Society's Expectations

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An individual's health and wellbeing are considered unimportant to society when it comes to elder caregiving, yes? I find that society considers it to be first a woman's (usually a daughter's) job to do the elder caregiving. (I am writing strictly about taking care of a parent of in-law, not a spouse or non-parent relative.)


At the gym the other day, we were discussing shingles and flu shots (I have quite the bruise from my flu shot). We got on the topic of the more potent over-age 65 flu shot, and when I said my mother got one of those, someone asked how old she was. When I replied that she is 91, this older woman said, "She must live with you." I said that will never happen. Then she said, "Then you will have to move in with her." Again I said that will never happen, either. She looked at me and said she only had one more thing to say, and that was that I only had one mother. And then walked away. If she hadn't walked away, I might have snapped out, "And she has FOUR children."


Of course, she'd taken HER mother in (I'd found out previously), and I'm sure it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows. So she can judge everyone else.


I wonder if men are subjected to the same "You must move your mother in or go to live with her" mentality in our society? I think not.


It is brought up on this site that some people aren't cut out to be caregivers. And then the absent siblings are excused from any participation in caregiving. But what if the in-town daughter also feels that she isn't cut out for caregiving an elder? Above is society's expectation. I also admit to some guilt about this. I should be the loving daughter who spends time every day with my mother, even if she affects my emotional health negatively.


I love this site, because many people validate that it is okay for me to put boundaries on my time with my mother and stick to them. Society doesn't do that! (There are people here and there who agree with me, but many in my generation and older do not, unfortunately.)

46 Comments

I think the expectation was "built in" because there really wasn't any alternatives. Extended family lived together for economic reasons...caring for the family elderly came with that.

Mothers raised their daughter on the same model that grandma raised them...same model for generations,

But....today, the extended family isn't there. The whole family support system isn't there. The unspoken expectations instilled since childhood are predicated on a long gone system. BUT, we are all really good at internalizing the guilt..eh?

I believe our children (especially the daughters) are not raised in that manner. I will never put my daughter in the position that she feels any obligation to be my caregiver. I have told her in very plain language that she is not to disrupt her life should I ever need care like that...let the hospital's and NH take over!
I've always encountered the opposite opinion, most people accept it as the norm to place their elders in AL then the NH. Mom had a neighbour/friend who used to tell her that it was unfair "make" me do things for her, and I've always squirmed when people try to fit me with a halo for caring for my mom - I'm no saint, and I wouldn't have done it if it didn't make sense for me as well as her. When I read the obits now I note how many old and very old people are dying at home and I wonder where all these hidden caregivers are, surely they aren't all healthy one day and gone the next. Maybe it's because we have the expectation of universal healthcare here (and I think people are shocked when they learn the cost of AL is not covered), but here home care for dependent elders seems less an assumption than a dirty little secret.
CTTN, that woman was funny. All you can do is roll your eyes and wonder how people come to believe that their view is the right one. Most older people I know live independently or in AL. Only a couple live with children. I hope that will be the trend of the future, especially since women's lives are different than they once were.
CTTN55 - my grandparents all went to assisted living - they arranged this on their own initiative. Yet - why do i feel a twinge of guilt when my mom says she expects to live with me and i say no? Is it because i somehow also feel it is my "duty" or is it because i'm saying "no" to something my mom wants? I think alot of society still expects the daughters to take care of parents and In Laws. These days i don't see so many of my co-workers taking in their parents - but the parents staying in their own houses determined to remain there until they die - and then make slaves of their daughters running them to all the dr appointments, doing laundry, shopping etc, so they can remain at home.

I know i'm not cut out to be a hands on caregiver - i'd jump off a bridge in a week. I also need to continue to work full time. Guild is something we do to ourselves.
Glad you brought up flu shots. I got mine and am quite distressed when I hear people who WORK in the public and who have young children in their home say they will not get a flu shot! Shocking, but, I digress. They have no issue with them, just are ambivalent enough to not give a rip.

Your gym friend must not get out much, because, I think that most people now understand that providing care for a senior, especially, one who is disabled, is an enormous challenge. What woman can turn a person, change, bathe, administer medication, watch over 24/7, transport to medical appointments,  etc. ???? And most people are working themselves or are not physically able to take care of a senior.

The people that I know, may live with adult children for awhile, but, when their mobility and health go down, they move to AL or nursing home. Perhaps, that's just how it is my community in the southeastern part of the US.
Uh-uh, no excuses for that lady CTTN55 - I cared for my mother at home, that's how come I can NOT recommend it with authority.

I mean, what, "I put myself through this so everybody else should too" ? Hooey.

