Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Message For All of Us

by Maggie Sefton


My mother in 1965, when she was 45


My mother just turned 95 years old on Mother's Day this year, May 10th.  That's quite a milestone.  There was no birthday cake.  The nurses, nurses' aides, and all the other caregivers at the wonderful Skilled Care facility offered her whatever she wanted.  And they were delighted when Mom took a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  She went another few days before she ate anything else.  Then on Sunday, the nurses asked her what she wanted, and she once again asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and delighted them when she took two little bites.  Then, later, she had a bite of ice cream.

Hooray for PBJ!  And ice cream.  As you've probably guessed by now, my mother is slowly exercising her right to choose how she wants to pass.  On her own terms, and in no pain.  We should all be so lucky.  I'm visiting every day and sit and talk with her.  She's still reading the daily newspaper that's   delivered to her own room.  And she watches television.  Over the weekend, once again, she chose the channels that show golf tournaments.  It makes me smile.  She likes to talk with me and appreciates my visits, but she always reminds me to turn that TV back on when I'm about to leave.  The woman never played golf in her life, but she loves watching professional golfers on TV.

She regularly asks me "How come I'm still alive?"  To which I reply:  "Because you have none of the Big Three Killer Diseases, Mom.  No heart disease.  No emphysema.  And no diabetes."  The Big 3 take most people's lives earlier than 95 years old.  She doesn't have them.  So, she's still here.  :)  Bless her heart.

My mother is also fortunate in that she can afford to live in a marvelous skilled care facility (they don't call them nursing homes anymore).  And, believe me, it's not cheap.  Back East where I grew up, I'm sure the cost is way higher than here in Fort Collins, Colorado---an hour north of Denver.  Since I was a CPA out there in the working world, I am quite comfortable with numbers.  So, I'll share some of these with you, folks.  I'm sure a lot of you out there have aging parents, so believe me, you WILL face this situation in the future---just as our children will be facing it years from now.

The monthly charge for the Columbine West Skilled Care facility is approximately $7500 each month.  To that charge are added the separate charges for Nurse Practitioner's regular visits plus visits by the  dentist and any other visiting physician and physician's assistant.  Add to that a visit by a specialist, X-rays, other tests, and monthly pharmacy bills.  Easily rounding up to $8000 a month for her own private room.  You can do the math.  That amounts to $96,000.  So,  we can easily say it costs my mother $100,000/year.  

That's a lot of money.  And I think it's safe to say that the majority of Americans could not afford to pay  those bills.  How can my mother afford it?   Well, she has something that most Americans no longer have---and some never will have.  I don't have one.  And that's a pension.  My mother was a single, divorced Working Mom in an Ozzie and Harriet world.  She was smart and industrious and had great secretarial skills which enabled her to take the exam required to apply for a secretarial position with the Federal Government in Washington, DC, years and years ago.

She worked 30 years and retired with a pension.  A year later, she married my stepfather, Stetson, who also worked 30 years for the Federal Government.  Stetson was Chief Historian for the U.S. Army and was the editor of the official history of World War II for the U.S. Army.  Stetson was also a neighbor in Arlington where I grew up.  Stetson's wife, Mary Alice, had died two years earlier from lung disease caused by her smoking for most of her life.  Stetson was older than my mom and died in 1985.  They had eleven wonderful years together.

So----those two pensions plus money from some small investments that my mom and Stetson had accumulated and which I've had to sell off piece by piece have provided the funds to pay all those monthly charges.  As a former CPA, Fiduciary Responsibility runs deep in my bones.  I'm just thankful the money has been there these last few years.  That has enabled my mother to spend these last years of her life in comfortable surroundings with skilled nurses and loving nurses' aides who regularly come in to get hugs and kisses from my mom, Benny.  She deserves it.

And they do love her and take fantastic care of her.  A friend asked if it was sad to watch this happening----this downward path.  We all know where this is going.  One of these days the nurses will walk into her room and find that she's no longer breathing.  Having peacefully passed----in no pain----when she was ready.   On her own terms.  I've always believed that when Mind and Spirit decide to leave-----Body will follow.   We should all be as fortunate as my mother, Benny.  God Bless her.          

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary. God bless you mother and god bless you for assisting in the fiscal area. It's a scary world out there for us aging people with physical limitations...I keep urging my younger co-workers to see to their financial futures while still at max physical capabilities but it doesn't seem to loom large on their horizons. I worry.

Kathleen Bylsma h5apby@yahoo.com

Grandma Cootie said...

What wonderful pictures. Hooray for your mother doing things her way. And it's wonderful you are able to spend this time with her. We are fortunate that we both have pensions and a retirement fund, but it is still scary to see how quickly what looks like a lot of money on paper can be used up. We were about 49 when we bought long term care. Had watched our daughter's former father-in-law have a heart attack, wait too long for paramedics, and spend 4 years unable to talk or do anything for himself, and his wife had to provide most of the care for those 4 years. Our children are grown but most likely will never be in a position to help us, so we try to be as prepared as we can.

Laura K. Curtis said...

I'll add something else very few of us think to have that (thank all the powers out there) both of my parents decided to invest in when they were younger (since they had jobs taht didn't provide much in the way of pensions): long-term care insurance. Because eldercare is so expensive and we want them to have the very best so they can, like your mother, live life on their own terms until the end. Tell Benny all your online friends think she's the bomb!

loveamystery said...

My friends uncle just went to n sister living community and it's lovely. It of cours is jut one room but much like living in a hotel with a library (essential) and different programs to keep them semi active. 16,500. a month. It scares me to think of the future for not only me but my children. I want to live forever but I never want to age, an. Impossibility but with what it's going to cost in. The future it's the only way I'll e able to live. I love that your mom is in charge of her life.

