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My Parents Need Me
November 23, 2005 9:23 PM   Subscribe


 
this happened to me only it wasn't my parents. it was my partner. and a long road it was. slog.
posted by brandz at 9:58 PM on November 23, 2005


My mom went through that with her parents and now I'm in that position. She has lung cancer and she just moved into a nursing home.
posted by mike3k at 10:13 PM on November 23, 2005


nytimes: sha-la-la-la. as if we needed more proof it has descended into baby-boomer blowjobs

if they really had cared about people rejoining their families, they would have focused on those who need to because of medicare cuts, unemployment, and the rest of the quite harmful US economy. instead, they chose to write silly stories about rich white people. good for them.
posted by yonation at 10:15 PM on November 23, 2005


This feels like another silly NYT "trend" story - like this one.

Also, the idea of leaving or scaling back a career to take care of your alderly parents is admirable, but this Mary Ellen Geist just seems out-of-her-mind. She has some sort of serious guilt/resentment feedback loop going on and she just oozes passive-aggressiveness. The ridiculuous pictures are just icing on the cake.
posted by mullacc at 10:16 PM on November 23, 2005


She has some sort of serious guilt/resentment feedback loop going on and she just oozes passive-aggressiveness.

Eh? It's remarkable devoid of any sort of tone, if anything.

Agree about the 'fluffy supposed-trend piece' part though.
posted by Firas at 10:30 PM on November 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


Ms. Geist sleeps in the dormered bedroom of her childhood and survives without urban amenities like white balsamic vinegar.

If you can even call that survival...

*shudder*
posted by SweetJesus at 10:35 PM on November 23, 2005


This feels like another silly NYT "trend" story

Yeah, cause all the cool kids are doing the parent with Alzheimer's thing.
posted by homunculus at 10:36 PM on November 23, 2005


while this is a trendy topic, it doesn't have to be alzheimer's and it can and does happen to lots and lots of people. slog.
posted by brandz at 10:41 PM on November 23, 2005


The point about trend piece (if you check out mullacc's link) is not that something is fashionable to talk about, but that there's a trend posited where no such quantifiable shift has occured.

Not to say that it isn't an interesting article though. Plus it isn't claiming a trend as much as offering a vignette.
posted by Firas at 10:48 PM on November 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


Yes, I meant a trend in the sense that Firas mentions. And, Firas is right again that it isn't explicitly claiming a trend, but when they give something a corny name ("Daughter Track") it makes me queasy and seems to imply a trend.
posted by mullacc at 10:58 PM on November 23, 2005


Okay, sorry for being bitchy. Despite how it's written, this piece got to me. But I see what you mean.
posted by homunculus at 11:11 PM on November 23, 2005


I have to agree with the criticism that it's another NYT story saying there's a trend, and focusing on rich, white people. And I think this has no business being a post to MeFi. That said, the article was very poignant. And frightening. I didn't see the passive-aggressiveness of Geist that mullac saw, though.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:35 PM on November 23, 2005


SweetJesus, that was spectacularly funny, thanks.
posted by jonson at 11:38 PM on November 23, 2005


I really enjoyed finding a single link to a National US newspaper requiring a log in. I thought this was discouraged and even referred to the grey.
posted by adamvasco at 12:01 AM on November 24, 2005


Jonson: You thought I was being funny? I'm completely serious. Without white balsamic vinegar, what the fuck is she going to dress the warm plum and arugula greens mix with, huh? Honey Mustard?!

