Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me. . ."

by Maggie Sefton

(This photo is my mom in her mid-40's.  The photo below was taken last year.)


Most of you will recognize the title of my post today is taken from that old Beatles song where the rest of the lyric  goes  “. . . . When I’m sixty-four.”

Well, my mother is a good deal past sixty-four.   (So are the two remaining Beatles, to tell the truth).  Mom celebrated her 94th birthday this last May.  Amazing, isn’t it?  I wonder how many of us will make it to 94.  My mom is in really good shape for her age.  She has no major diseases, especially the Big Three:  Heart disease, Diabetes, and Emphysema from smoking.  She’s in a wheelchair now only because in the Spring and Summer of 2011, the arthritis in her knees finally got too painful for her to use the walker---and she always refused knee surgery. 

So----my mom went from Independent Living into what’s referred to as a Skilled Care facility.  The term “nursing home” isn’t used anymore.  Here in Fort Collins, Colorado, we’re fortunate to have excellent facilities for all levels of care, including that 2nd level usually referred to as Assisted Living.  Often patients are admitted to those facilities to heal and rehab from  injuries like broken arms/legs and various surgeries.

Columbine West Healthcare is the Skilled Care facility where my mom is, and the level of care is WONDERFUL.  I cannot praise it enough.  Of course, it’s 24/7, around the clock, real honest-to-God nurses on duty.  J  Plus, scores of Nurses Aides, female and male, all over the place----wheeling residents from their rooms to the various activities and/or entertainments that are scheduled each day.  

Doggies on leashes with owners attached stroll down the hall to visit residents.  Cats visit as well, but not every cat likes to be paraded around rooms.  So, they have special ones who are super tolerant.  Jake is the kitty who visits monthly.  My mom says he “looks bored.”  J   He probably
is, but he’s a good sport.  I brought my black shorthair breed Border Collie/Black Lab  Katy to visit last week.  She’s very friendly and sociable and loves to make “new friends.”  And my mom just laughs out loud---belly laughs---when Katy puts her little black front paws in Mom’s lap and reaches over to lick under Mom’s chin.  Katy does that several times.  I tell my mom that’s a “pack kiss.”  Since dogs evolved from wolves who are pack animals, the licking beneath chins is their version of kissing and affection. J

I’m grateful beyond belief that my mom is in such a wonderful facility.  I never worry whenever I’m traveling.  They literally hover over their residents.  They all have the little oxygen things in their noses when they sleep at night.  None of them will slip away from sleep apnea, that’s for sure.  My mom is very fortunate that her pension and my step-father’s pension cover almost all of the expenses, and her savings cover the rest.  These healthcare facilities are far from cheap, folks.  Oh, no.  And I figure very few of my generation---Baby Boomers—will be able to afford it.   I tell my mom that she deserves it.  She worked over 30 years in the Civil Service in Washington, DC, when the salaries were nothing to write home about.  She was also frugal and saved.  She was a product of the Great Depression, and that left a lasting impression on the Greatest Generation.  They learned well.   Our generation---not so much.  I fear we will see far too many elderly sleeping under bridges and wrapped in blankets in city doorways.   I’m an optimist by nature, but this subject is a serious one.  And, worrisome.

I would be interested in your thoughts.   Are you fortunate enough to have a pension?  Or a financial plan?   Or, just hoping to win the lottery?   

18 comments:

Lynda Turpin said...

Hi Maggie. Dealing with aging parents can be so stressful. I'm glad that you were able to find a good place for your mother. A little over a year ago, my dad (who's 87) had a leg amputated (vascular damage from smoking his whole life). I spent a lot of time and a hunk of savings making his home organized for him to take care of himself. For a short time, we had 24/7 care at home (which is extremely expensive) because we thought he would be able to be fairly independent in a short time. But then he started having issues with memory, which progressed to symptoms of early dementia. I had to move him to an assisted living facility. It is extremely expensive and does not include on-site medical staff or provide many services (they mainly just serve meals, give medication, do laundry and help with baths). They do not deal with "difficult" patients - for instance dementia or Alzheimer's, and my dad has had a few issues that have put him in danger of being asked to leave. So far we've been able to adjust meds to get things under control but there is the constant threat of having to move him. I am not happy with the care he gets, but there aren't a lot of options. I figure that his savings will run out in another year or so and, unfortunately, I don't have money to help out. At that point, things will get even worse. The facilities that accept people without money or sufficient insurance/pensions are horrible. I truly hope that if he has to go to one of those facilities it is after he no longer realizes where he is. Unfortunately, I will know and I'm not looking forward that.