Anonymous said...

Maggie, thank you for saying the things that so many people don't want to talk about--it is such a vital conversation to have. You and your mom both seem to have your eyes wide open and I'm happy for both of you. She's very lucky to have such a warm, caring place to live--I know from personal experience (my grandfather is currently in a nursing home) that most people aren't as fortunate. It would be nice to start a conversation about the way our society treats the elderly. Best wishes to your mom.

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

God Bless you and your mother. I know what it is like to have people in Nursing Homes.(Yes, I will still call them that) I was responsible for putting my mother, then an uncle and aunt in one. Mom didn't have much money but I must say, she was in a great place. I also found with my Aunt and Uncle that when Aunt's (uncle had passed) money ran out, they were treated the same way as when they could pay for themselves. Granted the homes were not as nice as the place your mother is in. God bless the nurses and aids who work in those places. I couldn't do it. And please, everyone who knows someone in one of these places, VISIT THEM. I was about an hour away from Aunt and Uncle but went once or twice every week and then would talk to a lot of the residents at the same time.. Most weekdays, I never saw another visitor. Mom was closer and I went every other day but still, never saw many people visiting others. To me that was the saddest thing. On weekends more people were there but not many. Please visit these people.

Kate Collins said...

My mother asked the same question before she passed. She couldn't understand why she was still living. My only reply was that there was a reason. We just didn't know it. My mom was fortunate to pass in her own bed at home, which was her wish. We didn't have the experience you're having, but it sounds like your mom is in a fantastic place. God bless her.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I agree. Middle-aged people now are not thinking let alone planning for their older years. We ALL age and we all will die. So we do have to prepare for it. That's why I put the title that I did on the post. Hopefully it will encourage some people to think about it.

Maggie Sefton said...

Good for you, Grandma Cootie. That's smart.

Linda A. Thompson-Ditch said...

Beautiful piece.

Maggie Sefton said...

I love it, Laura. :) I'll tell her. And you were smart to buy that. Thirteen years ago I bought a moderate LT care policy. I couldn't afford an expensive one. Meanwhile, I'm saving like a squirrel.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thanks, loveamystery. I do too. :)

Maggie Sefton said...

Thank you, amreade. She is definitely fortunate. I wish people would start a conversaton about this.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thank you, Diane. I'm so glad your mom had good care. And, yes, there are people there who seldom if ever have visitors. It's sad.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thank you, Kate. I'm so glad your mother got to pass on her own terms. It's a blessing.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thank you, Linda. :)

Anonymous said...

Maggie, what a wonderful and moving piece. My mom got to live in her own home until she was almost 81 and then moved into a very nice assisted living place until she broke her pelvis and became bed ridden a month before she died. It certainly didn't cost as much as your mom's care, but she had enough with Dad's Social Security, her state pension, Dad's state pension, and her savings so that we three didn't pay anything except for personal items and activities we took her to. She was a true product of the Depression and saved her money so we each inherited a nice nest egg. Only wish I had as much money as she had as I certainly didn't save as much. Cordella

Mary Jane Maffini said...

I loved reading about your mom, Maggie! What a great spirit. And I love the picture from 1965. All that Corningware too. Very cool. Hugs. MJ

Liz Straw said...

My mother turned 88 in March, she was home for the event and so far has stayed after falling and breaking her leg (do not ask how many times my mother has fallen and broken something, I do not think I know all of the times). She spent a little over five months in a "rehab" center. They ignored the fact that her broken leg was so swollen. She is now in Congestive heart failure due to poor circulation in her legs. She has to were TED hose, which are not the easiest things to put on her. One of the things I have been doing is trying to cook low sodium foods. HA, this does not go over well with my mother. "I'll eat what I want to." We had baked potatoes the other night and I was ordered to get the salt shaker. I didn't tease her too much, I know she knows, no salt. I also figure that she is 88 and been a fantastic mother and wife. She and my dad are still married, have been for 69 years.
Mom will never get rid of her walker or the TED hose.
I know how much they paid after her three months of medicare were up. Big $$$.
Not long after she came home my dad read an article that stated $91,000 was the lowest it would probably cost to keep anyone in a healthcare facility to live. Mom will stay at home as long as we can keep her here. I am slowly letting them off my tether. Hopefully my house will sell soon and they can get me out of their back bedroom. Not that I will stay away or stop coming to fix dinner for them. At 92 my dad has few domestic skills.He does their laundry, cleans the kitchen up to some degree, I go back and try and do more and his cooking skills are nil. The man would live on peanut butter sandwiches give the opportunity.
Having parents reach this age is not unusual in our family, but I have always dealt with it from a different perspective. Now I must make sure that calls are made, appointments are made, that they have what they need from the store and so forth.
I empathize with you. The hardest thing to do, is to let them do it their way.

Maggie Sefton said...

I'm so glad your mom had a peaceful passing. And, yes, my mom was also a product of the Depression. Born in 1920. They were a tough lot. The Greatest Generation, for sure.

Maggie Sefton said...

Thanks, M.J. And, yes, we all had that Corning Ware back then. :) Boy, that brings back memories.

Maggie Sefton said...

I love that story about the baked potato and the salt shaker. I agree. Let her have as much salt as she wants. Heck. They're in the last years, so I think they can eat anything they want. :) Why, not? Me, I'll probably ask for one of those Russell Stover boxes of assorted chocolates and eat that. And then I'll probably ask for another one. :D Who cares?

Patsy from Illinois said...

Oh my gosh, I want that kitchen! I remember those stoves, they were great. Your mom sounds like a wonderful mom. I just found the Cozy Chicks and I love it. Thanks.