The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that the life expectancy in America is 78 years and two months, a new record. This steady increase in life expectancy has caused nursing homes and assisted living facilities to teem over. Living longer often necessitates the need of assistance in the later years as longer life spans can convey a myriad of chronic medical issues. As a result, more and more elderly parents are living with one of their adult-children or rotating between adult-children. Assisted living facilities are more popular than ever while nursing homes remain a last resort. It’s tough to grow old and has aptly been said is not for sissies.
Dwindling independence is one of the greatest encumbrances when mobility becomes an issue. Pride is another item at issue when parental roles seem to switch with the adult-children, as the adult-children become primary decision makers for the parent. The parent-child relationship gets reversed. Most parents don’t want to be a burden to their adult-children and would rather leave this world gracefully than interfere too heavily with their adult-children’s lives. However, that is not always an option. So, parents generally seek to be especially gracious and thoughtful when adult-children are their caretakers. As we all know though, that isn’t always the case. Increasingly we hear about a child-dependent parent who is rude, abrasive, highly demanding, and even abusive to their children while simultaneously demanding that they not be put in a nursing home. As a result, parents are generating enormous family stress and disharmony in their adult-child’s home as well as negatively impacting the marriage of the adult-child they come to reside with.
Regardless of the negative turns that life may present us, we can choose how we react to them. The desire to live to a ripe old age should also carry the desire to live it with dignity and honor. Regardless of what happens in my cancer battle, I pray to be the least burden to Eileen and the kids that I can be. A physical burden is bad enough; a self-centered emotional burden is a shame.