• C - Caring

    #AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

    C is for Caring.

    "To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors."
    Tia Walker, 
    The Inspired Caregiver: Finding Joy While Caring for Those You Love

    I often ponder the idea of how one human can dedicate a significant portion of their own life to care for another human while others approach this topic with "can't" sprinkled liberally through their vocabulary.

    In this post I am focusing the scope of 'caring' to meet the physical needs of another human who cannot meet their own needs.  In those terms most people immediately think of caring for infants - who obviously, when born, would die without direct care of another mature human.  Nature has hard wired "caring" into most of us with infants and children so our species continues.  (Very wise, Mother Nature.)

    The best example of this 'caring' reaction was demonstrated when my grand daughter was born.  My son became a father for the first time in his 40s - later than most.  When his daughter was born, he shared with me an interesting personal discovery.  "You know, I generally find the sound of crying children annoying.  I don't know if it is biological or not - but I don't feel that way with my daughter when she cries."

    My immediate thought ... Yes, son, it is most definitely biological!  😃 That's why I let you live through your teen age years.  Biology!!

    What does this have to do with retirement and aging?


    My own retirement was launched prematurely - at age 59 - due to the needs of an aging mother with dementia.

    I was fortunate that my financial foundation allowed that choice.  But still, it was a choice.  I chose to take care of her.  I could have chosen differently.   The caring impulse that was activated in me at the birth of my children was triggered again with my mom when she started to fail.  I had to step in and actively provide assistance and care.  In my brain, it was simply something I had to do.

    My first 8 years of retirement - I "worked" without pay for her benefit -  my heart and my soul would allow nothing less.

    But ... was it biology - some hard wired caring reaction?  And how many folks take that step into retirement for reasons of elder care or care of grand children?  How many early retirees risk reduced incomes in their own futures because of choices like these?  I have no doubt my own retirement income was impacted by retiring early, but I also consider myself fortunate to have had those 8 years at mom's side.  Was it a good trade off?  I think so.  There are lots of things we can't afford to do now, but could I have lived with the choice of continuing to work and let the chips fall where they may with my mom?  No.  I would do it all exactly the same way again.

    And yet ... there are many who feel very differently.  I have had many conversations on this subject, only to find that my choice to care for my mom would not be their choice with their parents.  Oh yes, if it was their adult child - they would set their lives aside to provide care, but not for a parent.  It is a very complicated decision for some when addressing elder care issues.  But for me - the choice was clear.


    In my caregiving years with mom, I was exposed to tons of other senior citizens in all stages of independence or dependence.  I had a chance to see 'world class caregiver families' who surrounded and cared for their failing relatives from the moment they became aware there was a problem.  Obviously the caring response was alive and well in their family nucleus.

    I also saw a range of other reactions to failing elders - that swung all the way to absence entirely.  The memories of those isolated elders break my heart when I recall them ... and I wasn't even related to them.  Where is that caring response - the one that erupts without hesitation for an infant, but cannot be found for an infant-like elder who can no longer safely take care of themselves?  Maybe Mother Nature only inserts the caring response for the purposes of continuation of the species.  Maybe what is needed for elder care is not a caring gene.

    Maybe what is missing is:

    (another C word)

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