There have been some recent posts on the "elderly" and their care. Here and here.
What is as clear as daylight , is the fact that we are today, in India, sandwiched between a generation where elders were always resident with the family, and a generation which has necessarily become more mobile, ambitious, and often given to "valuing" tangibles, at the cost of intangibles.
3 stories . Then reach your own conclusions.
X , was leading a comfortable life , as the wife of Y, who had a very secure respectable job. She was well educated , but thought nothing of acquiring jobs by hanging on to and basking in the shadow of the husband; for such folks, their work doesn't matter , their entire "prestige" and "standing" depends on that of the husband. She ensured she was always treated as her husbands wife and not as "a employee".
At one point , her widowed ma-in-law came to live with them clearly because of some medical situation , and was admitted to a hospital. A special nurse attendant was appointed so madam didn't have to feed, and help her ma-in-law in the hospital. Turns out that X told this nurse, that when the hospital lunch arrived, she was to give the patient only half , and take half for herself ; "why does the old lady need so much" were her words. X would make that mandatory daily trip, smile at he visitors and go home, and folks at work would look on in sympathy as they thought she was at the hospital.
By and by the old lady came home, whereupon she was packed off to an old age home, several miles away. Her granddaughter got married, there were other family celebrations, and she was never brought home. When she passed away, her body was brought home with a great show of sorrow, folks visited, attended the rituals, and it all ended with a great lunch served on the 13th day, in a special hall, attended by folks , some of whom were terribly impressed and some who saw through it all. People always wondered what the husband thought of his own mother being sent away like this. Today, these folks are considered one of the smarter folks who have their lives organized just so, and moving up in the world , themselves now as senior citizens.
P was the only caretaker of her very independent minded parents. She had a slightly specialized job in a big organization, thanks to her earlier work experience in industry, the pay wasn't out of this world, but she enjoyed her job which had other benefits. P's parents lived in another town, and as happens, her elderly father was adamant about living there and not moving in with her.
She had some qualms about possible friction happening in her own house , and when the time came, she managed somehow with immense difficulty till she qualified for early retirement benefits, and for several years alternated between her own house and her father's. Of course , there were full time nurses, and attendants, but they needed supervision, and she was lucky she found good staff. She paid through her nose for those, and was grateful that she had her own resources.
Yes, she lost out on lot of her own family life, a few occasions , and her presence could have possibly been beneficial for a teen aged daughter who sometimes had to manage and decide things on the phone, and by herself. But she travelled, and was there for all the Big days in the family. What made it more easy, was clearly the fact that the husband realized this was necessary, and he co-operated by bringing the family down during festival days and stuff. By and by, several years later, P's father passed away, with P sitting by his side on the fateful night.
Yes, P is not considered a success (in monetary and control terms) , in her field of work, although her capability is known, she was told she was stupid for leaving her job. But she is really unconcerned with all this, and now lives with a certain peace of mind, knowing that she was there for her father, and that her own family has learnt some valuable lessons about old age , from it all.
M never worked outside her house. She was one of two sisters. Her husband had a decent comfortable job, her children did well in school, her situation in life allowed her to enjoy the various regional cultural events that took place and she was happy. Her parents are today in their middle nineties.
Sometime in their early nineties, it looked like they wouldn't be able to stay by themselves in a neighboring town, where she had grown up. And so , she convinced them to move to her house. It was difficult at first, and there was a lot of travelling up and down to leave them back at their own house when they demanded and bringing them back when some health problem demanded it. She first arranged for them to be looked at by her own doctor, a lady , who was able to build confidence in the old folks, treating them like her own parents.
In the last few years, falls and dementia at various levels in both the older folks, have necessitated the hiring of day and night nurse attendants. M continues to go through her life, getting children married, entertaining relatives, organizing for grand children's arrivals, in addition to her own social activities. Her friends know her parents live with her, and are very friendly with them when they visit her house. The parents have attended family functions in wheelchairs, sometimes walking with great assistance; due to the onset of dementia, they sometimes do not recognize the people involved, but at the end of the day, they know that something is being celebrated, that they are wanted, and they enjoy the occasion , the best they can.
The children and children-in-law of the house know when to chip in with physical help , and are always cheerfully on call. M's husband, is grateful that he is in a position to help here as he is entitled to a large house, and earns comfortably; but mostly he helps by not making what could be snide and hurtful comments .
Somewhere at the end of the three stories, what is clear, is, that how X, P and M were brought up, plays a big part in all this.
Both P and M are not overly impressed by glamour or money, though they enjoy providing their children with the sort of things young people enjoy today, within fair limits. They have an ability to decide what is a need and what is a luxury, and come to a conclusion on what they must do. Very clearly, their husbands have , throughout their lives, observed and judged their wives and learned how they think, and it looks like they appreciate it.
In X's case, the husband is a total loss (and gutless, according to me ), but probably very successful in commercial terms, something X sets great store by. Both P and M, had older parents-in-law, who they took care off in their last days. Maybe their husbands appreciate that. The husbands may not be saints and paragons, but they see that a parent is a parent, and needs the same care.
At the end of the day, one more younger generation learns what to do and what not to do, by observing folks in the family.
Yes, home care costs money, so does institutional care.
What matters is whether you look upon it as a debit to your fortune, or a credit to someone who taught you what life is.
Whether you look upon folks as golden assets, or medical liabilities.
In the end , it is all about balancing. Your life. In your own way.