Anonymous said...

Well, personally I will have to win the Lottery to have security in my old age and more than half my friends are in the same boat. We were promised if we got our degree and especially if we got a graduate degree we would always have a good job...more than that security and some sort of retirement. But that didn't happen with Arts and Education cuts, grants that dried up, tenure that never came, and things in your personal life you couldn't always control. That might for some of us, be a divorce or others had some health problems. So of my five closest friends from College and myself only two of us have a retirement in middle age .

mary kennedy said...

Hi Maggie, the level of care you describe is amazing (and wonderful!). I was a "contract" psychologist, visiting nursing homes/assisted care facilities on the East Coast and most of them were deplorable. It was so disheartening. Yes, there were a few terrific, caring individuals, but the overall picture was very bleak. I am so glad your Mom is in a wonderful place and well cared for. What a relief to know she is happy and getting the care she deserves. If only this could happen for everyone!. A very inspiring blog, thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

We all hope to remain at home (and die, peacefully, in our sleep). If only...
I had to make the decision to place my father in a nursing home, one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. Both my parents are gone, now. I miss them every day.
Glad you were able to find a wonderful place, for your Mom. You're right, she deserves it. Our parents grew up in very difficult times and strived to give us the best they could.

Tonya Thomas said...

I wrote a story about placing a parent into assisted living. It's called Mom Can't Live Alone Anymore. It's heartbreaking when this happens in your family. http://tinyurl.com/d9j7zwt

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

Maggie, I'm so happy you found a wonderful place for your Mother. Assisted Living places are very expensive and Medicare doesn't pay anything for them. I had to put my mother and later my aunt and uncle in Nursing homes. Mom was in a beautiful one here in Ct. and was well taken care of but my aunt and uncle went to the Lutheran Home in Worcester. No they were not Lutheran and Catholics could go too. LOL The home was not beautiful but the care they each got there was by far better then my Mother's care in Ct. Mom lived about a year in the home and Uncle lived a little less than a year. My aunt lived for almost 6 years there until she fell during the night. She hit her head and died then. You have to go visit these people and at all different times to check on their care. If people only go on weekends that is when you are expected and the care will be great. They never knew when I was coming. Most times I was satisfied with all the care. If not, they heard about it.

Now for your question. I'm 77 and have my husbands pension, social security and the money I got for selling my house last year. I rent an apartment in a 55 and over community. I pay quite a bit for my 5 rooms. The apartments are about 12 years old with washer and dryer in each. I have a back patio and a front one which is shared with the man next door. I can't believe how little my utilities cost me here. Much better then at my house. Plus I don't have to pay for the snow removal or lawn maintenance, so all in all, I'm better off than I was.

Maggie Sefton said...

Oh, Lynda---I can hear your pain in your words. God Bless you. You're doing the very best you can. Check with your local city or county managers to see what other services and Help is available. This is such a BIG problem in this country and will only get worse. That's why I'm worried. I'm sending blessings.

Maggie Sefton said...

Anonymous---Boy, are you speaking Truth. This is something I've been watching happen for years and years. And you're right about those unforeseen circumstances. Divorce and other things can quickly change future plans. I know mine did. And for some of us who are self-employed (like writers) there's absolutely no pension. So---we keep working so we (and our pets) can keep eating. :/ I make a joke (dark humor) that I'll probably croak over my keyboard when I'm 100+. I'm only half kidding.

Maggie Sefton said...

I'm afraid you're right, Mary. The problem with the East Coast is it's such a huge populated area. Sheer numbers overwhelm solutions. So I'm not kidding when I say get ready to see more people sleeping under bridges and wrapped in blankets in doorways and under leaves by riverbanks. This is serious.

Maggie Sefton said...

Bless your heart, Patricia. You've experienced all of this. All we can hope for is to be in a caring situation. Bodies give out and minds get fuzzy. I'm sure everything you did and provided for your father in his final years was in love. Be at peace with that.

Maggie Sefton said...

Tonya----I'm so glad you did that. I will go and read it. Bless you. No doubt you reached many people that way.

Maggie Sefton said...

Diane---Your advice is right on the nose. You have to visit these places at different times to see what's happening. And talk to staff and young nurses aides. Ask questions. Your account about the two facilities is important for people to hear. Don't choose c place with great landscaping and pretty decor, go in and look in the rooms, talk to the staff, walk around and yes, on the weekdays.

