Living With Seniors

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IMG_5770There is this pithy saying that getting old is not for sissies.  Well, it’s like this, taking care of those who are elderly is not for sissies.  It is a miserable, thankless job that basically makes a person’s life a living hell, if you are doing it because of familial duty and not for cold, hard cash.  There are those who say you will be blessed for it.  That’s a crock.  You will notice they’re the ones not giving up parts of their lives to take care for the parents.  They’re probably the ones who tossed their elderly parents in a kennel and forgot about them.  It is exhausting, sucking up your time and energy, just when you reach a point in your life when you should be allowed to get a little life credit for putting up with everything all these years.

Something else is a problem.  No matter how much a person prepares for their ‘golden’ (what a joke) years, there is not going to be enough cash, unless they are extremely wealthy.  We’re not talking just about independently wealthy, but have a net worth well over $10 or $15 million.  It had better be diversified, also.  And – while we’re at it, anyone who thinks they are capable of caring for what they have, and is smug about it will have their lives ruined, trust me.  The only safety net is life-long government employment via jobs or the military, and those perks are disappearing.

We’re living in a world where the far right wants to suck anything that isn’t tied to a billionaire up, and destroy everyone who isn’t extremely wealthy.  Benefits, things that men and women who have worked their entire lives to earn, are now dried up, gone forever.  Inflation has ruined the buying power that people thought they had, even a decade ago.  I remember when it was said if you have a million in savings, you’re set for those last years of your life.  What a crock.  Forget that.

When you are even a hand-off care-giver, just being there for the mostly downs, it is an exhausting and miserable process, taking up any extra time.  You discover that it is so emotionally exhausting, you only have time for the necessities of life.  Hobbies?  What are they?  Plans for the future?  You have no future  other than caring for the parents.  Career goals?  Forget it.  Any possibility of career gains are now ruined.  All you get for being a good little child and not dumping your elderly and infirm parents is the shaft in life.

The days are endless even if you don’t do the household chores.  The stress never disappears.  There are always financial issues.  You  must worry about the scams, the alerts, and then the medical interactions.  Because physicians don’t pay attention to medications, you become a walking encyclopedia of medications.  You also live in various schedule programs, keep track of appointments, business cards, drug stores, care-givers, nurses, housekeepers, along with doing the grocery shopping, loading and unloading the car, and then putting everything up before your father with Alzheimer’s can put everything in the freezer.

People live to cheat and scam the elderly and those becoming elderly.  The other day I emailed a friend, lamenting the money my mother has spent on scams.  We’re talking about a thousand bucks a year on a salt based water softener that is killing her.  The exterminator has her convinced he needs to have her spend $150 a quarter to spray for bugs – outside.  She has a spider phobia. He’s told her that’s the  only to prevent them from going inside.  If it’s not that, it’s something else.  And – my mother is not stupid.  But – she is tired.  She’s stopped fighting the things she needs to fight, and argues about things that don’t need an argument.

There’s no such thing as a physician who truly cares about their patients.  Since the first of April, the drug interactions and problems with changes in prescriptions have literally caused a financial hardship for my sister and I.  There is no recourse.  You live with seniors who are in a panic because the meds they are taking are killing them.  The stress is horrendous.  So is the fact that you risk the possibility of not having them taken seriously.

It doesn’t end.  It doesn’t stop.  There is never a break.  Life is so rough you have literally antagonized any friends or support system.  They’re tired of it.  So am I.  In the end, it’s just you and the folks, going down with the ship.  By the time it’s over, then you’re so old, you need someone to care for you.  Forget that.  Like I said, it’s a thankless job.  There are no ‘blessings’.  There is no up-side.  It’s just exhausting, stressful, and sucks up any hope of a future.   Have a career?  Forget about it.  Want a life?  Give it up, and just deal with the fact that you will have no social life.  There are no vacations.  There are no breaks from what may not be actual physical work, but the stress and the worry.  if you say anything then the parents go into a serious crises.  It’s just better for them to die, you’re told.  That just makes the stress worse, because forget about venting.  You go to talk about it and everyone tells you just to put them in a kennel situation and get on with your life.

That’s the real problem here.  Society no longer cares about our seniors having much dignity.  It makes things ‘easier’ on them to put them in an institution where they receive mediocre care, if they are fortunate. Forget about what they have done in their lives.  Forget about their wishes.  Forget about allowing them to have a real life after they reach a certain age.  Everyone, from physicians to friends tell you it’s time they are put into a care giving situation.  I can’t imagine doing that.  My parents cared for their parents.  They were allowed to remain in their home, with dignity.  I just don’t get the automatic response that the moment someone is no longer all that swift, they are dumped, out of site.

What is wrong with our society?  It’s all so incredibly frustrating.  What ever financial security once existed has been destroyed by the Great Recession.  Real estate is a joke.  You can’t trust banking.  Money disappears.  They don’t bother giving real cost of living increases to seniors. Never mind the fact that they’ve paid far more into the system in taxes and contributed love and years served protecting this country.  All that matters is we now live in a pseudo-Christian nation of libertarians who think that if you don’t produce, you don’t deserve to live.

