Growing old and a burden to others

One day when I get old and not able to look after myself, I wish that my family members do not have to suffer looking after me. I wish that I still have the mental faculty to know what I am subjecting my family to in worrying for me. Old age can result in a person being unreasonable and demanding without him knowing it. He may not help it. This is a real scenario.

This is a dilemma and we are torn between filial piety and not being a burden to your loved ones. I have great respect for caregivers who look after old people. These are family members, domestic helpers and nurses. The work is made harder if the old people has mild form of dementia or has irrational compulsive behaviour.

Patience can wear very thin if we have to deal with someone, especially your aged parents, who happen to be that. If we do not pamper to their wishes, we would be branded as unfilial. There is this internal struggle and guilt we have to face with. We know that the aged person has needs to cater to and the caregivers have their lives to lead. Both needs will not meet.

How do we address this issue?

For a start, begin working on yourself before the fateful days come. We too will grow old. What can we do to reduce the burden on others? This is a big topic and it is not too late to ponder about it.

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6 Responses to Growing old and a burden to others

  1. Sophia Tan says:

    Good evening, Mr Lim,

    I have been in financial consultancy for only a couple of years and chanced upon your blog while doing some research. I was teaching in a government school previously and very keen on financial literacy due to issues my family have been encountering as well as what’s happening with some of my ex-pupils.

    I’m encouraged by your faithfulness in writing your blog, as well as the sincerity in your entries about being a father, giving your daughter the support in pursuing her dreams (I very much wish I had that support), as well as what you are concerned about for a better Singapore in the coming years with the younger generation (which is also something of utmost concern for me too). I’ve also downloaded your e-book.

    Some of us (colleagues) had discussed retirement planning as well as issues such as setting up of trusts, making use of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), etc, for our clients.
    https://www.publicguardian.gov.sg/opg/Pages/The-LPA-The-Lasting-Power-of-Attorney.aspx

    I am also cognizant of how important it is to keep well our thoughts, emotional and physical health so that we can reduce the burden on others as we get ill or grow older. May I seek your wisdom to understand from yourself, please, if this Lasting Power of Attorney solves the issues that you have in mind, or are there many other considerations you have (both pros and cons) that the LPA cannot address?

    Yours sincerely,
    Sophia

    • limkimtong says:

      Sophia,

      Thanks for your kind comments.

      While writing the post, LPA came through my mind. Though I am not well versed in the intricacies of LPA, I believe that this was created to help people who can be mentally incapacitated when they get old. The post was wider than just coping with mental issues of the aged. Taking care of your aged parents is the angle I am addressing. As Singapore faces fast aging problem with fewer young people supporting seniors, the question is: can we be less of a burden to our children (or a single child) as we get old? Does the whole society know the problems? Only those who faced with the issue now can appreciate it. This is just food for thoughts.

      Best Regards
      Lim Kim Tong

      • Sophia Tan says:

        Good afternoon, Mr Lim,

        Thank you so much for your reply. I think it’s undeniable the challenges of taking care of one’s old aged parents, or even to think of one’s needs in our own old age. Both my maternal grandparents passed in the recent few years… and I’m also very appreciative as my Uncle had a very good helper who offered to stay to help till they are no longer around. She stayed as my Uncle’s helper for more than 10 years, took care of my grandparents, and looked after the younger cousins as they grew up too.

        The society may or may not have thought of these… but those who have had fulfilled most of their responsibilities/roles probably have a better idea of what’s going to happen, and what can be done to mitigate the situation.

        It will be most challenging for those whose siblings have passed on, those with no children, or those with children who are unavailable/no longer in touch. And if they have not prepared themselves to be staying with or having peers to take care of them, an elderly home or other government agencies will probably have to be an option to be considered, if they have lost their ability to be living independently.

        I think the following could be areas to look into:
        – Support system (i.e. helper/extended family of younger siblings/cousins/children, etc, and perhaps a back-up support system when the primary caregiver is not around, like the example you’ve cited. I think it’s great that every sibling has responded to the call. That is very fortunate as there may be quite a few families who’d have issues once the primary caregiver is on leave/no longer able to fulfill the role.)
        – Financial independence/security (to take care of own living expenses/helper or nurse, medical needs or having sufficient insurance coverage – it may become more and more challenging for the next generation to also be bearing the burden of the parents (in their old age), their own expenses as well as their growing children. So I think it’d probably be more prudent for us to prepare for our own “retirement” needs than to insist that our children bear everything as well.
        – Trust/will, etc according to individual/familial that needs to be done up. LPA if there is also a necessity.

        And preventive measures that could be taken:
        – Exercising and taking care of our diet and lifestyle.
        – Keeping our minds active, thoughts positive, and emotions too. Those who have retired earlier may like to look especially into keeping our minds active, e.g. taking up a hobby that they’ve always wanted to; consulting, or like what my coach had mentioned – a refirement (instead of retirement) into a new area of expertise.
        – Ensuring that debts and mortgages, etc, have been paid off as soon.
        – Preparing our “retirement” plan early in terms of savings and diversified investment portfolio that is being monitored and one that could give a recurrent income when we are older.
        – Preparing for the lifestyle that might be different during retirement, or even be willing to make new connections (perhaps due to inactivity/passivity/mortality).
        – Keeping an open mind – continue learning about different things, and to be willing to give and receive.

        I think a good financial or life plan would include suggestions like all these, which are tailored to the needs of the individual and his family.

        Just some of my thoughts.

        Best regards,
        Sophia Tan

  2. The sad thing is, not only are the elderly a burden on their family, but on the country too. Just look at the predicament of Japan now. 😦

    • Sophia Tan says:

      Hi, Dividend Knight.

      Hmm. I’d be hard-pressed to say that our elderly’s a burden. Just like a crumpled dollar note, our lives will always hold value intrinsically… even though at times it doesn’t look like it. But I understand what you’re saying.

      Well, CIA (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html) ranks us at the bottom of the table. Our numbers are apparently a bit higher. So either the birthrate gets boosted and it’s a sustainable one, or we’d have to continue importing.

      It’d have a great impact on Singapore in the next 50 years in terms of economy, education (some schools are already closing down), productivity, innovation, vibrancy, etc. All levels of society will feel it.

      Best regards,
      Sophia Tan

  3. limkimtong says:

    I dream of a future when I can check myself into a medical facility that looks after elderly who need 24-hour support. As this is a medical facility, doctors and nurses are on hand to administer medical care for the elderly. This would be especially useful for elderly who cannot care for themselves anymore. I dream of a future when it is no longer a stigma to be sent to this kind of facility both for the carer and the one being cared. It is part and parcel of living this human life till the dying days. I dream of a future when medical advances can tackle dementia sickness so that risk of dementia can be reduced. I also dream of a future that costs of using such facilities are not something people cannot afford.

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