I have a habit of misplacing vital documents, such as shopping lists and passports (my partner says it’s the beginning of dementia). Badly planned supermarket trips and too carefully hidden passports, I can handle, but it’s my lack of planning around other family responsibilities that really has me worried.
I worry about what to do with two sets of ageing parents, especially after reading a story in last Sunday’s Herald Sun. The newspaper reported that some bedridden nursing home residents were sweating through February’s 34.9C heat without air-conditioning.
Hearing about a further lack of staff, racial tensions and poor government intervention, the worry about my elderly parents’ future escalates to outright panic.
My concern is firstly for victims of the reported abuse, secondly for an aged-care system that continues to fail, and then, finally, for my own family.
Our problem is, like many families, we’ve never even talked about it: where to put our parents once old age steals their independence. It’s a topic that must be discussed – and the clock is ticking. But to discuss it will mark an end to one of my greatest childhood fantasies; that my parents are infinitely strong.
And when we do discuss it, their broken bodies, failing minds and ultimate dependency, what should I propose? My immediate instinct is for them to live with us, all of them with their various eccentricities and bad habits, like some ageing rock band brilliantly reforming for the last fabulous set in the rock tour of their lives.
But would it work?
In my scenario (perhaps typical of my generation), both sets of parents are divorced and none like their original partners much. Two of the four parents are remarried (in effect that’s six people to look after) and of those six people, two are so cantankerous I struggle to discuss anything outside of dental bills and doctor’s surgery waiting times.
Do I want that in my home? And if I did, who would be home to supervise? We are two working parents with two busy children and the pace of modern life means we’re usually somewhere else.
Furthermore, my partner is an only child (so there’s no option to share care) and my only sibling never stays in one place long due to his work on the international circuit. Does that leave my partner and me tending to all six parents?
I know they deserve it, given the care they bestowed on us as youngsters, but seriously, is it even possible?
I look around and I can see no example in my group of acquaintances of elderly parents living together with their children and grandchildren and I wonder why. Is it not appealing to the grandparents (maybe they don’t like the noise or the pace of a modern family home)? Or is it that my generation don’t want their parents living with them?
Do you have ailing parents living with you and how does it affect your family life? Share your stories below.