There is no such thing as compassion.  There are no breaks.  There are no perks.  There is only unending heart-ache, stress, and fighting to keep the parents going, even when they think it’s better for everyone if they just die.  I thought we lived in a society, a world where the elderly were to be cherished and valued.  Forget that.

Yes, I’m an emotional wreck.  I’ve been at it for three years.  I’ve given up on a major book project.  Can’t handle the stress and be able to work on it.  I have something like 9 books either finished or ready to be finished to go into edits.  I can’t even get to that process.  I want a vacation.  Even if I could afford it, I couldn’t leave.  Who would be there if there was an emergency.  I’ve spent the past 10 years of my life, half packed, waiting for medivacs, dealing with medical emergencies, pace makers, Alzheimer’s, doctors, medications, and a father who managed to lose over a million bucks, before we realized what he was doing. There ought to be some way that you can get some sort of relief, or financial compensation, but there is nothing.  We live in a compassion free society.  It’s better that way.  Just let the less than perfect die by the wayside, in the gutter and walk all over their bodies.

I feel like that is what is going to happen to me.  No, I’m not depressed.  I’m emotionally exhausted. I want a break.  I want to be able to get a real night’s sleep, go to a movie, and have dinner with friends.  Things like that no longer happen.  When the parents are gone, I’ll be so old, there will be no time to rebuild the shattered ruins of a life I once had.   The next step is to close my condo and, if there is no financial relief, if their property doesn’t start selling, well, I trash my life, and move in with them, to care for them.

Once upon a time, I had so many hopes and dreams.  Those are now gone.  I have a 90 year old father in Stage 6 with AD, who is physically quite viable, and has a great life.  I have an 84 year old mother who needs to get her physical act together and get some relief from all the medications that keep her heart working.  It shouldn’t be so difficult, but it is.  I now know where we went wrong, where they problems were, and how they could have been solved.  Now, thought, it’s too late.

The command says that we are to honor our father and our mother, that their days may be long.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is the fact that I’ve always done just that, and always will.  I’m tired.  I’m at a physical, financial, and emotional breaking point.  I don’t know where it will end, just that my life is in ruins.  I’m getting older by the day.  I’m alone, the stress is getting to me physically.  My hair is now falling out due to the stress.  Forget the plans I had.  Since I’m not married and don’t have a family, it’s my duty to give up what little remains of my life, for the family.

You hear people say, if they had it to do over again, they would.  That’s a lie, trust me.  If I knew what I know now, I would not have done what I’ve done.  I wouldn’t do it over again.  I am going to keep on keeping on.  It just shocks me, though, how in our modern society, there is no room for seniors, no way to truly help them, other than dumping them into a kennel or walking away from your family.  There are no friendly neighbors or people you know dropping in with a covered dish, flowers, or even stopping in to visit.  People have lives.  When you have AD in the home, lives no longer matter.

I wonder though, what it would be like to have a friend call up and want to know if they could drop in with dinner, or could stop by the parents’ and visit with them.  A few still do, but not many.  I just realized my mother is right.  You reach a point where your lives become a burden to anyone around you.  If you can’t do something for them, then they don’t have time for you.

I think I’ll do sweet & sour shrimp for the parents for dinner.  It’s easy to make and I have everything they need for it.  Money’s getting tight again.  For those who wonder, no I don’t have a job.  I can’t work anywhere.  I have no idea when I must be there to care for the parents.  I do all the driving.  I do the marketing, and the doctor visits.  It’s becoming at least a 4 day a week job, quite often 5 days a week.  There is no financial compensation for family members who give up their lives for the parents.  My sister pays half their bills.  I do what I can.  It just takes so much.  I’ve given up doing my hair.  Why bother, it’s falling out and not growing back.  I haven’t had a pedicure for over a year.  Accustomed to shoe shopping, my last new pair was in May of 2012.  I can’t afford new make-up, or even what I need for my face.  I can’t afford to have my Durango fixed.  We need new tires for the parents’ car, but can’t afford them.  It breaks my heart.  My mother has never wanted for a thing a day in her life.  Thanks to dishonest financial advisers, brokers and a very trusting father, and thanks to a real estate crash, surviving is a battle.

What would it be like to have a couple days off, to be able to just shop, to go out for a real dinner and not order the cheapest thing on the menu (so my father can get what he wants)?  I’m tired of having to sacrifice so that my father has everything perfect.  My poor mother is sacrificing even her own health to make everything just so for him.  She’s taking it too far.  But, that’s another story.

I guess what bothers me the most is how little society values anyone who is no longer able to make a financial contribution to enrich others.  Is that what our world is now about?  There ought to be a way that those of us who have given up our lives to care for our elderly parents could receive some sort of financial compensation. But, that’s not how the world works, not any more.

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