When my Grandma Dugger’s husband died, well before I was born, my parents built a home that had an apartment attached so she could move in with them. I grew up with an adult in the home almost around the clock (lucky me!) until the age of 15 when she passed away.
I remember my mom taking my grandma grocery shopping and to the doctor (Grandma Dugger didn’t drive), and she helped her with cleaning, laundry, and cooking in the latter years. As she grew older Grandma Dugger developed dementia. It meant having to make sure someone was in the home with her almost all the time as she had a habit of wandering around outside and standing on a garbage can in the back of the garage to peek into the window to see if my mom was still home. She was terrified of my mother leaving (her daughter-in-law).
I don’t see many families taking care of the elderly much anymore. Most are sandwich adults taking care of young children while also having elderly parents. Usually both partners in a marriage work today so while daycare is an option with young children, there hasn’t always been that care with aging parents who need care.
What I do see are more older adults who want to remain independent and live away from their children too. Science has made it easier to do that as well. We now have little buttons we can wear around our necks and call for help at anytime. There are wander alerts, medication reminder alarms, fall alerts, and alarms can be set to remind someone to use the toilet. We have assisted living facilities that have call buttons as well as attendants there to watch for any problems and prepare food.
Technology is also being used to monitor patients at home. It can be a great asset to managing a disease process, but at this time telehealth is not covered by most insurance companies including Medicare and Medicaid. I read this year that the Indiana legislature was considering approving Medicaid reimbursements but only if Medicare also reimburses. So I doubt it will happen anytime soon.
But does having all this technology available mean a better quality of life or does it predispose the elderly to living a life of isolation? When the son or daughter, who may be too busy with their lives, only check in with their parent once or twice a week, it can mean a lonely life for an elderly person who may have lost their spouse, their friends, and their other siblings.
While technology is great for making lives more independent, let’s not forget the human caring aspect for our parents and loved ones. It can mean the difference in the quality of life for all. And let’s not forget all the great life lessons young children and teens can learn from grandmas and grandpas even if some may be painful.
So if mom or dad cannot or do not want to live with you, let’s at least remember to call and visit frequently to make their and your lives better! Technology is great, but reaching out and touching someone is better.