UNTIL DEATH, OR HEALTH, DO THEM PART
Our parents, our grandparents, those who have stayed the tests of time, often in a society much more adverse than the one we know today, are facing an end-of-life scenario that is gut-wrenching.
They gave us their time, their dedication, their unfaltering support and love. They sheltered us, fed and clothed us, they shared with us things spiritual and they did the best they could from where they were for us, often without condition.
Looking back on their lives, we have seen evidence of a moral code, a given acceptance, that theirs was the job of unselfishly raising us as best they could.
Theirs was the task of keeping the family unit together in crisis, in turmoil, and in harmony.
And now, as time rolls on, and their ability to maintain safe and self-sufficient lives at home is challenged with the ailments of age, they come to a crossroads: leaving home.
That can mean leaving behind a history of 70, 80, 90 years in a hometown, decades in the same house where families were raised, where the storms of life were weathered and the joys of life were cherished. Home is a spiritual and cultural charm bracelet, hanging heavily with the sacred memories of a lifetime, memories made and forged together.
Together is the premise of this little article — this little reminder.
In the latter years of life, often all our parents and grandparents have is each other. They’ve given up most material things, recognizing they don’t need them anymore, but they contentedly hold with all they have to one another — until we take them apart.
With no long-term care home to accommodate them both, or nowhere with the proper medical facilities for one or the other, we break them up to spend their final days alone, their only reason for still living — their loved one — perhaps miles away in a different place.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say there are plenty of long-term care homes that host these life-long couples together, and I thank them for that. And I also would be remiss if I didn’t thank those special homes that look after our elderly like they would their own, caring for them and catering to them with heartwarming detail. Another kudo should be sent to sons and daughters who are able to take their parent or grandparents in, as they become less independent, and care for them.
A gut-wrenching reality is, though, that in many cases these lifelong partners take up residence away from one another to bide their final years.
I recently heard of a story in a small town about a couple in their eighties. She had become ill and he was no longer able to care for her in their own home. They agonized over what would come next and reluctantly decided they would have to move into a home where she could get the medical attention she needed. The local seniors’ home had room for him, but did not have the resources to facilitate her. They now live hours apart. Pointing fingers is never a solution, I don’t believe, but perhaps it’s time we collectively had another look at what we can do to keep our aging moms and dads together in their sunset years.
Can governments dig a bit deeper at budget time to earmark more funds for the aging and seniors? Can existing long-term care homes put couples’ accommodation at the forefront of their short-term and long-term goals? Can new facilities be equipped with resources to facilitate ailing residents? Keeping couples together undoubtedly means a better quality of living for them, and more joy that undoubtedly translates into better health.
If for no other reason, we need to look at this issue out of sheer love and respect for the people who came before us and helped shape who we are as people and as a society.
They brought us here. They made us who we are. They gave us what we have. Their early vision gave us direction.
I wonder if we have become complacent with our aging and seniors. They don’t ask for much, but are we giving them enough? Are we celebrating them as often as we should? They fought wars for us; they invented new luxuries for us; they were our political advocates; and they were our teachers in so very many ways.
As a society, I believe our gratitude should be always evident, and everywhere we possibly can, we need to keep them together.
We owe them that, and we will be a better society for it.
I wish all our elderly a Seniors Day where they are showered with gratitude, respect, and caring.
That’s not much to ask.
Jeff Hutchings Conception Bay South