Life, as you have known it, is done.
I’ve been facing this sudden reality for about the past two months. My divorced mother, 76, who lives in a very far away city in Canada — I am just north of New York City — now must move into a nursing home. I have someone there sharing power of attorney with me, but even so it has become an unpaid, draining, overwhelming, full-time job demanding almost daily decisions, all of them with major consequences.
None of which are anything I have ever faced before or have a frame of reference for.
I’m the only child.
If you have not yet entered this specific obstacle course, a few things you need to think about:
Does your parent have a will? Do you know where it is and who is the executor?
Have they, in advance, designated a power of attorney?
Do they, or you, have a written inventory of all their belongings and which they might want to keep when they have to trade a home for one room?
What do they want to do with all ephemera — photos, letters, documents? Have you or they sorted through it and identified what is important or of sentimental value? Identified who’s who in the photos?
Who will handle your parent’s affairs financially?
Do they have long-term care insurance? (Do you?)
Have you discussed any of this with your parent?
Do you have anyone, like a geriatric care manager, to help you if you are trying to deal with all of this from a distance?
Here’s what we’ve faced:
She fell in the hospital, breaking her hip in the emergency room
Surgery to repair her hip and months of rehab and physical therapy to regain strength and mobility
Another fall in the hospital, which protested there was no way they could prevent yet another one
Bowel surgery and a colostomy
She has COPD and heart problems as a result
She has early, for now, mild dementia and trouble with short-term memory
The learning curve is vertical!
These are just some of the many people I’ve spoken to in the past three months:
Two nurses, doctors (at least four, so far), physical therapist, occupational therapist, nursing home staff at four homes while seeking a suitable and available bed, hospital social worker, hospital risk manager, attorney, realtor, notary for the buyers for her apartment; auction house coming to appraise and sell her things; Salvation army for picking up the rest, movers to move her into the nursing home, airline (for my flight); car rental (for my visit), UPS (for packing and shipping back here whatever I can take or keep), bank staff to try and arrange handling of her finances…
The only thing keeping me sane is knowing many other women also going through this hell or who have already gone through it, and who kindly offer compassion, humor and advice.
It is a maelstrom of grief, fear, sadness, confusion, anger, frustration, loss. And the cost is staggering — $6,000 a month for one room. Yes, a nursing home room is definitely much cheaper elsewhere, but she is not physically able to move and emotionally would not want to as her friends are in this city.
Have you been through this?
How did you cope?