"The one thing I never want is to be a burden on my family."
If I polled my elderly population and asked them to choose between being dead or being dependent on their family, they would overwhelmingly chose death. There is a sense of shame and helplessness to ask those we love to give us a favor we can't ever repay. There is humiliation in transforming from a productive adult to a child-like being, needing help with the simple tasks of walking, bathing, and eating.
Much is done to fight dependency, with 401K accounts pushed by elderly actors on TV and long-term care insurance at the top of most financial planners' lists. If you end up dependent, you have failed. You have not planned enough and are now a burden. You drain the resources of those you love because of your own selfishness and lack of forethought. Not only are you shamed in your current vulnerable state, but you are shamed at the poor way you chose to live your life before it.
Why is this? Why is it so bad for children to have to take care of their parents? Why is it so bad to be a burden on your children? As a parent, I can say that my children are a huge burden on me; they take a lot of my time, my money, my emotional energy away from me. My life would be much freer if they did not exist. But I am more than willing to give up that freedom for the joy of this burden. I count my children among my greatest blessings despite the freedom they force me to forfeit. Why should it be any different with my parents?
This is tough. On one hand I am glad that my parents have been wise in planning for their retirement and have continued in their independence. On the other hand, this independence has led to isolation from those who can be the greatest joy and help to us. Yes, it is difficult to care for others, but who better to carry your burden than your family? Is it really a shameful thing to be cared for by our children - those whom we so gladly forfeited our freedom.
So now I don't know how to respond to that statement. Is it really better to die than to be a burden? I sure as heck hope my parents don't think so.