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What do we do? -- The Thin Edge of Dignity


What do we do with dear old dad? Or sweet old mom? Or both? So muse the adult children of parents who are septuagenarians , or octogenarians, or nonagenarians, or centenarians, or, .. . God forbid  -  supercentenarians?

What do we do with them? Where do we put them?

To the rescue – Long Term Care, or LTC. Sanctioned by the Federal Government. Sanctioned by each State. A profit center for the large hostelier. A non-profit for charitable entities. A Nursing Home. An Assisted Living Facility(ALF.) An Adult Foster Home( AFH.) A Continuing Care Retirement Center (CCRC.)

So many places to be put away . . . until Visitors’ Day:

“Goodbye for now.” “We’ll be back next week.” “It’ll be sooner than you think.” “Have a good day.” “Enjoy yourself.” And etc., etc., etc.

The sounds of going home; adult children leaving a mother or father after a Sunday visit to the ALF.

The apologetic voices linger after the “kids” have pushed open the front doors leading to the parking lot. The voices echo in the hallway.  They also remain stenciled in the ears of the parents, leaving a clench in the stomach; an empty feeling in the heart,  the emptiness one feels alone in the room, gazing out the window -  worse on a gray, rainy day, as the drops sprinkle the puddles gathered on the black pavement of the parking lot where the visitors have stationed their cars to – only so briefly - bring togetherness, family, love, or to just stand there awkwardly before returning to their cars to go to their separate homes.

A visit - the obligatory, necessary, their-own-lives-to-live, their-own-children-to-love, their-own-problems-to-solve, their-own-issues-to-settle, their-own-marriages-to-hold-together – visit.

We parents gave them shelter to roost and nurture to fly away.

That’s what they’re doing now, while we stay, aching to fly home with them.

Dick Weinman is an AARP Oregon volunteer and an assisted living guru.

Photo: Joyce DeMonnin














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