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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A new TV or a room for grandma?

According to the Philly Inquirer, elderly people in Pennsylvania need more money from taxpayers to be taken care of in their homes by strangers. By 2020, the article estimates 18.8 percent of state residents will be over 65 and the number of seniors over 85 will increase by 52 percent.
Am I the only one who remembers a time when family members took care of their elderly residents? My paternal grandmother nursed her dying husband in a bedroom off of their gun shop before his death (while she still ran the store out front) and then took care of his stepfather until his death more than 10 years later. My maternal grandmother lived with and took care of her father until his condition necessitated a round the clock nursing facility and then she took care of my grandfather until he was moved to a handicap accessible hospice care home and died.
Sad to say, my maternal grandmother now lives in an apartment by herself despite her expressed desire to live with one of her three children, all of whom have homes with 2-3 empty bedrooms and ample space. If there were not 5 of us in an 1100 sqft apt. you can bet I would have offered her a room here.
We are arguably the most prosperous country on the face of the earth and we want the government to take care of the people who raised us. We want to stick them in homes, or have others watch them in-home and have it covered by someone else. Why is it preposterous to have children foot the bill of their parents care? It isn't. Drive an older car, by a smaller TV, get less cable channels or buy fewer presents for your kids this Christmas (or Easter, Halloween, their Birthday, etc.) Would it be difficult to live with your parents again? I don't doubt it. Offer it up. If I am needed to take care of my parents I'm sure many opportunities will arise when I am called upon to suffer. Parental mortification. As a teenager you didn't know it could serve a higher cause. The fourth commandment, honor thy mother and father, doesn't become irrelevant the minute one moves out of the house. Now I understand some medical conditions merit specialized care and are outlandishly expensive but if you would do it for your child (or your dog), why not your parents? If you can find a way for one, why not the other? Is it because as a society we value the lives of our senior less? Perhaps. We try to convince them to not burden us with their illness and caregiving, and so we encourage euthanasia or maybe a' do not resuscitate' order. We stopped seeing them as our mothers, fathers, grandparents and loved ones and instead saw them as excess baggage. Can you imagine if we started inviting our parents back into our homes? If we lived as extended families again? I'm not dreaming. With the baby boomers aging and a seriously lacking social security system plus a nation $4 trillion in debt, how much longer do you think the government will pay someone to granny sit for you? We should have a Christ- room ready in our house at all times. Sometimes we do not need to look very far to find someone in need of a place to stay.