Stephanie Pick: Aging parents letter shows lack of understanding

Wednesday, April 09, 2014
To the editor:

Big decisions are hard enough without someone else making gross generalizations with disrespect and lack of empathy. I am referring to the March 18 column in which the writer purports that the only good option for elder care is for adult children to keep their parents at home rather than utilize a nursing facility.

While remaining at home can be a best option for some families, there are many contingencies that make choosing a nursing facility the right option for other families. To call this “the easy way out” shows an enormous lack of understanding for what some of those situations entail.

As a nurse who has worked in a skilled nursing facility, in home care and in the outpatient setting, I have assisted and supported countless families as they struggle with this very decision. The writer encourages the “old-fashioned approach,” but the fact is, we don’t live in old-fashioned times. Home life is very different now than for the generations before us.

I don’t see families choosing nursing homes because they want free time to go to the club and play bridge. It is more likely because it’s not safe to leave their elderly parent alone but they cannot afford to stay home themselves. Private home care to assist may be an option for some, but it is cost prohibitive for most.

Sometimes, those elderly parents who require care have significant medical needs. They may have dementia that renders them unsafe to themselves or others. Caregivers may have their own significant health issues. Many caring family members are long distance and manage the best they can with that constraint. A list of individual challenges would be endless. Every family has its own situation to consider, not always apparent to an outsider. It is wonderful for the letter writer and his mother that he is able to stay home. But to pass judgment on those who can’t, and in such a critical way, breaks my heart for all the people who have made a different decision for all the right reasons for their families.

Stephanie Pick


The writer is a registered nurse.