You heartless bastard.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:13 AM on November 24, 2005


Thanks for the link. I am going through this now, and it's reassuring to read that it's not just me- I'm a trend, and there is comfort in not being alone in this.
posted by puddinghead at 12:19 AM on November 24, 2005


There isn't much in the article to support my commentary about Geist being passive-aggressive. Those pictures struck me as odd and very staged so I think that spoiled my reading of the article. It doesn't help that I hate this kind of journalism.
posted by mullacc at 12:51 AM on November 24, 2005


I appreciate the link as well. I'm planning to move back to California from the East Coast some time in the next two years. My parents are currently in good health, but they're at an age where that could change very quickly. The "trend" may be anecdotal, but I'm part of it - single, childless and planning to ultimately become my parents' caregiver.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:53 AM on November 24, 2005


Shall we ask to see bank statements to determine if someone is worthy of our sympathies, yonation? Why are white people undeserving of your compassion?
posted by Scoo at 12:55 AM on November 24, 2005


Shall we ask to see bank statements to determine if someone is worthy of our sympathies, yonation? Why are white people undeserving of your compassion?

Rich white people I believe was the comment. It is true that it is this class of people that receive the most attention when it comes to new coverage.

But there's a reason: people are inconsiderate pricks, for the most part. They don't want to see the heartbreaking, grinding poverty of the streets- they want something they can feel warm and fuzzy over.

Can you feel the love, people?
posted by malusmoriendumest at 1:20 AM on November 24, 2005


To a certain extent, I admire people like Geist, who are able to actually sacrifice something for their parents. My mother, who is in her seventh year of Parkinson's at just 48 recently was put in assisted living. However, as mentioned several times in this topic, the fact that the NYT chose to focus on white, well-off families for a phenomenon that happens to people from all walks of life--especially since it puts such strain on low-income families with medical expenses, personal care, stress from the caregiver role, and so forth.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 1:37 AM on November 24, 2005


I've got mad cow!

why do I like shatner NOW?
posted by flaterik at 2:18 AM on November 24, 2005


*Vegetarian laughs at the meat-consuming public*

*Vegetarian cannot tell whether you are serious*
posted by malusmoriendumest at 3:41 AM on November 24, 2005


While I don't think class and wealth make the same situation any less sad or less worthy of sympathy, I also dislike the tone of the article and the trend-naming. Why is it anything remarkable or new? Aren't there women caring for their elderly sick parents without even getting a $22,000-a-year "salary" from them, and maybe even with children to care for and without the luxury of giving up their jobs?
And the line about doing without balsamic vinegar is just awful really, it's like they're trying so hard to frame it as a moral lesson about this wealthy "career woman" who gave up her selfish ways... But that's the slant of the article, I don't think it's fair to blame it on the woman herself. That she has it easier financially than others doesn't mean it's easier on a more personal level.
posted by funambulist at 4:14 AM on November 24, 2005


Of course the New York Times writes about wealthy white people.

Who the hell do you think reads the New York Times?

Now that we've gotten the feigned outrage over class issues out of the way...

I am a not-terribly-wealthy white person (by NYC standards; by world standards, I am rich beyond the dreams of avarice) who lives in New York City and telecommutes to my job from my parents' house in North Carolina one week every month because of a similar situation.

My father died last month, and was in a nursing home and at home under Hospice care for months before that; my mother, who is blind, was hospitalized this year and did an extended stay in a nursing home before returning home to Raleigh.

Because they had the foresight to purchase long-term care insurance (look into this for yourselves if your employer offers it! do it now!) we have been able to afford live-in nursing assistant care, which is allowing Mom to stay in her house rather than go to a nursnig home, but it is still very necessary to have a family member regularly on the scene to advocate with doctors and other health-care providers.

As parents get old and sick and need help, this is a huge issue. I can't afford to quit my job and care for Mom full-time, but I also need to be involved at a pretty deep level, most of the time. It's a very difficult balancing act.
posted by enrevanche at 5:32 AM on November 24, 2005


Sad. Sad sad sad. I don't care who it is, this sort of situation is heartbreaking. When my time comes, I hope I just keel over out of the blue. I don't want to go through anything like this, and I don't want to put my loved ones through anything like it.
posted by you just lost the game at 5:48 AM on November 24, 2005


This would be so much better as a trend piece if her first name was Zeit.
posted by srboisvert at 5:59 AM on November 24, 2005


Hopefully when all the oil runs out Americans will get back to the days of extended families living close to one another so they old and young will have plenty of family around to take care of them. The way it works now - my entire family lives a 2 hour, 1 1/2 hour and 5 hour drive in different directions due to economics- is just insane. I should be able to see all of my relatives today on Thanksgiving but I will only see my inlaws. I'm sick of living in isolation. Not twenty years ago I lived within walking distance of 80% of everyone I knew.
posted by any major dude at 6:16 AM on November 24, 2005


Yeah! The New York Times never writes human interest stories about people who aren't rich and white.

