Friday, February 11, 2011

Aging and Illness


Those of us who have been living with illness or a chronic condition (as either the ill or well partner) understand too well the deals we make with life and with each other. The biggest one is that illness must now be a part of our relationship and our choices. We can't take the commonplace for granted. Illness won't let us. The ordinary comes with the caveat - if I'm feeling well enough....

It is estimated that in the US, by the time we reach age 65 we will have one illness or disability, and by the time we reach 85, we may have 3 or 4. And if both partners are aging, the complications of managing multiply. Can we both stay in our home? Do we, and can we afford, help? Live-in help? What about assisted living? And what if one of us needs a nursing home and the other doesn't? What difficult choices!

A few weeks ago an article in the New York Times discussed the issue of aging and illness. It's a good read, and has, imho, a great title:

In Sickness & In Heath by Paula Span

Here's how it begins:

"For several years, the professor and his wife, who has Parkinson’s disease, managed in their house in Cambridge, Mass. But two years ago, finding living on their own too difficult, they moved together into an assisted living facility.

The professor, retired from M.I.T., was in good health and didn’t need personal care. So I wondered: Why not move just his wife, whose mobility would deteriorate, and visit her regularly from his own home?

He sounded puzzled at the question. Live apart? “That never occurred to me,” he said. “She’s my wife.”

As is often the case, though, assisted living proved only a temporary solution. His wife developed intensifying dementia and needed more care than the facility could provide. In November, at 85, she moved to another facility in a neighboring town. The professor stayed behind in assisted living. Now 87, he is living alone for the first time in 55 years."

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