And on the men point - no, they don't. But that can cut both ways - those honourable exceptions who do roll up their sleeves and get on with caregiving are often patronised by professionals, even treated with suspicion, and certainly get cut even less slack by employers than women do. All the same, I hear government ministers saying "families must be more involved in caring for the elderly" and I think "oi. You don't mean 'families.' You mean women. And you can get stuffed."
I think we are very divided in this country, as illustrated by the different experiences of CTTN55 and cwillie. My mother lives in a 55+ community, and many of the younger people (ages 50-70) I met there had moved in to care for elderly parents. When older folks in the community start failing, most of the neighbors will insist that it the obligation of their children to either move in with them or move the parent in wherever the kids live. Due to the age of the population there, these discussions happen all the time, and that is the general consensus.

I think our generation is on the cusp of the change. Our mothers were among the first to work outside the home, but not all of them by any means. My mother started working when I was in high school, when my parents divorced. Our parents generally had access to pensions also, as well as social security. Not so much before then (the first federal pension law was enacted in 1974), and now it's declining again over the last decade or so. With everyone in the workforce and accruing pensions, it became more reasonable to expect parents to provide for their own old age care, and to look askance at anyone entering old age penniless and expecting to be maintained by the younger generation.

When push comes to shove, I think most people expect adult children to step up if the parents have no other options; i.e. can't afford paid care. The numbers that are dwindling, I think, are people who think that adult children should step in even if the parent has other options. (I don't.) Fewer still are those who believe that parents should do everything they can to provide for themselves so they don't need to be a burden to their adult children. That's what I believe, but I know I'd be run out of town if I tried to introduce this concept in my mother's community. Nobody wants to be a burden until faced with the alternative - reducing their expectations in order to live the life they can maintain without help.
I think what adds to the problem is that “Dementia” remains a dirty word.

I know when it became necessary to place my mother in a nursing home - I kept my mothers dementia a secret from my mothers closest and very nosey friends. I knew my mother would have been mortified at them knowing - if she had been capable of that thought process - and I wanted to preserve her dignity. I guess I thought they’d figure it out for themselves upon their frequent visits. I didn’t count on my mothers ability to show-time. So, I went from the poor, selfless daughter who had invented sliced bread, all the while caring for a disabled child - to the cruel, heartless, ungrateful child who forced her mother into a nursing home.

I know that’s how they thought of me as one of them told me so. But honestly, I didn’t really care.

Eventually- after my mother passed away, one of my moms friends called me and apologized. Saying “you probably didn’t deserve it”.
Gee, umm... thanks?
C, I knew early on that I could NEVER,EVER have my mother live with me. There was no house big enough. Even if I was not sole caregiver for my disabled husband. I loved my mother and still do. She watches over me from above and I know she’s been responsible for saving my a$$ a couple times since she passed in November. But, she was a drama queen. She had no friends nor wanted any. She blamed my sainted father for their lack of a social life, but when he passed she remained friendless and pretty much a recluse. She never passed up the opportunity to make a cutting remark. In my life I have two active grandchildren, a disabled husband, four cats and a large dog. I have my own health issues. I’m on my way to the edge now, and taking my mom into my house at any time in the past would have put me on the fast track there with no brakes.

No one has ever questioned (out loud anyway) my refusal to take my mom in. I am an only child so I would have had no choice. If anyone ever had, I would have given them a look and wondered aloud if this angelic albeit judgmental person speaking with me also pooped rainbows.
This is an interesting situation--my brother moved my parents in to an apartment 20 years ago that he added on to his house. Dad was bedridden with Parkinson's and almost never got up. He passed 14 years ago, Mother is evidently going to live forever, she 88 and unbelievably, still kicking along. She's got a low level of dementia and it's actually nice to spend time with her, finally.

Having said all that--I can say that my brother wishes he had NOT brought the parents to his home. Mother's health at the time of the move was terrible and they thought she wouldn't even outlive daddy. Now brother fears he won't outlive mother!

My BROTHER does most of the caregiving, all the chauffeuring, etc., and I do what I can to fill in the empty blanks. The other 3 sibs are MIA. That's just how it is.

I am 61, hubby is 65. He is a liver transplant recipient, so has already lived a couple of lives. He has a shorter than average lifespan, and I know this. He never worries about who will care for him when he gets "bad", because it is just assumed that I will be happy to. I asked him if I got sick and needed the care FIRST what would he do. He looked dumbfounded and said "Put you in a Nursing Home of course, I can't take care of you!" He was not joking.

I actually would prefer that to living with one of my kids. They are all lovely people, but I would drive them completely insane in a month.

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