I recently learned about a new monitoring system for the elderly. It actually monitors every movement and can even report on vitals. It kind of reminds me of the chips you can put in your animals to find them when they get lost, or the monitoring that allows you to find your stolen car. Of course that would be the same kind of technology that is in most of your DVDs allowing a company to check it’s location even after you buy it. In fact, it would be possible to compile a list of your technology without much effort, for those with the appropriate counter-technology. Only slightly more difficult is tracking your Internet usage.
You see, in this time, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Have you been to GoogleEarth? No matter how careful you may be with your information, it is out there. Everything is out there already and, though we like to think those with whom we have shared information will be responsible with it, there are criminals who violate confidences just because they can. If you do X, Y and Z, you are not as likely to have your information stolen, but it is still possible. In the future, as we are beginning to see with private chats, what we once thought was secret, may be revealed through evolving technology. Although we might like to think we can go “off the grid” we are not likely to be successful.
This bothers me greatly. I like privacy. I like the idea that, unless I choose to reveal something, it will remain un-known. I am actually rather proud of the diversity of my DVD and music collection, however to have someone else be able to compile that information, is horrifying. I cannot change what others do, and I must conform to a certain extent, or make the focus of my daily life “disappearing”. There are too many other things that are more important, and my mental health will deteriorate if I fight a losing battle, so I must accept certain things.
Aging is another thing I must accept; not only my own, but those people whom I love. Not everyone dies in the fullness of health. Some deteriorate physically while for others it becomes a mental process first. When parented well, we grow to care about our aging mothers and fathers, taking on the responsibilities of their care as they lose abilities. No matter what society we grow up in, we are cultured within our families to approach care for the elderly in very specific ways. These ways do not necessarily coincide with practicality, often creating sever issues throughout the process.
I do not remember ever having a family member in a “home” until Grandma Vi entered the Masonic home this past year. It was simply “wrong” to do so. If an elderly family member was unable to care for themselves, they lived with one of us until their demise. That sounded much easier than it was for people who no longer have someone constantly at home. Geriatrics rarely have enough income to pay for their increasing needs, and caregivers must also work as well as take care of other family needs. For me, trying to do the “right” thing was my Kryptonite and it was give up trying to be Superman or die.
On the other hand, we have had in-laws who knew no other way but to put their aging and ailing family members in a home. In addition to having medical needs cared for, they were lovingly attended dailywithout failure in personal health. That does not mean that they did not suffer mentally with their desire to keep them home, but there were practical advantages.
There comes a time in most people’s lives, when they have to face the decision of care. It is imperative to understand that, each individual has a specific choice that is right for them. That doesn’t mean that the choice is ideal. Grandma Vi is not happy that she is not in her own home or in mine at least. She does, however understand that, in trying to see to her needs the way she wanted me too, I endangered myself. She is also thriving in her new environment, whereas she was critically failing with us.
The methods with which to care for an aging parent is no easy choice. Beyond the practical concerns that initiate the changes, there are always emotional ones as well. Life has become so difficult for most of us that our survival causes us to be self focused to the exclusion of others. When facing difficulties of this magnitude, our selfishness can become extreme.
I nearly killed Grandma Vi. Because of her diabetes, I changed her diet and did not have the medical knowledge to understand that what we thought was her body coming to its end, was really over zealous care. My health failed, so she went to live with Dad. Although there was some physical improvement, her mental health became a great concern, as well as that of those of us charged with her care. It did not help that, during one of her hospital stays, one of her brothers told me that selling her house “will kill her”. Her house was on the market because I was not capable of taking care of my body, much less two houses. He followed his statement with a tirade about how he would fight if his kids ever tried to tell him what to do.
While we suffered for an inability to properly care for her, Grandma Vi watched us deteriorate as well with the sure knowledge that she was greatly contributing to it, if not actually causing it. Because of her, I closed up my business in North Carolina and came back to Ohio. Because of my need to care for her, we chose to not try for the child I wanted for over 20 years. Because of trying to work and care for everyone else, I no longer had the health to care for myself. This was not the life she wanted for me.
We had some tough choices to make. None of the options were perfect, and all of them would mean giving up some very important things. It was a long process of trial and error until we came to, what seems to be, an excellent decision. If this new technology that allows someone to be monitored in detail form any distance, had been available a few years ago, I imagine things would be greatly different for us now.
If that had been the case though, I would not have this opportunity now. I don’t think it matters what choice you make for elder care in your family, it will still be a difficult decision. You make it harder by refusing to accept options. By refusing to accept a retirement home as an option, I prolonged the process and my illness. By refusing to sell her home when we first discussed it, Grandma Vi did the same. It was our attitude towards the transition that made it difficult more so than the transition itself.
I can say this with certainty. From the moment we embraced the change, we both began to thrive. I even asked Grandma Vi if she was having Physical Therapy, because she was getting around so much better. She has also taken a determined interest in resolving some of the problems she contributed to, in spite of our insistence that it is not necessary. My health has begun to improve to such a degree that I can not only walk through the store to buy her that fly swatter, but run out of the way as she swats any obstacle in her way! Obstinacy can be a hazard, but stubbornness can be bliss!