Sometimes I Feel Like a Piece of Bologna

Friday, February 23, 2007

What to do With Mom?

I’ve seen a lot of articles lately like the one in the Pittsburg Tribune-Review dealing with adapting a home to move aging parents in with one of their adult children. The issue is becoming more real to me as I watch my mom decline with each phone call and visit. I’m growing increasingly concerned that she won’t be able to live alone much longer. She gets more confused with numbers and banking, and has to send me more and more business items that she use to manage herself. And I expect that she won’t be able to drive much longer. I think it’s just sheer stubbornness that keeps her going now. And that’s not a bad thing—most of the time.

The dilemma is what to do when the time comes. I live four hours away from her in one of the most expensive housing markets in the US. Our little three-bedroom, one bath home is worth almost a million dollars. Or so they say. It’s barely adequate for hubby and I, let alone bringing Mom in.

But two brothers live about two hours from her and four hours from me. And although Sis lives the closest, she isn’t in a position to do much and in fact, does less now than those of us at a distance. The three of us distant ones all work. And the sad truth is that none of us feel we could handle more than a weekend at a time with Mom. Of course, as long as our step dad is living, she won’t be willing to move away anyway.

So I’m sitting here tonight after another phone call with no answers and a lot of questions.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Cost of Family Care Giving

Are you ready to be discouraged? Read the statistics at and see the toll that family care giving takes on Gen Sandwichers, the health care system, and the economy. It’s pretty amazing.

How big is the issue? A nationwide CBS poll of 1,142 adults, conducted Feb. 8-11, found that 1-in-5 respondents has cared for an elderly parent and 43 percent of those people say that caring for the parent has caused disputes within the family.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Surviving the Sandwich Generation has a wonderful Money Magazine article called Sandwich Generation: Survive the midlife tug of war. It includes an extensive list of web sites, books and people that can help you to be both a good kid and a good parent. I’m going to bookmark it and spend some time there. Lots of resources and ideas for Gen Sandwichers.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Medicare Spending Cuts?

The news media has been hyping and whining about the “cuts” in Medicare spending, scaring old people and Gen Sandwichers alike. To hear the media tell it, the sky will surely fall if the President’s budget is enacted.

Well, in an article entitled “Washington’s Dishonest Budget Math,” the Cato Institute tells us what really happening. How Washington budgets are really set, and how President Bush’s budget really adds to the actual dollars spent on Medicare and Medicaid, rather than subtracting them.

The article quotes another by the American Enterprise Institute which goes into even more detail on the true budget plans, pointing our that “federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid is set to increase by $84 billion from 2006 to 2008.”

Shame on the media for trying to scare old people over something that isn’t even real!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Thieves Target Medicare Beneficiaries

A news service in South Florida is reporting scammers calling Medicare recipients. The telemarketers insist that the seniors need new “verification card numbers” from Medicare. The callers then ask them to disclose their checking account information.According to complaints received by Medicare, the bank account numbers are used to withdraw money from their accounts electronically.

I've seen this report from other localities, so it behooves all of us to remind our parents to be on the alert and never give personal or financial information over the phone.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Vacationing with Kidults, Part 2

Susan left a comment about my post on Vacationing with Kidults. I wanted to address her comment in a more public way to encourage all of you who still have kids at home. She said:

That sounds so great. At this point I can't imagine (I have teens) my kids WANTING to vacation with us - they are so chomping at the bit to get out and have their independence. It sounds so great.

Yes, Susan we are indeed blessed. We worked hard at developing a good relationship with our son as he was growing up. And travel had a big place in our lives. Those are both keys in what we’re trying to develop now that he’s married.

When he was young, we traveled to some wonderful places around the US and elsewhere almost every year. He could find his way around an airport at five or six. Vacations gave us uninterrupted time together and great adventures. We chose destinations that we thought he’d enjoy—at least most of the time. As we went through his teen years, I don’t think it occurred to any of us that enjoying being together was odd. Of course, we home schooled, so togetherness and mutual respect were part of our family culture.

Now our travel together has an added advantage for him and his wife. We pay. I hope that isn’t the only reason they come with us, but it works. We learned this from some family friends. They have what they call the Grammy trip. Each year, Grammy takes the whole family of one of her children to some exotic place. So every third year, our friends enjoyed a wonderful vacation with Grammy. And Grammy had the undivided attention of her children and grandchildren. In this family, the trip was more than a freebie. It was an opportunity to make memories. I always envied them and decided that we would become “Grammy” just as soon as our son left home.

