It is common in our society today to place our elderly in rest homes sequestered away from the family and isolated with their peers. I have always felt that this was wrong. I like the idea of families and generations living together, not necessarily in the same home, but close by where they can interact with each other.
I was likely influenced by The Waltons, a prime time television show that aired during my teen years. I think grandmothers and grandfathers need to have young people in their life, I think it energizes them. And I think that young people can learn from our elderly, if they stop long enough to listen and be willing to learn.
In our family it is traditional to care for our elderly, and started with my frugal grandma. My mother is a Certified Nursing Assistant and having worked with the elderly for many years, she was not happy with what she saw at some homes. She vowed she would never place my grandmother in a home. It took a toll on my mom those many years. Taking care of Grandma with Alzheimer’s turned out to be a full time job and some days were downright difficult.
Fortunately my grandmother worked hard throughout her life and had pension money coming in when she became unable to live on her own. My mom was able to live on that income, but everything that my grandmother had saved throughout the years by living so frugally was completely gone by the time she passed away. It wasn’t a huge amount, I think somewhere in the neighborhood of $75,000 after Grandma’s home was sold early on. This caused some bad blood between my mom and my aunt who only bothered to visit Grandma two or three times in the last ten years of her life. After my Grandma passed away, as soon as my aunt learned the money was completely gone she cut off all communication to my mother and to most of the family. It feels like we were punished because my mom cared for Grandma.
In this article Preparing for a Future that Includes Aging Parents, there are amounts shown for what it would have cost for my grandmother to be in assisted living: $3,477/month or $41,724 per year. No one in my family has that kind of money, not my mom and not my aunt, not me and none of my siblings. Grandma’s pension wouldn’t even have covered that amount. I wish that my aunt could understand. I am very proud of my mom for caring for my grandmother.
Many families choose to place their elderly parents in a home. I still think it’s very sad. I work in a job where I have heard more than one story where mother was living alone and in full control of her body and mind, but one day she had a fall and now the children have forced her to live in assisted living.
Sometimes there is not much choice. Perhaps the adult children are unable to quit their jobs. Or maybe they are unable to provide nursing care for the elderly parent like my mother was able to do. Or maybe they just don’t want to be bothered, which is just too bad.
My mother spent most of her life being a stay at home mother. She worked for probably a decade before taking on the full time job of caring for my Grandma. As a result, my mother is nowhere near as financially prepared as Grandma was, and while she owns her home outright (thanks, Grandma), she only receives a small amount of Social Security benefits. The care of my mother when she becomes too old to live alone will likely fall upon my shoulders. This makes me a little nervous sometimes, and I want to be situated better financially when and if that day arrives. In the meantime, I keep this in mind as something that will be part of my future.
What will happen to your parents when they are elderly? Are they well prepared? If not, do you assume you will become their caretaker?