CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Over Is Better Than Six Feet Under

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

Ain’t this a switch. Figuring out a column heading before deciding what the week’s subject is going to be. Kinda like the proverbial cart before the horse; running out of hair spray after a shampoo; how the spouse felt before matrimony. Whatever. Pull up a chair, sleeping bag, cushion or stand if you like. You’ll only be captive 7-8 minutes, tops. The avid move up front and those thinking about slinking out unnoticed, don’t slam the door when you exit.

The debate continues to rage regarding the question being confronted by many Nisei/Sansei today: (a) Stay Home, (b) Move In or (c) Enter Facility.

It’s a perplexing dilemma. Sansei feel responsible for parents’ well-being in their sunset years. Nisei, at least those left to contemplate a tenuous future, appear split between those determined to remain “at home” until the very end, living with an offspring or going to a facility. A yellow pad listing the pros and cons is suggested with open discussion of each item. The main rule to follow: Everyone has equal voice. That means the vote of the youngest sibling’s wife is as important as eldest son’s. None of that “Nii-san reigns” b.s.

Stay Home – There is no place like home, to coin an original phrase. After 50-60 years, the electric outlet that doesn’t work, stuck window or creaky stair is a reminder of days gone by. Mortgage paid. No debts. If you’re a fortunate man/wife pair, emphatically it’s stay where you are! With an important caveat: at least discuss “the future.”

If a surviving widow/widower, all discussion should begin with an honest evaluation of health status. Again, if no problem puttering around, eating, sleeping, b.m., the abode is truly a place of comfort and enjoyment. Repeat: This status is subject to sudden change, so other options should remain on the table.

Move In – This decision of many offspring is an immediate: “You’ll live with us! No argument. You took care of me/us, I/we will take care of you.” End of discussion. Admirable. But don’t forget this option can be a two-edged sword. In many Sansei homes, the grandchildren have flown the coop; there is ample room, no real inconvenience. When there are still school-age youngsters, a potential problem, even if Grandma/pa promise to be invisible. [To whom the guest belongs (son or daughter) is also part of the equation.]

Personally, I think the onus lies with the intruder: if comfortable and confident there will be no conflict or undue stress, their home can most certainly become yours without a major problem.

Enter Facility – First thing to remember is no one is being institutionalized! You’re not being “put away.” The primary selling points are what I call the 3 S’s: Security, Sustenance and Support. The fear of “something happening” is dispelled; you’re provided meals; staff is on duty to take care of your basic needs. You will not be a burden to offspring.

If I make it sound too perfect, please excuse, because it ain’t. For one, you lose your total freedom and the simple pleasures of home: sleeping as late you want; eating whatever and whenever you wish; appearance in the manner of bum or debutante. [Of course there is also the matter of cost.]

Obviously there is no panacea, so let’s be real. Having a cup of coffee or can of brew with a neighbor in your kitchen is nirvana. There is also a feeling of independence [maybe not the ideal word]that comes with living alone. You can shout, cry, curse or pray. Living with offspring is a different reward; a facility or gated habitat offers security and other amenities.

The all-encompassing consideration is one’s health. If you’re sane and sassy where you are, why move? Only problem is, unfortunately, the whole scenario can change in the blink of an X-ray or doctor’s visit. Or suddenly, alas, one can get very old and decrepit almost overnight. Then what? Planning takes time; an unexpected emergency can be hectic and challenging.

Retirement facilities have lengthy waiting lists. Why not register now somewhere? When your number comes up [years from now], you can accept or remain on hold; and you won’t lose your place on the list. There are many other attractive options where you don’t have to wait. You can shop around just as you would for a car, new wardrobe or cardiologist.

There is no best or ideal option. But I repeat: Whatever the situation, it can change in a heartbeat. [Excuse the metaphor.] An accident, an illness, a death.

Whether aging, care giving or earthquake, the byword is to be prepared.

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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