Letter: We Need to Keep Families Together
To the Editor:
The story of Al and Marie Esselborn is heartbreaking (“A Story of Adaptation,” Sunday Valley News, Aug. 25). It almost brought me to tears. There but for the grace of God goes any one of us.
Beyond that, however, I believe that it is a disturbing commentary on our society. The story is headlined “A Story of Adaptation.” Adaptation to what? Having to live separately after many years of marriage because of health problems? Why should that be the “adaptation”? Why should they have to live apart? Why should Marie have to take a bus every so often to see her husband of 42 years? Why should she have to give him a kiss goodbye and leave? Why does Al have to be placed in a facility to get the help and care he needs? Why can’t that help come to him while he continues to live with his wife? Or why can’t a living arrangement be designed so that they can stay together in a facility while he gets the care he needs and she gets plenty of respite?
Does anyone believe that their story is OK as a way for older adults to spend their later years? Medicine is allowing us to live longer. As we do, we’re facing problems in numbers we may not have faced before. Society (not government) needs to come up with answers to some of these problems to mitigate their effects. If we’re waiting for a cure for dementia, we’re probably waiting in vain. If we’re waiting for a medicine to slow the effects of dementia, we’re probably not going to see it in our lifetime. In the meantime, we must address the growing number of families facing the same devastating illness as Al Esselborn and find a way to keep families together.
I believe older adults deserve a life together until death. I don’t know how to accomplish it, but I do know that the discussion should begin yesterday.