnout is less likely to occur. As a result, senior citizens often receive better day to day care from someone outside the family.
My friend works hard along with his wife to provide a decent life for their two kids. It is not a lavish lifestyle; neither could afford to stop working to care for his mom and pay the mortgage. A sister does not live locally and another sibling is incapable of caring for anyone. In other words, none of the three children are able to care full-time for their mom or even provide a substantial part-time schedule to care for her. As of this writing, she is in a nursing home receiving excellent round-the clock care. She is fairly happy. Thus, three cannot take care of mother, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.