My Dad and Mom are getting old. This is not a new thing, this is an evolving thing. My Mom keeps forgetting things and repeating herself and my Dad has 17 doctors.
Where did the time go? Gone are the days when they were the ones playing volleyball and throwing horseshoes at our family picnics. Gone are the days where we asked them to babysit for our little ones or help us with a birthday party. Gone are their weekly trips to the casino. They have become dependent on us now and I don't think they are happy with it.
I have watched them gradually become these cute little old people that every one loves. What I did not expect was all the work that goes along with getting old.
My father was diagnosed with lung cancer about two years ago. At 74 and in relatively good health, cancer was not going to win. Positive thinking and lots of pep talks got us through the last two years of surgeries, chemo, radiation and even participation in a lung cancer study at Yale. Things have gradually gotten worse. He has 4th stage metastatic lung cancer to the liver and the pancreas.
My Mom has just had vein bypass surgery on her entire left leg and is struggling to help my Dad. She has her own nurse upstairs and Dad has a home health aide downstairs. I jokingly tell them that I should open up an adult daycare so they can have some company.
As we work each day at trying to make their lives comfortable with what is left of it, I never thought that it would be the paperwork that would make me cry.
My father worked his entire life and raised 6 kids and in return he cannot get at his insurance. They have what is called an "Elimination Period" in his long-term healthcare clause...in other words, they are waiting for him to die, so they don't have to pay him the money that he has sent to them every month for the last 20 years. He has to pay out of pocket for the next 28 days before he gets any of the insurance money.
I also never realized that we should have talked about their finances, their will and their living wills. I never realized that it takes a full-time job on the phone to get to the bottom of each hospital bill. I never realized that you need to talk to your parents now about their funeral arrangements and their obituary.
For some reason, I just thought I had more time. I am a very organized person, but I really feel like I dropped the ball on this. People tell you to be prepared, but no one has prepared me for all of this. I have tried to educate myself as best I can on what is offered to my parents in Connecticut and in the town.
For the most part, people have been very helpful. I have talked to the Agency on Aging. I have talked to CT Hospice, the VA, the VNA, and almost every home healthcare agency in the area to get the best prices for my parents' care. I also called and she was most helpful with information on medication assistance, fuel assistance and taxes.
We, the children and grandchildren are taking shifts of two or three hours at a time so that we can all be there for them. I have devised a schedule for the sitters, the meds and all the other things that the doctors, the nurses, the physical therapist, the social worker and the aides have asked me to do. My Dad and Mom have only been home together for about three weeks, so we have only just begun.
I just would like all of you to realize that we all need to get our ducks in a row. Parents, it is never too early to get a will prepared. As your parents begin to decline in health, talk with them about what they have in place already to help you out in the years to come. The responsibility of the elderly is resting upon our hands and we need to be ready.