Saturday, December 12, 2009

CARETAKERS, NURSING HOMES OR PARK BENCHES...what will happen to aging baby boomers?

CARETAKERS, NURSING HOMES OR PARK BENCHES...what will happen to aging baby boomers?

SOURCE: "BABY BOOMERS: The Angriest Generation" by Ellen Brandt, Ph.D.

At 38, I underwent an unsuccessful heart valve replacement; some years later, I have only progression of organ failure and perhaps five difficult years ahead of me. I live alone in a modest 2 bedroom condo in a depressed area of Houston. I have two healthy college age children, who are heirs to their late father's significant estate. Well, lets just say, they are not poor...but this is just a footnote for situational reference.

A few years ago, my father passed at 72 after a lengthy illness, and my sister was his primary caretaker. She devoted much time, energy, and love to taking care of him, as each of his daughters would have. It is a natural progression of life to care for your elderly, infirm, or otherwise disabled parents...or at least it used to be.

Though I'm still some years from septuagenarian, and some would even say still young, somehow when I look to my children for support, I am accused of being selfish and completely out of line, and mostly, like Suellen in the linked story, am admonished by my peers...not for care--taking, but for needing care taking! How dare I ask these college age heirs to take time out of their young lives to come visit mom once in a while and take out my trash, let alone expect them to modestly supplement my poverty level monthly social security check with silly things like food, medicine, electricity, water, or clothing! As my own future, which cannot predict the date of my death, but worse, prognosticates steadily progressive incapacitation, I fear both inescapable incarceration in a nursing home or isolation and homelessness. Being cared for in the loving arms of an extended family is not an option for me.

And as their own elders, my own peers--nay, my own sisters, admonish me for expecting my children to help me, los jovenes blindly believe that it is not their duty, and what the heck are you talking about anyhow? What do you mean, take care of your parents? Isn't it YOUR responsibility to take care of ME?

Yes, darlings...I am legally obligated until you turn eighteen, and morally endowed with the instinct to do so for the entirety of my life.

I mean, the concept of child-helping-parent is a totally unacceptable idea to them! What they should call it is simply “love”. Yet I am not alone in this limbo of generational mores and conventions. I understood that when, while recreationally perusing interesting legal briefs, I came upon a Texas Statute that defined a reciprocal relationship between parents and children. Basically, the civil law upheld the obligation of an adult child's duty to care for his/her disabled, elderly, and even impoverished parent, in the same way that a parent must provide for their child's needs.

Unfortunately, the remedy is one that few parents would take: Suing your offspring for support. It certainly is beyond my moral, emotional, and physical capabilities.

The "greatest generation" of WWII era made us believe that we were entitled and would have a gold watch and a comfortable retirement, and we foolishly believed their unsustainable social structure. That was theirs alone, perhaps the last generation to conquer the 20th century American Myth that prosperity would grow with each generation.

The angriest generation? How else could we be, and yet ironically, a great many of us came into adulthood during the days of peace and free love, protesting against our War Monger fathers, conquering civil rights, and making technical leaps that changed the way we communicate. Yet after all these accomplishments, we find ourselves robbed of our financial future by the nation's public social structure, and disregarded and denied by our friends, family, and communities.

I am a baby boomer and I am angry!
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