Parents and kids together again | Aging Matters | December

This month’s topic was inspired by a Wall Street Journal article titled Circle of Care (Oct. 17), about whether the aging (that would be me) should simply assume that their best living option is to be independent of their children.

The author, Robbie Shell, suggested that readers weighing retirement options consider a return to what used to be commonplace in our society, and still is in many others: Namely, factoring in some kind of role for their children.

What struck me on reading the article was how routine it has become for the aging to fight fiercely for their independence (from their children in particular), despite the princely price tag of living in retirement facilities. My own ideas on the subject have been influenced by my mom’s tales of her grandma on her father’s side living with mom’s parents throughout their married lives.

That seemed to account for my mother’s insistence on her independence and not wanting to burden us, even though she tended to loneliness and probably would’ve been better off with one of her kids.

The rugged independence of the greatest generation aside, we baby-boomers seem to have literally placed a premium on living apart from our offspring. Shell reports that although she’d assumed she and her siblings would take care of her parents, she was surprised to learn that her mother, then in her mid-50s, had already reserved space in a retirement community.

Here are a couple of factors to consider when helping to plan for our parents’ aging, or our own.

The burden: Being geographically closer to one’s kids can be far less burdensome than being at a distance. It may well be impractical for parents and kids to live under the same roof, but worry, time, and travel costs are all lessened if the distance is reduced.

My mother and my mother-in-law both spent their last years near us once their own peers had passed on or moved away. I can testify that in both cases, the stress related to helping them with their end-of-life issues was significantly reduced by having them closer.

I can’t move – it’s too far for me to travel: A friend recently told me that her parents, who’d both developed serious health problems, were transported by medevac (also known as air ambulance) from Florida to Ohio so that my friend’s brother would be better able to help their parents with their care needs. If you want more information, Google medevac services. Frankly, it had never occurred to me that Medevac could be an option if other options for transport to a distant location were not viable. Her father was transported on a stretcher, and her mother in a wheelchair. The cost is sure to be steep, but so is the cost of not doing it in some cases.

Shell reports that Vietnamese families she knows say “the children are there to catch their parents when they fall.”

Thinking about this, I’ve decided that I’ll open my mind to family-centered care in a new way. It’s much more appealing to have family than ‘strangers’ caring for me if I were to become unable to care for myself.