I have been thinking about our aging population a lot recently. As life moves on, our parents are getting older. In the United States, we are so driven by independence and success (whatever that means to you) that we don’t stop to think about this segment of the population, until we are forced to. We often live far from our extended family. As a result, we aren’t able to easily take care of our family members as they need it.
The choices we are given are not ideal, to say the least. In my family’s case, my father is single and at a place where he needs more and more help every day. Luckily for him and the rest of the family, my sister lives near by. However, this has been a struggle. My father doesn’t see that he is getting more dependent on others and has resisted any outside help. And, understandably, my sister wants to be his daughter, not his 24 hour caregiver. Our family is not set up to have my father live with one of us, and, frankly, he doesn’t want to. So what are our choices? He can stay home and hire a caregiver, or move into an assisted living complex. All of his options involve spending a lot of money. Many Americans struggle with these options, as they are not financially able to cover the costs.
And the medical care costs? I haven’t mentioned those costs. Thankfully, my father is financially sound and can afford the medical care he needs. Many are not. Many of our elderly have to make difficult decisions concerning their pharmaceuticals and medical care because they don’t have the means to cover all the costs.
In many countries, families live with or near each other, as an extended family unit. When the older generation begins to need more help, the expectations are such that the younger generation is there, waiting to give the help that is needed.
As a child, there is nothing really to prepare you for taking care of a parent. In the United States, people tend to distance themselves from this topic, and don’t have many examples or cultural norms to guide them through this phase of life.
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