So many boomers today, along with some above and below that age cohort, are having to deal with aging and failing parents — many with dementia. More than the time and money that must be expended, there is a great emotional cost. Not only is there sorrow about the downward trajectory of once vital people, but relationships of parents and children are often fraught with historical agita and angst. Parent-child interactions often have a longstanding prickly, if not neurotic overlay. (This does not improve with age.) Not to put too fine a point on it, mothers and daughters experience particular tensions. It is for this reason I’ve decided that a national lottery would remove some of the painful emotional elements that accompany caretaking, or at the very least making arrangements for same.
With a national lottery, similar in spirit to the office grab bag at Christmastime where people draw names for the exchange of little presents, I propose a voluntary lottery whereby people can enter their parent or parents. In return, they would get someone else’s elderly relative, and there would be so much less stress involved in making the preparations and executing a care plan. Without the emotional attachments, things would be more efficiently done and the ordeal wouldn’t feel so personal — because you wouldn’t even know these people!
Support for this theory comes from my husband’s experience with his then-young sons. A group of families would go away for weekends, and they had a rule: no hiking with your own children. The smart person who suggested this rule knew — and it was borne out — that the children would behave much better, and with no whining, if they were not annexed to their own parents. Being with a family friend somehow made the kids more amenable to not being pains in the ass. So it is with this psychological principle in mind that I suggest a National Lottery for Aged Parents. There can be minimal heartbreak for people you don’t know. No old family dynamics will come into play. The old folks will be looked after in a businesslike manner. Emotions will not get in the way of doing what, objectively, is the best thing for them. The result will be that aging parents who need looking after will receive the proper attention … just not from their own kids.
I mentioned my proposal to a girlfriend who is looking after her demented mother, pre-death. Granted, the old girl is in a residential facility, but it’s still not easy. The only good thing about the situation, my friend says, is that her shrink is one block away from the dementia residence. While she, for one, likes the idea of my projected national lottery, she did remind me of an old fable where everyone in a little village is told to pack their problems in one sack and bring it to a meeting in the village. Then all the sacks are thrown together in a circle, and the people are told they can pick any sack. In the end, every person picks the sack of problems he came in with. There’s even a saying about this fable: The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. If this school of thought holds water, my idea for the lottery may not be so hot.