Weighing the Options when it Comes to Care for the Elderly

Earlier this year, one of my dear elderly neighbors slipped in her garage, broke a hip, and landed in a rehab facility. She’s been there for the maximum three months; now it’s decision time for her kids.

Should they:

  • Bring her home and hope she can handle life all by herself, or
  • Transfer her to a nursing home permanently

It’s not an easy choice. On the one hand, she’s frail, never really exercised, and lives alone. On the other, she owns a one-story home, is financially comfortable, still possesses her wits, still drives, and has caring neighbors to check on her. And her kids live nearby.

How old is “too old” to look after oneself? Eighty? Ninety? I’ve known people at twenty-one who were unable to tend to themselves, either because of mental or physical disabilities or because of sheer laziness. I’ve also known people at forty who were unable (or unwilling) to look after themselves. So it doesn’t appear to come down to age.

Still, all of us eventually (if we live long enough!) are going to face this dilemma, whether for our parents or for ourselves. I wonder how many have made provisions? How many have even made their wishes known to their loved ones?

My neighbor’s kids have been fixing up their mother’s home, roofing and painting and all that. They’ve done it on the sly, coaxing the neighbors not to tell their mother because they wanted to surprise her.

I’d like to believe they did it out of the kindness of their hearts (with maybe a tiny bit of weariness over hearing their mom complain the house was “as old as she was.”) I’d like to think she’d ooh and aah when she’d walk in, marveling over the makeover and eagerly anticipating the rest of her life in a like-new dwelling.

But something tells me she won’t get to see the improvements.

You see, one of the kids confided to another neighbor that they intend to sell the house and move their mom to a nursing home.

She forgets things, they said. She might fall again, the house is too big for one woman, she needs to be around other people.

Huh?

This is a woman who likes her privacy, who never really was a social butterfly, who was comfortable in her surroundings. She could afford to hire a caretaker — full or part time, live-in or not — to help out, to ensure her dignity remains intact, and to permit her to stay in her own home.

I wonder if her kids even asked her wishes or if they simply decided what was best for her (and easiest for them). Knowing my neighbor, she’d agree to anything that wouldn’t inconvenience her loved ones. She’s that selfless.

But most studies nowadays confirm that people tend to do better and live longer in their own home. Shouldn’t she be given that chance, rather than shipped off to a group facility where she’s surrounded by people lying in beds or sitting in wheelchairs, staring out windows and waiting to die?