They spent nine days with us at Christmas (I wrote about this here and here), but this was our first trip together. A bit more expensive than traveling with him alone since we rented two hotel rooms, but we wanted it to be a special time for them. (And what newlyweds want to share a room with Mom and Dad?) It gave them opportunities to be alone and times we could be together. We did a bit of sightseeing, going to the Reagan Library—one of his favorites. She had never been there, so it was a treat for her. We had several other activities planned, but what they wanted was mostly time to veg. We were able to be flexible and still enjoy them, which was the most important thing to us.

I hope they enjoyed it. We sure did. Now we’re all back at work, but remembering a brief interlude of togetherness. Again I was impressed with our dear DIL, who is learning how we travel. Son, of course, fell right into the pattern, but we’re different from her family and that has to be a bit stressful.

Susan, I hope you’ll find a way to build special memories with your teens. Yes, they want independence, but that isn’t mutually exclusive from time with family. Make trips as unique as you can afford. Cater to their interests, even if those aren’t yours. Find areas of common ground. Perhaps begin by vacationing with another family. We did that during the teen years, partially to provide companions for our only child, and it was great fun. The relationship you build during these years will pave the way for closeness when they are on their own. Best wishes!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Series on Trading Places: Caring for Aging Parents

This week MSNBC is doing a series of reports on caring for aging parents. Read the first two interviews here and here and a report on the series. The main focus seems to be how common this experience is these days. Seems as if an increasing number of us are facing this challenge.

“A generation caught between two others” discusses the startling lack of geriatric resources now, and in the future when our generation will need it.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Vacationing with Kidults

We just enjoyed a wonderful mini-vacation with our kids. Our DIL had Lincoln’s birthday off, so we met in Ventura for a three-day weekend. It’s fun vacationing with both of them. We've always loved traveling with our son, and now we get to double our pleasure. We’re still learning how to do this, but I’m confident that this will be the first of many wonderful trips together. They’re good at taking time for themselves, and we’re getting better at allowing them that freedom. Yep, parenting kidults is at least as much fun as parenting kids, and sometimes easier!

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hire Family as Caregivers

Elizabeth at GenBetween cites an article from Career Journal on paying a family member to provide care for an aging parent. As she says, this would work splendidly in some families and terribly in others.

Marsha Kay Seff
recommends that the primary caregiver have the parents create a contract or agreement covering responsibilities and compensation to avoid problems with siblings, especially those who aren’t helping.

While it may be an ideal situation for the parent, allowing them to stay in their home longer, I see two possible disadvantages, depending on the family situation.

1. I’ve seen the caretaking offspring physically or emotionally abuse the elder. Of course, this can happen just as easily with non-family caregivers, but it’s especially disgusting when abuse happens by a family member. If that abuse also involves control over the parents’ finances, it could get messy.

2. It will reduce the estate, not only making the parents potentially eligible for Medicaid, but also resulting in one sibling getting “more.” In contentious families and those where one sib may need the money more than others, this can work well or terribly. If one sib has had his or her eye on the estate, watching it dissipated to another sib may be more galling than having it paid to a stranger. Sad.

But for families where one sib is bearing the lion’s share, it could be a solution.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Expressing Love to Aging Parents on Valentine’s Day

"Whether from son or daughter to mother or father, Valentine's Day provides an opportunity to say 'I Love You' in a variety of ways," says eldercare advisor Esther Koch. "It may take some forgiveness, but creating 'Moments of Joy' can eliminate years of regret."

She goes on to suggest several ways adult children and grandchildren can make the day special for their aging parents. This is a great reminder as Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it. I usually send a card, but Koch has given me some more creative ideas.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Do You Need Long Term Care Insurance

Clay Cotton in Insurance Breakdown makes a good case for purchasing long-term care insurance.

Then an article called Do Your Baby Boomer Parents Need Long Term Care Insurance? at Generation X Finance gets really personal for this baby boomer. While he has some of his facts wrong, he still makes some good points.

To see how LTC saavy you are, take the John Hancock quiz.

We’re still debating, but I’m leaning to buying.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

50 Questions for Seniors to Ask Before They Move

Lisa Dunn in Real Sage Advice lists 50 questions seniors (or their Gen Sandwich offspring) should ask before making a move. Good questions and worth considering.

Not that they would have made a difference to my parents. We knew it was time for them to move when my 82-year-old mom was climbing up onto the roof to sweep the leaves and lugging the garbage down a 45-degree angle driveway in the rain. We needed to get them onto flat ground and into a place requiring less maintenance. My step dad was already mostly blind by then, so most of the maintenance fell to Mom. And I was worried about a real fall.

