Who gets to keep Mom?

This is a niggling question for older children with aging parents.  Hard questions need to be asked but are we prepared to ask them.  Let’s face it, in the Caribbean, quality care for aging parents in long-stay homes are not common and many of them are not up to par.  By the same token, we the children can’t exactly care for our parents because a lot of times, we are at the height of our career with many responsibilities and demands on our time.  Elder care is also quite costly and again, trained and trustworthy caregivers are rare.

Then there’s the trip down Guilt Lane, we remember the countless times that our parents made sacrifices for us, watched our children, their grandchildren for free without complaining.  We picked them up clean, after a warm bath and well fed. Then there were those times when we called our parents last minute because an impromptu ‘lime’ came up or we had a report to finish because of a pressing deadline. 

Some of our parents have reached an age where they just can’t do life alone anymore and they honestly believe that living in a long-stay home is a death sentence.  What is the alternative?  Are you prepared to have your parents stay with you?  Are your living quarters suitable?  Do you have the wherewithal?  Are you emotionally prepared for this shift, should it occur?

Things get even stickier when you are the only sibling still living at home or in the country because everyone has gone on to greener pastures.  Is it fair that you alone should shoulder the responsibility of caring for your parents and the occasional call or brief visit from the other siblings should suffice?  What about the bills, if your parents become ill and they don’t have insurance?  Medication, surgery, living expenses, day nurse, night nurse, would these costs be equally divided?

We do not often think about some of these things because like me, we believe that our parents will always be strong, healthy and independent and we would continue to need them more than they need us.  Those roles shift faster than we care to admit. So, it is time to schedule a conference call with everyone who is ‘outside’ and have those hard conversations and start making plans for the ‘what ifs’.  Get Mummy and Daddy in on it too and let them have a say.

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