It is the prayers of almost every child for their parents to live long in good health, but only a handful get to live long in good health and independence.
When your parents are aged, fall sick, become bedridden and fully dependant on the people around them, who takes care of them?
This happened recently. Mama was very sick, sick to the point of death, but she survived. Her children did their best engaging the services of best doctors in town, and in no time, mama was getting better.
All through mama’s stay at the hospital, her first son and his wife took turns to stay by her until she was discharged.
Mama was set to leave the hospital, her daughters who are married refused to let mama come live with them to fully recover. Their excuse was that they are barely home because they work and return home late at night.
Mama’s oldest son and his wife had no option but to bring mama home with them because returning her to the village was not an option at that moment. While mama’s son and his wife also work full time and are rarely at home, they employed two caregivers running shifts to cater for mama day and night, while the wife helps out when she returns from work in the evenings and at weekends as well.
This arrangement didn’t go down well with mama who insisted her daughter-in-law stay home to nurse her back to health. When her son and his wife called her bluff, she informed her other children who called their sister-in-law threatening that it is her responsibility as the wife to mama’s first son to care for their mother and if anything happens to their mother, they will never forgive her.
Mama made good her threats as she stopped eating her daughter-in-law’s food and stopped taking her medication. She cries while her son and his wife are at work. She will not let the caregivers come close to her.
It wasn’t long after, she took ill again and didn’t make it this time. She died. Mama died not because she wasn’t well catered for, she died because she wanted her daughter-in-law to give up her life and take up a new job of being a full-time caregiver.
This is our sad reality today. Many of us have very entitled parents and we are also quite entitled ourselves. Some parents are such a pain in the neck that their children will do everything humanly possible to transfer their responsibilities to the next available person once they are sick. And the most unfortunate persons they easily dump their sick and bedridden parents on are usually their sons’ wives.
It is very typical in the minds of many in this part of the world that a man getting married to a woman equates getting himself a slave, a nanny, a cook and a caregiver for his sick parents.
Dear sisters and brothers-in-law, your wives or brother’s wives are not your parents’ automatic caregiver. That she’s married to you or your brothers does not mean you should dump your aged parents in their care claiming it’s her responsibility as a wife married into the family.
Caregiving, especially for incapacitated people, is very stressful, time-consuming, psychologically and physically demanding. I have experienced it for almost two years.
When it’s your parents, there’s a feeling of obligation attached to caring for them. Intimate tasks like changing their diaper, cleaning, bathing, dressing and feeding them are not that awkward and uncomfortable because they are your own flesh and blood.
But caregiving for in-laws and staying sane while at it is another. Some daughter in-laws become very angry, resentful and abusive towards their sick, incapacitated or bedridden in-laws. Some even starve these aged parents of food and attention. Others lock them up, leave the house and return at will.
Your incapacitated parents are left in the pool of their own urine, poop, vomit, and stench for hours or even days. They are psychologically and physically abused and dragged on the floor as punishment before they eventually get cleaned up.
Your parents live in fear and constant threats of what awaits them if they report to you, they resign to fate hoping death comes sooner.
It is easy to become resentful and unhappy when you are tied down, talk more of when you are underappreciated by your husband or his siblings who get mad whenever you complain.
If your wife or brother’s wife takes it upon herself to be your parents’ caregiver, appreciate her. Lend your support by paying for the services of professional caregivers to alleviate her suffering. She can always supervise and monitor what they are doing.
You must do your own share to care for your sick and aged parents no matter your geographical location. You can visit and take care of them sometimes or take your parents with you for a change. Sharing such responsibility amongst siblings will definitely prevent resentment and prolonged abuse against your helpless parents.
It is not your wife’s or sister in-law’s responsibility to care for your aged or sick parents, they should be merely assisting. It is your responsibility as their children. If you cannot care for them yourself or don’t want to do it, hire professional caregivers to help instead.