Good job with your lifestyle decision. :) Financial planning is SO important. And you don't need a financial planner. It's simple math. Put pencil to paper and list your bills and how much you're spending and compare it to the amount of dependable income you will have in retirement----like pensions, social security, and any investment with regular payouts. Add and subtract, multiply, divide. We learned the skills in elementary, folks. You CAN figure this out yourselves. DO THE MATH. It'll be an eye opener. And you may decide to scale down like Diane. ----Advice from a former CPA :)

Kendra said...

Maggie: Thank you for sharing about your mom. How wonderful that she has made it to 94 and in relatively good health, so rare for someone her age. Caring for elderly parents can often be painful. Sounds like your experience and hers are positive, especially when Katy is involved.

My parents have passed now but I took my corgi, Phoebe, to see them on every visit. She was loved by residents and the staff and often tore down the hall to some waiting staff member's arms.

Thank you for loving and caring for your mom. Our parents deserve that in their elder years. And when they can belly laugh, all the better. Enjoy your mom and the blessings of your relationship. I miss my folks every day but I'm so glad I will see them again.

Anonymous said...

My hubs has a pension I get a tiny pension from the govt. I had forgotten about but they told me to get it at the social security office..Hubs retired early the job was a beast, he was the last in our county to get the union benefits and the younger workers were absolutely criminals in making, he never goes into any retail grocery store if I can help it at all..He slaved and was honest they asked him to work off the clock he did not, and was abused because of it, one day they stole his new jacket I got at a goodwill new the tag was cut thru it cost $350.00 new I paid $5.00 in the largest city in our state, well that was it, the union went to bat he got a big check, I proceeded to get 3 jackets at that Goodwill all new 2 for him 1 for me and my hubs retired on the spot..Something happened to all the young people who did it, it really did, Karma is a big you know what when you throw out into the universe stealing, greed and just plain crap behavior..We are oky doky as I was basically around women and men relatives and strangers who lived thru the great depression as my mother died when I was young, my baby sister was a tiny thing and I was the Mom until taken from my Dad who took to drink after his wife my mother died suddenly of cancer..I learned to save, cook, sew, manage a checkbook clean and basically make sure my brothers and baby sister lived..It bode me well, we don't buy anything we don't absolutely need and to tell the truth we get what we need at places that re-sell stuff, garage sales, etc. we are fine! Our social security is not all that and a bag of chips but we are grateful a word I never hear anymore and enough..Our tiny home paid for we lived in colorful Colorado for nearly 6 years my hubs almost 10 we had a lovely home but when our only was born I was not about to let others raise and nurse her and take care of her no I was not, sold it moved west and here we are we just don't get the spend mentality and buy buy and buy some more..As for being in a skilled facility my hubs mother lived to 86 and 1/2 smoked since she was 14 and died in 1 day in a hospital she always went to for e/r help, my so-called Mom who basically was there when all others were not lived til 95 in a nursing home hated it I visited nearly 5 days a week and took her out and gave her real food and beer and wine and all over, my best friend drove I don't even drive and she loved it, when our only was a teen I could not get over there she got pneumonia and had a DNR order they called me I rushed in a snow storm and she had passed before I could get there but I stayed in the room with my tiny family for hours, made sure everything was kosher and the funeral was later too much snow..I don't want to go to any facility but die right in the tiny house we have called home for 36 years, no heroics for me and no lay out of any monies for my hubs of 40 plus years, no siree Bob as the term is used...My mother in law had 10 kids two husbands who were philanders and expected my hubs to do everything NOT, he was the first son in the second marriage to a man who not only was missing in action but a real ladies man and did not give a you know what about his wife and kids..He lived to nearly 75 he smoked from the time he was 10 and drank from 11..Life is a crap shoot, I say be kind and loving you are not taking anything with you when you go and leave your loved ones with many many hours of love and joy...just saying~!!!!!!!!!

Maggie Sefton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie Sefton said...

God Bless you, Anonymous. You've had more than your share. Take care of yourself and your husband now. Blessings.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thank you, Kendra. You did a good job with your mom and dad. Blessings.

ladyvyvian said...

I retired early with a disability. I have social security and a small pension the postal service since I didn't work there that long. I spent most of my working life in low paying jobs raising a daughter by myself. I received child support but not enough that I was ever able to save anything. I wish I could win the lottery so I could help my daughter and grandchildren. My son-in-law has developed health problems and cannot work and the VS is raising way too long to kick in. Everything keeps going up and the income doesn't increase. I'm afraid I'm going to end up living with daughter.