Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Those that do, and those that don't

Just like when Jared was two and I was tuned into other mothers with a two-year-old, now I'm tuned in to people who are caretaking their parents. I notice the 50 and 60-something women taking their moms to the market. Many of our friends have aging parents. That's the generation we are. It's also what you do. It's how you do it that has changed.
My niece in-law, Nga, asked me recently if I had ever considered moving mom into my house. Yes and no, I said. Mom lived with me for eight months when she was 83, I was 46, and Jared was 9. It didn't work very well. She moved into a retirement home, I moved into my bedroom that she had been using, and we all got on with our lives much more peacefully. Besides that, she didn't need my care. She wanted companionship and involvement in our lives. She still got that, but we all had more space to breathe.
Now it's really not much different. Mom, at 100, still wants her independence as long as she can keep it. She is still able to get herself up to the bathroom in the night after the caregiver leaves. As long as she can do that, she'll stay where she is.
And once she needs full-time care, I wouldn't move her here. It wouldn't work for any of us. My role is to visit, take her to doctor's appointments, make decisions, pay bills, and care for her needs...and then go home.
In Nga's culture, Vietnamese, mom and dad move in. Nga's four brothers took care of her parents when they were old.
Our culture, and my family, are more fragmented. My brother and one nephew are in Southern California. My son is in Seattle. Another nephew is in Australia. None are available to offer more than peripheral support. They love their mom and grandma, but no way would any of them take on the responsibility of having grandma live with them.
By default, one child in a family ends up as caretaker. They are fortunate when siblings participate, as do my brother and his wife. They offer verbal support, call mom, help with hard decisions, and come visit when they can. Is it enough? Not always, but it is what it is, and I carry no resentment toward them.
I don't always like this role as caretaker and its attendant responsibilities...but it's a privilege.
I just hope someone considers it a privilege to take care of me when the time comes.

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