I don’t think there is a singular “right” answer, but rather what is the “best” answer in a given situation. Some
children, siblings, or parents may be prone to “warehouse” a relative rather than be inconvenienced with their in home care. Others
“try” (often badly) to care for a disabled person or elderly relative at home because they are afraid that professional care might eat up “their” inheritance.
The post from Fontevrault was especially apropos:
My mother-in-law has been in a wheelchair for 38 years. If/when her husband (a good, goog man who has cared for her through it all) passes on, we (Pilgrim and I) have been told in no uncertain terms that she does not want to move in with us. She wants to be in a good nursing home nearby. For her the nursing home gives her some independence and aility to take care of things without imposing on others. It drives me crazy that she thinks of it as an imposition, but I have to see her perspective. She knows she can't take care of herself and has seen this coming for a long while.
I’ve had two aunts and four uncles die in the past six years, aged between 82 and 94. My mother is 90 and still lives alone on a farm but doesn’t drive to town any more so someone has to give her a ride. Otherwise she is independent except for having a cleaning lady come in. I live 120 miles away but go down at least twice a month to help out; a brother lives close by and does most of the driving.
Each family handled the situation differently, with a mix of retirement homes, skilled nursing facilities, in home professional care providers, and being cared for by family members. Two uncles and one aunt had dementia (fortunately Alzheimer’s has not been present in the family), otherwise all the relatives were mentally sound and in control of their situation. In visiting with them in their latter years one common sentiment I heard from all was that they wanted to be as independent as possible (and ironically several felt they had more independence in a care facility than they would living with one of the kids) and they did not want their biological lives “artificially extended” beyond what God’s nature intended. I hasten to add that nobody wanted things “speeded up” any, but they were ready for God’s call and saw no point in excessive drugs, pumps, machines, and surgeries other than what was appropriate for palliative care. This was a particular issue with one uncle (who was of very sound mind) who I heard almost had to threaten to disinherit a couple of older daughters if they didn’t stop “meddling”.
There are several important issues to consider:
Are they mentally sound or are they experiencing dementia or Alzheimer’s?
Are they mobile (albeit with a walker or wheel chair) or are they pretty much bed ridden?
Do they require routine therapy (physical, respiratory, dialysis) that would require regular travel if they are in a private home? This therapy might be available “in house” in a nursing facility.
Similarly with personal care issues such as haircuts, nail care, chiropractic adjustments, etc.
Can they be left alone for a short period of time without “getting into trouble”? (I’ve known 2 or 3 people who made a valiant effort to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s, until about the 2nd of 3rd time they had to call the police to come help find them after they wandered off unnoticed).
Can the caregiver provide skilled assistance when needed? (A friend of mine was trained to inject epinephrine directly into his wife’s heart if it should stop ~ an emergency life saving measure until an ambulance could arrive; not everyone would be up to this).
Is a private home a workable environment? Can they go to the toilet or take a bath on their own (provided they would be able to do so if the facility were handicapped capable)?
Cetil makes one of the most important observations:
Whether you can take care of them at home or not, they need attention from their families.
Where the elderly spend their final years, and who cares for them, should be determined by what provides them the best care in an environment they are most comfortable in. The family’s primary responsibility is to remain a part of their lives on a regular basis, and to see that their spiritual needs are cared for (taking them to Mass or helping them live in a facility that offers Mass on a regular basis; making sure their priest is aware of their condition and comes to visit as appropriate, etc.).