UN­TIL DEATH, OR HEALTH, DO THEM PART

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL -

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

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