We talked to them about moving to a senior mobile home complex for about a year. They didn’t want to move, but realized the time was coming. One day I got a call asking if I’d come up and look with them. I asked if we were just looking or buying. Just looking. So we drove up and met with their realtor and looked at several mobile homes. None of them were quite “it.”

I suggested that we also look at assisted living while we were there. We went to the one place they knew of—a multi-story rather ugly monolith filled with walkers and wheel chairs and old people. We saw someone they knew, who invited us in to see her little two-room apartment. I could see my step dad emotionally shutting down. We left, went back to the house and agreed to keep looking. Hubby and I drove home, expecting to come back again in a few weeks.

The next day I got a call. Dad had made an offer on one of the places we had looked at. It was the cleanest and most attractive, but also the darkest. And only two bedrooms. Not perfect, but it’s been home for almost three years now.

A year or so after the move, they finally stopped blaming me for making them move, and finally began to consider this as home. Most of the time.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Getting Mom to Eat

Susan at Literary Mama writes a wonderful story about food and it’s role in family life and memories. I was particularly struck by her comment:

After my father died and my mother was living alone, she slipped into depression and a certain apathy. "I wasn't hungry today," she'd report on the telephone, three thousand miles away, "so I just had some Diet Coke and potato chips for dinner." Some days, she'd alternate and have Diet Coke and a Hostess snowball cupcake. Pretty quickly, we realized she was not doing well on her own and we arranged to have her come stay with us -- first for visits of a few months, and eventually, on a permanent basis.

How I relate to this! I ran into the same thing with my mom several hundred miles away. She’d come home from visiting my step dad at the nursing home and have a drink and then be too tired and too depressed to fix anything for dinner. Some days all she’d eat was a tiny McDonald’s hamburger for lunch (and we all know how much protein Is in those things!), but often not even that. My brother took to calling about dinner time every evening, encouraging her to eat. I was glad. It was one less thing for me to nag her about.

When we moved Dad to the board and care home, the delightful owner began inviting Mom to join them for lunch. She, of course, declined, not wanting to be a burden. I, of course, encouraged her to eat. I suggested she offer to pay for lunch. At the nursing home, a guest tray was $5.00 and the food wasn’t worth eating. Here, the food actually looked appealing, so she offered to pay. The owner declined, but they eventually settled on $1.00 per meal. Now every day I know that Mom is getting one tasty and balanced meal. In fact, she often complains that there’s too much food, and she often brings home a doggy bag for dinner. She likes the food and has stopped losing weight. One problem solved.

God bless Shaina, who gives from her heart and makes sure that Mom, who isn’t her patient, stays healthy.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Another Flavor of Gen Sandwich

A few days ago I read a fascinating post by Sherrie Ashcraft on The Mother Blog. She wrote about her particular flavor of sandwich, and then added some details in the comment section of my January 25 post.

She wrote, in part,
In my blog I mentioned about us moving my mother-in-law here from AZ. That was an extremely difficult decision to make, as it meant breaking up her marriage! Let me explain: she lived with her second husband in the home of a lady who cared for both of them. But as Mother's Alzheimer's worsened, the lady was no longer able to care for her and the doctor said she needed to go to a facility. No way were we going to have her somewhere like that, with no family around, when we lived two states away. So after much prayer we felt the best thing for her was to be close to us. Her husband was too frail to move, plus his daughter would not allow it. So, the day after their 20th anniversary, we took Mother away on the plane with us. Kind of felt like the bad guys, there for awhile, though Mother was very happy with the move. She talks to her husband on the phone most weeks and they continue to tell each other how much they love each other. And she continually reminds him that God is in control of their lives and eventually, they will be together.

By the way, I'm the oldest of five, and also known as "the responsible one."

I wanted to make sure that you all had a chance to read her story. Yes, she’s unique. But so are you. I’d love to hear your story. Susan, Elizabeth, and Pete also left comments worth reading. There are as many flavors as sandwiches as there are readers out there. Let’s build community.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Good Report for Medicare Part D

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that more than 39 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare prescription drug plans.

According to CMS, the average monthly price of premiums under the drug plans declined by $1 to $22 per month, compared to last year -- 42% lower than original estimates. Beneficiaries on average are saving $1,200 annually. According to a CMS tracking survey, about 75% of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a drug plan reported satisfaction with the benefit.

Sounds like maybe it ain’t broke…