Walking Our Faith: What do we owe our elders?
Walking Our Faith
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” — Psalm 71:9
For 60 years, she taught underprivileged children to read. She worked in the poorest communities, and when she retired, she moved overseas, first to Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1994.
This was shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. Grocery stores in wintertime had little more than root vegetables and canned goods for sale. So when I went to visit her and my father during that first winter, we ate scrambled eggs and fried potatoes every night for dinner.
After my father died and was buried in Kyiv, they asked me to join my mom in teaching overseas. We were posted to Baku, Azerbaijan. I was a dilettante, so I taught high school English and American history to my international students during the day, and at night, I went clubbing with my new expat friends.
Mom, on the other hand, spent her weekends riding an overcrowded van out to the villages to deliver prescription medicines with one of the other teachers.
Adeline Anderson would still be teaching overseas if she had not had a major heart attack in 2005 at age 79.
On the morning of Aug. 6, I flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to bring mom home from the rehab center where she had spent the past two months after she fell and broke her hip and wrist. Now, at the age of 94, everything seems to heal more slowly. She is frail and still in a wheelchair.
I am spending the week with her. On Thursday, Aug. 12, we met with her physical therapist, who assured her that with consistent exercise, she will be able to eventually walk using her walker, and that’s what we’re hoping for.
But as I have been trying to make arrangements for mom, who still lives independently in her own apartment, I’ve discovered that elderly people in the middle of the income spectrum fall through the cracks when it comes to home-health aides.
Home aides are funded by the government for lower-income people, and they’re paid privately by higher-income people. But for middle-income people like my mother, there is a yawning chasm.
This leaves perhaps two-thirds of our elders, like my mother, with two options: Move into assisted living or move in with family members.
This is unfortunate for someone like my mother, who has thrived living independently in her own apartment surrounded by friends and with her church community a block away.
However, she has reached a stage, especially after her fall, where she needs assistance in the bathroom and meals cooked for her. Surely, aging at home with assistance must be better for the individual than being moved into assisted living?
Mom and I lived together from 1997 until 2015, and we did very well together. Now, I am hoping to bring mom back to Breckenridge with me. I’ve been calling and texting and placing ads on Craigslist in search of a three-bedroom townhouse or a home with a main-floor bedroom to rent for a year or two.
Our plans are still unsettled. To be honest, I hope it works out that we are able to live together again for these final years of mom’s life. I am aware of the difficulties of bringing an elderly parent into the High Country, but we want to try. If we are successful in the logistics and mom can handle the altitude, I believe our time together will be meaningful.
“But Ruth said … ‘Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God — not even death itself is going to come between us!’” — Ruth 1:16-17, The Message
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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