I work for Hospice as a chaplain and make regular visit on our patients at the local institutions that care for the the elderly, i.e. rest homes, convalescent facilities, etc. Today I recognized one of our church members at a convalescent care facility with her father. She was reluctantly leaving him there because his wife can no longer care for him as he wrestles with memory loss and its related debilitation.
As we live longer the potential of extended life care looms on the horizon for all of us--if not for ourselves, perhaps for our parents. I have seen the physical toll of caring for a needy family member and watched as a loving mate, sibling, or child, sacrifically gave of themselves until their own health was jeopardized. I have observed, as well, the frightening terror of aggravated injury when someone who needed greater care was left on their own, and have noted the guilt it triggered for the party who had taken a rest break, or, turned their back just for a moment.
Making decisions that impact the care of elderly parents and family members is a horrifically difficult one. I have gone with families as they have transferred a member to a care facility and watched the etars flow freely as they drove away. In the majority of cases I have observed, the family's primary concern was centered around, "What is best for my loved one?"
There were tears today as the family left the premises of the care facility. I hung around for awhile and watched kind nurses direct the new patient on a tour around the facility and when I had to go he was sitting comfortably with another patient visiting and smiling.
God, grant us all wisdom if we ever come to the time we have to make a decision like this. May it be motivated by love and concern, and may we rest in the decision knowing we have sought to do what us best for the one we love...even if we have to leave him there.