It’s about time I share something with you. I am one of “those people” who did not prepare for the future. We all “know” our parents will die before us and we will die before our children. We may, or may not, have a Will prepared that takes care of everything. I did. What I never actually planned for was the care my parents would need in their elder years. They had always been active and healthy and I knew they would die someday. I accepted that. Maybe you have too, but only now am I learning how you need to do more.
My parents could no longer care for themselves in 2009. Their nest egg, which had been pretty healthy in 2005 and 2006 was now less than half its value due to the decline in the economy.
Never, in my wildest dreams, did I consider my mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was not a genetic trait. I expected cancer based on family history. Not knowing about Alzheimer’s my mother’s forgetfulness, in the beginning, was something to tease her about. She laughed right along with us. Two or three years later, in her mid-80’s, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My father did the best he could, but it was too much for him. Then, he had three very major surgeries in one year. I had not expected that. Finally, I brought both my parents up from a nearby town to live in my house. The house was large and homey. At her own house, Mom had fallen and split her head open several times. My father had back problems, making it difficult for him to help her. Once, around midnight, he fell trying to help her up and they both lay on the floor unable to get up until my father could reach a phone to call a friend for help. It put a whole new meaning on the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial, not to mention all the jokes about elderly infirmities.
The good news was that my parents had set up a Trust and prepared Wills, Living Wills, Medical Powers of Attorney, General Durable Powers of Attorney, and the documents they desired to utilize for their assets. Your assets are your Estate, whether you own a car and nothing else, or have a mansion and four vacation homes, what you own constitutes your own personal Estate.
But I’m not done with my experience with my parents. They are still living with me. The transition from independent, social people to “I am just waiting to die” (their words) was quick and unforeseeable. The transition they had to go through must have been devastating. My mom kept asking to go home. My dad would visit his friends once a week. A nurse was brought in Monday through Friday. Special schedules were created for meals, baths, “outings,” and the like. The menu at my house changed to accommodate their needs. Supplies were purchased every weekend now for two families. Lots of Kleenex, toilet paper and bread. Lots of meal replacement drinks for Mom. Green tea for Dad. They left their home (we will be selling it), they lost their independence, and I eventually took away the keys to their cars. As my mother’s illness became worse, my husband and I were doing more and more for her. In full detail, it’s a very unpleasant story for each of us in different ways. In some ways I feel as though I have become closer to my mother.
If you believe, as I did, that an Alzheimer patient forgets who you are and you don’t need to feel guilty about putting them in an Alzheimer’s care facility, don’t kid yourself. Eighty percent of the people I have discussed this with have or had a parent with Alzheimer’s. Ninety percent of them said their parent recognized them until the end. Of course, I never wanted this to happen, but it did. It will happen in some unforeseeable way to my husband, and me, and my children will have to deal with it. Honestly, I don’t think they are prepared. I know I am not ready to have my children take care of me.You should know that most assisted living units do not take Alzheimer patients. If they do, they are in special units which cost more. A nice but not luxurious Alzheimer’s care residence will cost about $4,000 per month to start. It is not covered by health insurance or Medicare until a final stage is reached, at which point you may get some assistance. It is a tremendous emotional, physical and monetary expense. Your strength and your assets are depleted. Your life is not your own, but is all about taking care of your parents. The sandwich generation is what we are called. Many of us have children returning home as well as parents to care for. Don’t do this to your children. Make a plan as best you can. They will be grateful.