The responsibility of caring for aging parents
My mother’s idea of a life that comes full circle revolves around “kinship”. She compares herself to a real-life counterpart of Benjamin Button, stating that the more she grows as a parent, the more of a child she becomes.
“All parents grow old enough to be raised by their children at some point,” my mother says. I thought his words were ridiculous at the time, but I finally saw the truth in them, shortly after my father’s poor health bedridden him.
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When a person realizes that the responsibility of caring for their parents lies with them, it can be very distressing, regardless of their age and maturity. A general “how to” manual is not sufficient as a preparatory measure, as not all households are the same. There are sick relatives to comfort, medical bills to pay, and responsibilities to distribute among family members.
“I found it difficult to accept the deterioration of my mother’s health. Your relationship with your parents tends to change once you take on the role of carer for your parents. It was quite upsetting to see my mother unable to carry out day-to-day activities as it once used with ease,” shares Zyma Thaseen, marketing manager for an electronics brand.
Your parents ask you when they need it, how do you answer?
For adults these days, being able to devote all of their time and resources to caring for their parents is no longer a matter of altruism, but seemingly a luxury item. Everyone else has a fuss or two to deal with, further complicating the logistics of constantly caring for a parent. The commitment an individual is required to make must be binding, requiring most, if not all, of their undivided attention to the care of the elderly.
“I am currently preparing for my admission tests, because I want to enter a public university, but it is really competitive,” explains Ahmed Faiza*, 17, a former student of Rajuk College. “Most of my friends will also apply to universities outside of Dhaka. I cannot do the same because studying away from home is not an option. Then there would be no one to take care of my mother. , and she is unable to come with me, and if I live far from her, it will only add to her stress.
The moral implications of resolving such a dilemma involve weighing responsibilities against ambitions, and societal expectations against personal choices. Young adults have plans for their future and their own lives. Some plan to take over their parents’ role as breadwinners, while others work hard to advance their careers in a field they are deeply passionate about. Are we then trying to determine fairness in parents’ demands of their children, or in children’s decisions about their parents’ care?
As noted earlier in the article, parents only seek help from their children when their old-age illnesses confine them to beds, canes, and wheelchairs. The expectation of older people is to grow old under their own roof, in the comfort of their own bed, in the presence of their family and loved ones. This is what brings them a kind of psychological comfort, providing them with the will to bear all the ills that their age has brought about. An aged care facility can mimic this, providing its residents with a sense of comfort alongside essential healthcare facilities such as various types of nursing care and nutritional assistance.
The elderly care and housing sector in Bangladesh is still going through various stages of development in terms of facilities and manpower training. While the option of placing elderly parents in a retirement home is frowned upon in our country, it is important to recognize the feasibility that such facilities offer as a long-term solution.
Much of the stigma surrounding residential care stems from what could be misinterpreted as an act of abandonment by the children of older members of our community. Zyma spoke of facing the moral dilemma of seeking care services. She says: “When it comes to caring for your parents, it’s important to overcome the sense of guilt that members of our community instill in you. You have to recognize that it’s completely normal to ask for help. I didn’t come to this conclusion overnight. I would constantly think if I’m somehow a bad girl for giving some of my responsibilities to a stranger. I’ve finally realized that this decision helps to improve one’s relationship with one’s aging parents, where the individual in question is no longer forced to make sacrifices in their personal life.”
As an alternative to care facilities, one can always opt for hiring personal home caregivers if their aging parents find it too difficult to adjust to living conditions in care facilities. However, as seniors in our community age, they may find it difficult to bond or rely on people outside of their immediate family members. Hiring a professional from a homemaking agency can make elderly parents feel distressed about their vulnerable state, as they have to trust a stranger. The professional care services available in our country are therefore not considered popular options.
I must admit that at this point in my life I am somehow responsible for the safety and well-being of my parents, but surely not at great personal cost? Contrary to what our community believes, living the days of your life next to your aging parents can have a detrimental effect on a parent-child relationship. The two parts are, so to speak, confined in each other’s company and while life passes.
In our effort to prove that we are totally dedicated in the eyes of our detractors, we forget that it is not just about “care”, but rather “care well”. For an aging parent, providing quality care comes in many forms, many of which involve healthy parent-child relationships through the involvement of a third-party caregiver.
Recognizing the need for a healthy caregiving dynamic between parents and their children always comes first. In their time of need, your parents will always ask you – trusting you to decide “good” for them, with yourself. Don’t let them down.