In the book, author Ai-Jen Poo recounts her family’s decision to put her beloved grandfather in a nursing home, against his wishes, during the final months of his life.
“I almost feel as though he died the moment he arrived there; his dignity was stripped away upon entry,” she writes. “My father, my sister and I will always regret that my grandfather’s final hours and ultimately his death were so lacking in comfort and beauty.”
Poo, who is director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, writes about the coming “elder boom” that we are just starting to experience, which is leading to “skyrocketing” demand for professional caregivers. By 2050, Poo writes, the number of people needing long‑term care and personal assistance is expected to shoot up from 12 million to 27 million.
Is America in a good position to care for all these people? Hundreds of people shared the financial, personal and moral dilemmas they are currently facing in caring for an aging family member or in making decisions about their own futures.
A number of people suggested that friends and family members who are caring for the elderly be compensated for their work. Here’s what Nancy Fields had to say about that:
There were many who feel institutions are not the appropriate place for elders to spend the later stages of life. Most people, like Poo’s grandfather, want to live and age at home. “I don’t want to be in a nursing home,” writes Jude Silver Nance. But as several people replied to Nance, one may not have a choice.
Others, having cared for their own parents, don’t want to put the same burden on their children. Nancy Schwalen writes:
While some reflected on horrible experiences witnessed at nursing homes, as Poo did in her excerpt, others living in facilities for the aged say they are working out just fine.
Carla White White, who says she has worked in a nursing home for 25 years, said she never witnessed any “cruelty or neglect” in the various facilities she’s worked at as a traveling nurse. She adds:
A number of people suggested that our laws should allow assisted-suicide as an option to allow “death with dignity” as Milton Combs put it. He adds:
In general, many people expressed concern that the complex issue of aging in America is not getting the attention it deserves, especially as our society changes.
Our Facebook community also pointed to resources that may be helpful to the elderly and those who care for them, including a recent Atlantic article about a “cutting-edge” approach in the Netherlands, where one activist who wanted to make convalescent homes less institutional created an entire village for elderly residents. Wouldn’t that be nice!