“Old age comes at a bad time! When you finally know everything, you start forgetting everything you know. ” (source unknown)
The great lady of our family (we will call her “Come”), 93 years old, has had severe in the last five years: she has broken both her thighs, she has broken her leg, she has suffered several mini-strokes, she has had recurrent urination. pathways infections and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which is slowly progressing. Honestly, the situation is miserable for Ella and her family.
After several restorations in short-term medical rehabilitation facilities and with a lot of resistance from her, we put her in a life support institution for about 10 months. We thought she could engage with other residents and frequent social activities, but she didn’t. Of course, unfortunately, her hearing loss and refusal to wear hearing aids (“stir my hair”) contributed to her isolation.
Last month, due to her declining mental capacity, she was unceremoniously told to leave the life support organization (as with the removal on that day). Although the execution had no dignity, we understood the facility’s decision. At this point, she lost her ability to bathe, use a remote control on a phone or TV, take medication, and so on. This is a pitiful circumstance – Ella does not admit her inability for daily activities, but still recognizes family members, can distribute sarcastic zinger and can still entertain us with stories from a long time ago.
My wife is in charge of taking care of Ella. She hasn’t been home in five weeks because Ella lives two hours away. Most of the last month has been spent analyzing What’s Next? About Ella’s living conditions, medical needs, and limited financial resources.
Can we find 24-hour home care for Ella? How would it be paid? Can we accommodate her in our own home or in the home of another family member? Can it be well cared for and safer in a memory care facility? How will this level of specialized care be paid? Do we have to sell the house and its area now? She finds such solace in sitting on her porch watching deer and wild turkeys roam around. How about the benefits of Medicaid? Has she optimized her benefits for the VA as a veteran’s widow?
Beyond her inconsistency and general rage, everyone in the family loves Ella. She is deeply revered. The situation is emotionally miserable. What to do? How to do it? How to support Ella’s emotional quality of life as her physical and cognitive capacity deteriorates. Argh How did my wife stay with that weight?
Here is my question to you: Who or what will bear the burden of caring for your adults one day? Will the burden fall on a well thought out and well executed plan of your design? Or will your family members struggle to take care of you? It is never too early to start planning this statistically probable situation. My advice: Talk to your insurance consultant about what is or can be insured.
Work with a lawyer to complete a property and care plan for the elderly. Think about your “what if” accommodation options for mental or physical disabilities. Can you really “grow old on the spot”? Could you live with another family member? Are the opportunities limited or expanded by your financial resources? Browse the resources on the Alzheimer’s website in Tennessee (alztennessee.org). Most importantly, talk to your family. Have difficult conversations about your future.
This experience made me think correctly. I never want to be a burden to my family. Even if I face difficulties, I want to bring a positive attitude to these life decisions. Misery is not always a choice, but we can try to choose better. Think about it sooner or later.
I recently cleared the overgrown alley in Ella’s country house. The next day I had about 40 chigger bites. The itching was miserable. I got off easily.
Paul Fain is a certified financial planner and honorary chairman of Asset Planning Corp., a Knoxville-based financial planning and investment management company. He welcomes comments and ideas for columns, but cannot offer specific personal financial advice. Email him at [email protected]