Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Importance of Family

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how important family is in providing for the elderly. There are four of us, plus spouses, who provide some level of care for my parents, and it often seems like there aren’t enough of us. Of course, each of us has our “specialty.” One brother calls to make sure Mom’s eating each day and invites her to visit for a few days of respite space when she’s willing to take it (which isn’t very often). The other brother handles a lot of the maintenance issues—keeping the yard in shape, helping to clean out a storage shed, doing minor fix-it jobs. And he visits once a month and just hangs out with Mom. My sister is the one who will steal Mom away for a day. Mom thinks she’s going to encourage Sis to get away, so it works for both of them. And I handle all of the medical, financial, and oversight issues for both Mom and Step-dad. No matter how much we do, we always feel there is too much left undone. Something will fall through the cracks—which are getting wider, it seems.

So what will we do when we get older? We have only one son. how many of our needs will he and his wife be able to meet? What do we need to do now to make sure their burden is less?

And what about those people who have no children, either by choice or default? Who will care for them? Patrick Watson at Driving Out the Snakes makes the point in a discussion of DINKs (dual income, no kids).

Like it or not, each generation needs the next. If we don't create another generation to follow us we will end up paying a terrible price. At the macro level, Social Security is going bankrupt because there are not enough younger workers paying into the system. Even if you are wealthy enough not to need a pension, you still need an economy where the rest of us are reasonably prosperous.

Individually, those who grow old without children will not be able to replace, for any amount of money, the love that adult children should show toward their aging parents. We all reach a point where we need someone we trust to take care of us and make important decisions for us. If you have no children, who will it be?

Yes, who will it be?

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2 comment(s):

I am an only child and sometimes I do feel overwhelmed, but often I feel lucky. I see so many families where there is resentment, fighting, guilt and fingerpointing among adult siblings regarding the care of elderly parents. I feel like the job is all mine, but so is the decision making.

I think the best case scenario is when there is a harmonious, cooperative relationship between siblings, but if that can't happen, it's preferable to be an only child.

By Anonymous Susan, at 1:19 PM  

Susan, you're absolutely right. Even with relatively harmonious relationships, it's hard to not feel that I'm carrying too much of the load. It's hard to not feel resentful. But I try to deal with it by consciously appreciating the contributions of each sib. But I also know that it can be overwhelming for an only child. My hat goes off to you as you carry the load alone.

By Blogger Pat, at 9:34 PM  

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