Outsourcing Love and Caring

Article excerpt

Byline: John E. Carey, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

What does it say about a society that outsources the last years and moments of life to a clinical setting that is neither loving, nor particularly caring?

More succinctly, what does it say about us when we ship our parents off to nursing homes instead of caring for them, in the toughest times, at home?

As we grow older, we all face life in different ways. We all see, upon occasion, the ravages of disease and the frailty and indomitable spirit of our humanness as loved ones struggle to face their own aging. Parkinsons, dementia, Alzheimer's, cancer, strokes and other ailments take loved ones, issuing a summons to the younger generation to respond. How we respond tells us who we really are and what we are made of.

Dispirited by the seemingly shallow "caring" of medical facilities like "nursing homes," many Americans are embracing "home care." And the benefits of home-care experience can far outweigh the costs one expects in anguish and the pocketbook. One might find inspiration, an uplifting and newfound realization of the sanctity and importance of human life, and a life-altering family sense of love, caring, giving and togetherness.

Many families say, "My loved one gave more to us than we ever gave to her or him."

Suffering can bring families together - or send the selfish to flight. The giving experience of knowing we all loved enough to bring the suffering member of the family home to our hearts and our ability to care, may forever change the way we remember who we are. There may be no Hallmark moment, no reward from the ailing family member. But you might surprise yourself and you might be surprised by how your suffering loved one inspires you.

There is no more caring environment than the home. There are no more caring people than loved ones and family. Any expectation paid strangers in white pants and shoes can do better than a loved one is the height of illusion.

There are times when the hospital, nursing home and even the hospice are mandated. But don't sell yourself and your family short. Your love and care may well exceed that of all others.

In numerous ways, many of us live in a world without connection to the life-and-death struggles that make us loving, caring human beings. We rush to work, the kids' soccer tournaments, even vacations, at break-neck speed. When we pause to give, we shop at Wal- Mart for the appropriate handout. We Americans spend more than $4 billion annually on our pets, but sometimes neglect our family duties and responsibilities.

So how do most of us care for our own aged, sick and ailing family members? Fifteen-minute visits in the hospital followed by even shorter stays every week in a nursing home?

I take my lumps and admit my own shortcomings. My own record on love is not stellar. But when I have extended myself, I have received much more than I invested. …