Farming Families – Long Term Care

Yesterday’s post on Generational Transfer touched off a lot of discussions.  My personal facebook page, the farm fb page, and my email all contained comments and discussion on this very important topic.  Rest assured we will be talking about this very important issue again this week as we talk generational issues.

One thing has been increasing in the past generation or so has been the issue of long term care.  What do we do with Grandpa and Grandma, or Mom and Dad, when they retire?  What do they do?  Someone commented yesterday that “Old farmers never think they’ll die!”  In my opinion, the reason Grandpa may not want to turn over the farm, the decision making, or the purse strings is that he feels he will be useless.  That he won’t be needed.  That he’ll be shuttered away in an “old folks home”.

I’d like to offer a word to those who are parents now (whatever your age).  How you treat your kids NOW is how they will treat you when you are old.  If your child has no decision-making opportunities, if your child has no autonomy, if your child does not feel that he or she is a valuable member of the family….you will not be allowed to make decisions, or have your own life, or be valued when you are old.  If you take care of your children when they are young, they will take care of you when you are old.  What you sow, so shall you reap.  Sow wisely, parents.

How can we continue to involve parents and grandparents in the farm family?  How can we make sure they are valued and important parts of our family?

1.  Identify roles and desires – Does Grandpa love to rake hay?  Mow the lawn?  Drive the grain cart?  Do repair work in the shop?  Ask him.  Ask what he would like to continue to do.  What does he NOT want to continue to do?  And what about Grandma?  Does she want to garden?  Read to and watch young kids?  Provide meals during busy seasons? Everyone, from age 2 to 102, wants to contribute.  Find a way that they can.

My mom had had four back surgeries and walked with a cane, but that woman loved to cook and bake.  She loved to read to and snuggle her grandkids.  Just before she died very suddenly last spring, we had made plans for her to spend the summer with us on the farm.  She was excited to be able to contribute to the work Hubby and I were doing.  It was during those busy times this summer, when I absolutely could have used her delicious meals waiting for us, or having the kids painting with watercolors under her watchful eye, that was when I missed her the most.  She would have loved those times and so would I.

2.  Honor their contribution – Thank them for the work they are doing.  Tell them how they are making a difference in the farm.  A lot of little jobs adds up to a big help.

3.  Take care of them – If you are a Christian, one of the Ten Commandments is to “Honor your father and mother”.  How can you make their lives easier?  How can you keep the older generation on the farm, with your family, longer?  Rather than putting them in an institution, how can you keep the generations living together?

When my parents sold us the farm, the plan was for them to have a summer home here on the farm where they would spend April to November.  That meant they would be here during our busy season to help in ways that they could, but then they would be in Tennessee for the winter with my brother’s family, also to help with cooking and baby-sitting.  It was a long discussion we had with our whole family.  What did Mom and Dad really want to do?  How did they want to contribute to their family?

Do you know my multi-generational farm dream?  Hubby and I will build a yurt on the hill in our pasture.  The kids can have the house, I’ll take the yurt.  My grandkids can come and play at Grandma’s.  I’ll cook the family meals, garden, milk cows and such.  Whatever I can do to help my kids’ families thrive here on the farm.

The greatest gift we have as farm families IS the family.  Find ways to continue to work together, to honor their work, to continue to build relationships.  Don’t send them away to visit only on holidays and the occasional Sunday.  And parents, don’t flee the farm.  Your family still needs you!

Day 19 Homework:  If you are a parent, how are you treating your children?  How will you be treated as you age?  If you are a child, how can you involve your parents as the age and transition out of active farming?

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