Now I'm going to just take my grey lady apologizing self over in the corner and pout.
posted by fungible at 7:01 AM on November 24, 2005


SweetJesus, you owe me a new sarcasm meter. You made it go to 11, and it's pegged there.
posted by theora55 at 7:17 AM on November 24, 2005


Where is Coach McGuirk when you need him?
posted by hoborg at 9:45 AM on November 24, 2005


if they really had cared about people rejoining their families, they would have focused on those who need to because of medicare cuts, unemployment, and the rest of the quite harmful US economy. instead, they chose to write silly stories about rich white people. good for them.

My sentiments exactly. Oh, well done, Ms. Six-figure-salary. How noble of you to be able to afford to give up your kickass job to look after your parents. Have a cookie. Now where can I read about caring rich people who regularly donate 100 bucks a month to charity by direct debit? That'd really bring a tear to my eye.

If either of my parents go nuts I'll pay to put them in a home, but that's about it. I never asked them to bring me into this shithole of a world.
posted by Decani at 9:45 AM on November 24, 2005


Hunter S. Thompson had the right idea -- take yourself out before you become a burden on your family, or even worse, when your mind begins to decay.

There is no point in continuing life as a drooling idiot. I do not want to see my parents that way, and I sure as hell will make sure no one sees me that way.
posted by solipse at 10:29 AM on November 24, 2005


I was thinking something along the same lines as any major dude, though without the peak oil slant. The fact is, there's just not enough high-paying work to be had to balance out the excessive costs of starting your own nuclear familiy every generation. The old family structure will come back again, if for no other reason that cost-savings. Cost of living is just too expensive for the average family to be buying a new home every generation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:00 AM on November 24, 2005


Poor and caring for an aging parent AND two kids at home. It's a joyride, let me tell you, so it really is great to hear the NY Times tell me I'm part of a trend. Now if only I had had a 6 figure career to give up instead of trying to subsist on 3 digit unemployment and look for a job while I'm spending hours taking care of Mom.

Seriously, though, my mother is in a retirement community where they do nothing for her - I'm doing her shopping, cooking, etc, so I'm glad to know that other people are actually admitting their parents are old and need help. It breaks my heart when I go over there and see these old ladies just parked in wheelchairs; nobody comes to visit them, nobody is there to advocate, which is really necessary. My mother's friends' kids visit once a year, if that, and I don't really understand that attitude. Sure, my parents and I had a rocky relationship for years, but when it comes right down to it, family is family and you do what you can.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:35 AM on November 24, 2005


I have always said that the day I can't look after myself I'm going to wander into the bush with nothing but the clothes on my back and a notebook with a badly drawn map of city hall and a big x over the mayor's office next to the words "body buried here".
posted by Sparx at 1:52 PM on November 24, 2005


Hopefully when all the oil runs out Americans will get back to the days of extended families living close to one another so they old and young will have plenty of family around to take care of them.

And by "family", nine times out of ten what is really meant, of course, is "women".
posted by jokeefe at 3:48 PM on November 24, 2005


Mary Ellen Geist is a spectacular reporter and anchor. I was wondering why she abruptly disappeared. She has my admiration for doing what she is doing as she had it for when she was doing her paying job.

Any and all of you with your "have a cookie" attitude can shove it up your ass.

Happy Thanksgiving.
posted by sageleaf at 4:07 PM on November 24, 2005


One thing no one has mentioned is how this type of situation is handled when there's more than a single child.

