This is a pretty personal post, so y’know, feel free to skip it. It isn’t anything to do with gaming but sometimes it just kind of helps me to throw things out into the ether…
I tell ya, I don’t want to get old(er). My mom (82) went to the hospital a week or so before Christmas because her back hurt and she couldn’t move (she had to use Life Alert since she couldn’t get out of bed). Since then she’s been bouncing from hospital to a physical rehab center for the elderly, and back again. Every visit to the hospital (the rehab center had to call 911 Tuesday night become mom couldn’t breathe) reveals a new ailment. Now it’s high potassium levels, to go along with her congestive heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and of course the back trouble is still lingering.
Before this last trip to the hospital she could walk about 30 feet without having to rest, but needed an oxygen tank (and y’know, that loop thing that you see old people wearing). Now she’s bed-ridden again and needs a full oxygen mask to breath, so she can’t really talk very much.
She keeps on fighting though and her mind has been as sharp as it has ever been, until today. Today she asked my step-sister where the horses were. She was worried about the stables. (My mom is the daughter of a fisherman and she grew up on a family farm. When she was young – remember she was born in the 1920s – everyone still kept horses.) Now it’s hard to say if that was from the many drugs she’s on, or if her mind is finally going.
I mean, it isn’t like we can find a doctor to talk to. Two days she’s been in this new hospital and the doctors all continue to evade my step-sister (who is the only family member still living in the area). The nurses aren’t allowed to tell us anything. Mom might have hours to live and she might have something that they can clear up in a couple of days…we can’t nail down anyone who can answer questions.
In the meanwhile the family is running around in circles trying to find a way to pay for all this care. If she’s going to go home we’ll get a reverse mortgage (she’ll need 24/7 care even at home, at least for a while), if she’s going to wind up in a nursing home then we’ll have to sell the house to pay for it. Mom makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but far too little to pay for the care she needs.
Either way, getting the money takes time, and at-home care providers ($250/day) aren’t going to take care of her for free; in fact they require an advance deposit before they even consider it. So do we start rolling on the reverse mortgage, which mom would have to understand and sign (it’s a 96 page form!) and hope she’s going to come home? Will they even approve it without her living at home?
Next week we’re seeing a lawyer to help sort all this out… but damn, the not-knowing just drains you. And wondering if she’s even going to be alive by the time we meet with the lawyer (and next week was the earliest appointment we could get…we made it about a week ago).
And then of course you start feeling guilty because you’re worried about money when your mom is fighting for her life… but without money she won’t get the care she needs, so… it’s a big circle.
But man, nothing prepares you for this stuff. No one teaches you the skills of dealing with the health system, y’know? Much of what we’ve learned has come from word of mouth from other people who’ve gone through this same process, and it’s a process that most often ends with funeral expenses.
It’s like death and dying is a dirty little secret in our society.
Now there’s me, my older brother, my younger step-sister, and then a 2nd remote step-sister who I rarely talk to. NONE of us have kids except the distant step-sister. And I keep thinking “Who is going to be our advocate when we’re getting shunted from hospital to hospital? While we’re all alive, we can take care of each other, but one of us will be the last..”
To quote The Who: I hope I die before I get old.
I wish I had the choice for a peaceful, pain-free death at some time of my choosing, when I can start to see the end and feel like life isn’t really worth the pain any more. I’d estimate that’s at 75 or so, depending on health. I really, really don’t want to be so old I can’t feed myself or move around. Let me die with dignity. Maybe I need to move to Sweden.
But for now, I just wish my poor mom would slip away, or come back to us. Her hovering in this twilight place where she “wakes up” and is in some strange hospital room, over and over… I hate that she has to go through that.
And there’s a point to this post besides me being a whiny bitch again.
PLEASE, if you have a single parent who is elderly, have a talk with them about situations like this. We should have done this; we should have bought the house from my mom and let her live in it for free. That would’ve protected some of her assets. It’s worth talking to a lawyer who specializes in elderly law, too; they can suggest other ways to both protect assets and be prepared for a situation like this. If you don’t handle things the right way, the health care system in the US will just bleed you dry of all your assets then toss you in the cheapest nursing home that is available.
My brother and I talked about taking these steps many times but we were always too squeamish about bringing the topic up with my mother. And now she’s paying the price. Don’t make the same mistake we did. I know this isn’t an issue for many of my readers (most of your parents are probably still quite young) but do keep it in mind when the time comes. Hell, maybe make sure your parents have had these kinds of talks with THEIR parents, if your grandparents are still around.