(Names and situation changed as requested)
We live in a generation where it is expected that the parents will continuously help their children. Whether it is financial and emotional support after marriage, hosting the next 20 years of Yomim Tovim or having the child move in with you (along with her large family) from before the birth of a grandchild until a month or more after; the expectation is there. And we, the parents, have bought into this. I am not at this time going to go into the pros and cons of this support. Instead, I want to discuss what I feel is a greater gift to our children. That is making sure we are cared for, independent of them, as we become too ill or too old to care for ourselves.
Recently something called Long Term Care insurance has come on the market. This insurance (which I will discuss in more detail next week) ensures that you will have the money to hire help should you need assistance in any of life needs such as bathing, walking, dressing, eating etc. It can mean the difference between a private room and a four-bed room in a facility. It could certainly enable most people, though infirmed, to live the rest of their years in their own home. Being able to stay in your own home, being cared for physically by others and not your children is the greatest gift, I feel, I could give my children and myself. Most well spouses I have talked to, having been caregivers for so long, feel the same.
Though the insurance is expensive, many of us could afford it if we did not take on the task of caring for our children in the presently expected way. Instead, our funds could be invested in our future well-being and that of our children.
Rhoda was not wealthy. In truth, she had trouble making ends meet. Thank G-d her children were all grown and married, and though they struggled financially, they too were able to put food on the table. It was Rhoda’s dream to someday be able to help her children the way her neighbors did. She’d love to help her daughter to buy a house and her son to get a new car. She wanted to give a vacation to this one and a chance to “learn” to that one. But it just wasn’t possible.
Then, Rhoda was unfortunately in a bad car accident. Once she recovered, she discovered the settlement would enable her to help her children in the way she always dreamed about. Rhoda was thrilled and joyously went about fulfilling each of her children’s dreams. She didn’t care that she left nothing for herself. She felt wonderful just doing for her children. Rhoda’s friend Chava was a well spouse. Not only had Chava cared for her husband for most of her married life, but now that she was aging she saw that she too might someday need assistance. It was simply part of the aging process. She talked to Rhoda about putting some of the money into a Long Term Care Policy so she would not need to be dependent on her children as she aged. But Rhoda wanted nothing for herself, and so she gave her children everything she had gotten from the settlement.
Several years later Rhoda had a stroke. She was left unable to care for herself in many ways. The care-giving was left to her family, most of whom were juggling two jobs and large families. They tried their best, but care giving is tedious, stressful and hard work. It takes its toll. The children argued among themselves that not all of them were doing their fair share. The good terms between the siblings started to become a faint memory. Of course, none of this could be hidden from Rhoda who suffered the most by what she felt she was imposing on her children. Had she taken some of the settlement money and provided for illness, should it happen, perhaps they would all have been better off.
It is very hard for many of us to go against what is expected in our communities. Those that can’t meet the expectations often feel inadequate and guilty. But what is expected is not what is always best for the children and or the parents. It is up to each of us to decide for ourselves, what is best for our family as a whole. Sometimes what is really best for our family is to take care of our own needs and wants. It requires courage along with forethought, but it may be the very thing that holds our family together long into future generations.
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