A few years ago my dad, who is twice divorced and lives alone, came close to dying because of a combination of health things that the doctors never were adequately able to explain to us. Anyway, he was in ICU for at least a week and later in regular care in the hospital for several weeks. At the time, it looked like this was going to be permanent as his mental condition was very bad. That's the context.

What happened is that both myself and my sister immediately went to see and look after him. All the stuff that had to be had to be done by us besides just looking after him.

The short story is that at some point, without consciously deciding to, I balked at this responsibility and refused to take it up, leaving my sister alone to do everything. This has caused a still-lingering resentment she has against me and it has hurt our relationship.

But what happened is that I have a lot of issues with my dad from emotional abuse through my childhood. He was abusive to all of us, but I was his main target. And when push came to shove it wasn't only my anger toward him that got in the way, it was also a certainty that were the positions reversed, he wouldn't come take care of me. In fact, there's been at least two occasions in my life that were similarly dire as his and he didn't come to even see me. I've explained to my sister and mother that I believed this and felt this way and they think I'm absolutey wrong about my prediction about if the roles were reversed. Yet I still feel this way and with regard to the responsibilities I have toward my father, I don't really regret refusing to become his practical and legal guardian.

My biggest regret about this was that I left everything then to my sister, which was a huge burden on her (in fact, she lost her job because of needing too much time off to be with my dad) and I do feel some responsibility to her in this context.

But with this situation there's always going to be a problem with the siblings about taking care of the parent. My mother and her two sisters got along pretty well over the five years of my grandmother's increasing and severe Alzheimer's; but the two who lived where my grandmother did inevitably resented to some degree my mother, who lived very far away.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:36 PM on November 24, 2005


This isn't a "trend". It happens in most families, to one degree or another, when parents age. Taking care of your elderly relatives is something that's been going on for thousands of years, folks, and it's part of life.

Strangely, until you've gotten to that point in your own life, where you're having to process these issues for your parents, you don't really intuit that it's that pervasive an issue. But when my Mom & StepDad's health began deteriorating dramatically a few years back, and I just started dealing with the myriad issues that arose, I was amazed to find that most people I talked to aged 50 and over seemed to have a related story to tell. Either they had already gone through it with one or more parents or were going through it now.

You begin to open your eyes, then, and notice the massive infrastructure that is (or shoudl be) around you to help society work through these needs. You begin to realize that phrases like "nursing home", "assisted living", "quality of life", "home care nursing" and "living will" aren't reserved for use by just an isolated few.

I've given notice at my overseas job and will return to the States next summer to find employment in Phoenix, where I can be close to my parents. My siblings live on the east coast and aren't able to be there for them. And with my parents' condition getting much worse, my periodic trips back home aren't enough any more.

This transition isn't something that I'm lamenting. Nor am I feeling guilty or bitter about it. It's just that time of our lives, you know? Doing the right thing doesn't have to be done grudgingly. I guess, if anything, I'm really glad I can help them out when they need it most.

Plus, it'll be great to spend the coming years in closer contact with them...
posted by darkstar at 5:18 PM on November 24, 2005


And my heart goes out to everyone on MeFi who is dealing with these issues now. It takes a degree of strength to go through it and be there for your parents. But you're doing the right thing.

And you're certainly not alone.
posted by darkstar at 5:21 PM on November 24, 2005


Been there, did that. Had a job blow up on me because I had to be there for Mom that final time. slogged.
posted by alumshubby at 5:27 PM on November 24, 2005


when all the oil runs out Americans will get back to the days of extended families living close to one another

The end of oil is going to be more horrible than I ever imagined.
posted by missbossy at 2:17 AM on November 25, 2005


alumshubby: I had to read that statement three times before I realized you weren't saying something else, entirely...
posted by darkstar at 1:15 PM on November 25, 2005


Any and all of you with your "have a cookie" attitude can shove it up your ass.

I can? Lemme see now. Uh. Uh. Uhhhh...there she goes. By crackey sir, you're right! I can! And it feels goooood!
posted by Decani at 4:50 PM on November 25, 2005


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