Today is April 10th. My mother would have been 99 years old.
I am part of Generation Sandwich, Generation S, as the young people would call it. 'S' does not stand for slacker.
What is Generation Sandwich? It is people who have children and are responsible for taking care of their parents. They are sandwiched between the two.
When my mother turned 90, I realized she could no longer care for herself. I convinced her to come and live with me. I also had a twelve year old daughter, who lived with her mother.
I found a companion for her. This woman would come in the morning, help her get cleaned up, and make sure she had breakfast and lunch. They would go for walks or watch television together.
I lived on a schedule and curfew. I went to work, came home, cooked dinner, and if I went out, made sure I was home by 10 p.m.
In 2009, my mother broke her hip. She was a healthy woman who needed no medication. The orthopedic surgeons could not believe how good she came out of surgery. They told me people half her age did not do as well.
That is when the nightmare began. When she was in rehab social workers told me she would need constant care and pushed to have her placed in a nursing home. That is what social workers are trained to do. The nursing home industry and their political partners see to that. Social workers are just as corrupt as Illinois politicians.
I could not do that. When my father became a quadriplegic after a car accident, my mother refused to put him away. She took care of him at home, with the help of the Veterans Administration, until he died. I have nothing but good to say about the V.A. The V.A. is the only government agency that cares about people.
I sought help. I called in favors, contacted "experts," and various social service agencies. All to no avail. I emailed politicians, who bragged about their concern for the elderly. Some claimed to have staff members who were experts in senior services and could help cut the red tape. All I got from them was the usual, emails asking for campaign contributions. By the way, they were Republicans and Democrats. Talk about useless.
Aside from the companion, I found women to take care of her at home. They were less expensive than agencies. I was more than willing to pay. These women were wonderful. There are not words to describe how terrific they were.
Eventually dementia set in. Life with mom turned into a living hell. There is no better way to express it. You had to be there.
Did I mention how healthy my mother was? After a while, her money ran out. Social Security and her meager pension were not enough to cover the costs. Now, it was up to me to pay. I cashed in my IRA early. I did what I had to do until I was broke.
Finally, when she was 96, I had to put her in a nursing home. Social Security took care of that. They would not help pay for home care, but they were more than willing to pick up a more expensive nursing home tab. Your tax dollars at work.
Two months later, she passed away. On the day she died, I had about 30 dollars to my name. Oh, I had house that was paid for. Big deal. My credit was shot and I owed everyone money, including my daughter's tuition. Since I cashed in my IRA early, I owe the IRS big time.
Everyone constantly told me what a wonderful person I was. All those pats on the back made me feel lower than the sea bed. I was not a wonderful person. I was irresponsible.
What I should have done, I did not do. I did not plan ahead. I did not realize she would live so long. Her older sister preceded her in death. She was 98.
This is a cautionary tale. I do not seek more pats on the back. Pats on the back do not pay my bills. Yeah, I am that jaded.
It took a two years before I could see financial daylight. Looking back is nothing more than shoulda, coulda, woulda. I am still in the weeds but I will find my way out.
I am here to warn you. If you have an elderly parent(s) and children, make plans. Start doing your "what if" research. Find a good lawyer and make a plan with your parents. When the time comes that mom, dad, or both can no longer care for themselves, you can care for them and your children without going broke or insane.
I still have a roof over my head, a loaf of bread under each arm. I have cherished memories of my parents. But, looking back, if I had to do it all over again, I would have a plan.
Make a plan.
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