Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cultural Differences or Economic Necessity?

Driving home today I heard a comment on NPR from a listener about care giving for older generations as a "part of their culture" and how they would never "institutionalize" a family member.

I followed that practice. It was never my intent to "institutionalize" my Mom. And she'd told me from a very early age how she didn't want to be put into a "home" until she didn't know anything or anyone around her.

Sadly, she and we didn't understand the "faces" of Lewy Body Dementia and how the executive skill sets -- the ability to reason and rationalize -- can be manipulated and controlled by someone aware of the vulnerabilities of men and women with this disease using Undue Influence.

We're living in a time when aging is becoming the norm. Many diseases have been eradicated or controlled and the most challenging are somewhat manageable -- cancer, heart problems, MS.

There remain a few diseases in our privileged society that remain severe challenges for those who suffer and those who walk along side them daily -- ALS, for one. However, as advances in genetics and research conquer new frontiers, we become a nation of more possibilities for greater health and greater longevity.

However, we continue to change. Lifestyles become far different from previous generations. Active lifestyles need to be created, no longer mandated by working.

Individuals and families in today's USA do not generally live a sustainable lifestyle where the "sweat of their brow" doing daily work produces food for the table or clothing as bare minimums.

Governments and idealistic practices aside, take a look at emerging countries and islands set in a time when cars needed to be shifted to change gears and people repaired rather than replaced.

However, today, for most, daily living is a high cost and work means going outside the home often at minimal wage and long hours, often at the mercy of the employer who practices "part time" assignments with full time workloads.

Work is physically and emotionally taxing and trying for many and even those who've "made it" are torn by the stresses of coping with an ever lengthening and expanding work versus "play" or "leisure" time.

I've walked that path and continue seeing a long stretch of it in front of me as I try, just as I did so many years ago, to move ahead, gain a little more, provide and produce.

Our lives, daughter's and mine, are a little better. We went through times when every penny, every item we needed, not wanted, was a major decision as to how long we could "do without" and "make do".  

We still struggle but have a little time and a little money we can call "extra" to buy a few things -- not like we see advertised everywhere but at least we can replace some necessary clothing items and do a few repairs we've had to set aside for so long.

Mom taught me to make do; she taught me to remake and reuse. These skillsets were a necessity as we made our way through caregiving for her and my husband. 

I see friends and relatives who have had challenges but they've also had health insurance that totally or mostly covered their major events. But then, none of them endured quite the long term stay we did -- 100 days -- when you max out all the resources and the bills keep piling up because "health" has not returned, does not return and more problems occur.

We rarely see behind the curtain of extensive health care problems. 

When we're given a glimpse through fund raisers or through TV commercials asking for support, we're shown the positives, the possibilities, and never behind the doors of the families and what they struggle with to make it through every day. 

There was a day when Americans married very young 15 - 18. There are still societies where this is a practice and we "more enlightened" societies work to "protect" young women from this life of hardship. It wasn't considered to be that by our society; it was simply a norm; a practice; the way life happened.

My mother didn't marry until she was past 30 -- she was a "spinster", in the language of the day. Most friend and family members had several children by the time she had her first; most of my cousins were either quite a bit younger than I was or quite a bit older.

Those were the days when family almost always took care of their own. Children, of whom there were often more than a half dozen, took in their aging parents. 

Then came the days of the "single family household" when a family was considered to be the father, mother and child/children and anyone else was looked at as a "freeloader" or someone who "couldn't make it on their own".

It hasn't been that long we've actually had "places" where our aged population "were placed" to spend "the end of their days".

Click through to gain historical insights into Aging in America and the "system" of Long Term Care for our older population through this portal 

Are we really so much better off without the wisdom of our older generation readily available?

Do we really believe we harm one another or each other by having an extended family unit?

Or is that how our society in the United States focuses with so much for so many for so long that we forget the basis of the family is the family, in all its shapes and sizes, all it's inclusions and not exclusions.

We're not different, you and I, or differentiated by where on this earth we live. We're only as different as we create our societies to be and as similar as we allow them. 

Perhaps we should learn the lesson of the ages -- not everything that's "old" is disposable, unusable and irrelevant.

Many of life's greatest creations are the most valuable because of the value we place upon them.

Where are you in your journey of life's values?

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