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Elder Care is exhausting!

April 2nd, 2009 at 06:58 pm

Five phone calls and several hours on the phone long distance, but I think we at least have a plan. Even if it's just a plan to get more information.

A social worker will go out and assess Mom and her living situation. They can't force her to take care of herself, but at least they can evaluate things and give a different perspective.

I'll think about the costs after they provide the information. No use worrying about things before they happen.

Good news, well, a smile. I was panicking thinking I had two hours of prime time long distance charges. Then I remembered the new phone plan just kicked in, which includes unlimited long distance. Smile A silver lining among all the black smoke.

We're in a Heated Agreement!

April 1st, 2009 at 08:36 pm

DH and I are so both upset with my sister right now, we are positively bristling. Unfortunately, since we've decided not to respond to her until we calm down and do some research, we're boiling over at each other. It's a scalding heated agreement that we are angry together about, and yet here we are, well, angry. Sigh.

This all could have been prevented. It should have been. Before my Dad passed away, he begged my Mother to sell their house and move into a retirement community. The housing market was up, and even though the home is older, it would have closed quickly. The retirement community provided progressive care, so as my father's illness worsened, more medical staff, less straining, and now as my Mom struggles alone, she would have had everything she needed.

Even a reverse mortage would have worked, at least a year or two ago.

Instead, she refused. Then Dad wanted to get the house retrofitted for their walkers and handicaps: bathroom fixtures, wider doorways, ramps going in and out of the home. But he died before it was taken care of.

I live on the opposite coast of the U.S., thousands of miles away. So my sister, who lives near Mom, started caring for my Mom on weekends. Washing sheets, weeding the garden, just being there. In exchange, my Mother transferred the house into her name, or at least willed it to her. Mom is 87, and we are never quite sure what she has really done versus what she says, and my sister hasn't really been clear.

Last year my sister transferred all my Mother's money into her own accounts where she said she was getting better rates. DH and I were pretty adamant that she not put it into stocks or investments that were already showing signs of going south. It's not clear what happened with Mom's accounts, but sister said she lost $30K of her own money. I didn't think she had $30K of her own saved away, but, well...

...and she decided Mom should remodel her kitchen instead of putting in the handicapped features. New countertops, new top of the line appliances, $40K. In a very old, small house. I pressed Mom not to do this, Mom is not even allowed into the kitchen according to her doctors. But she wanted my sister to have what she wanted, and my sister wanted the best. Mom's money, Mom's choice.

But here's the rub. Mom uses a walker, and she has been falling. Alot. We had paid for installation and monitoring by a good facility, but Mom and sister canceled it and picked up a different contract with a system that doesn't work that well. She uses it several times a week, sometimes a day. But she's so old and weak, most of the people on her "call" list aren't strong enough to lift her.

As I blogged, she recently fell and laid on the grass, in the rain, for over two hours, with a giant bump on the head. When help finally came, she refused to go to the ER (where an assessment of her living conditions would be required). Sister came, sent everyone away, etc.

Yesterday I received a scalding email from my Sister, demanding that I move out to care for Mom, and pay for additional care. I'm currently disabled from my accident, my husband continues his fight with cancer, and even though I'm just in my 40s, I can't provide care for everyone. My husband and I arne't employed right now. My sister flat out refused in her email to sell Mom's house. She plans to retire in it, and she won't sell it.

DH is beyond furious. And I am too. And instead of yelling at my sister, or my Mom, we're just tense with each other.

Finances do that to people. And inheritences, even when there is really very little to inherit, seem to turn loving, wonderful people into something else.

Sigh. I'm going to have to do more research to see if I can demand someone outside the family step in to evaluate the situation.

I need some Hope today!

March 13th, 2009 at 07:04 pm

I've got a cold, and so instead of laying out a budget and my current expenses and evaluating the cost of phone plans and bundles, I've been glued to CNBC and MSNBC and Fox and CSPAN...and even though my finances aren't a catastrophy, it feels like they are. Every one guessing on how bad it will get, how long it will last, what else might happen next.

That Audacity of Hope seems rather audacious.

But if I don't find the hope, I won't stop fighting to make things better. A good part of the financial recovery relies on believing it can get better, and it will. Even though it takes a heck of alot of work, it WILL be worth it.

I've got to believe.

And so...I search back through the hard times to see how I've made it through to the other side.

I started life seriously poor. I was a late life baby, and my parents had grown up during the depression. They knew how to stretch a dollar, or coupon, to get through tough times. But Daddy was a farmer, and just before I was born there was a drought. The crops dried up, the chickens died, and the dream for my parents quickly became a nightmare.

I started life finding meals out of trash cans.

My father had polio and could barely walk, but he took a job as a custodian, and worked hard. Mom had been a pastry chef before she married, and she started a bakery in our home. She fed us the "scraps": crusts cut from little tea sandwiches becamse our French Toast. Cake trimmed to level a wedding cake was layered with pudding and marshmellows to make a fantastic trifle dessert.

Me, I was the dishwasher, unpaid other than the benefit of food on the table. And trust me, when Mom is catering five weddings, with wedding cakes serving 500 people, there are alot of dishes! But we got by. I started giving piano lessons, watering and gardening for a neighbor, keeping score at bowling alleys, anything to contribute.

My Mom's business took off, and she published cook books, taught at the local college, ran a business. My brother was sent to a top university on her dime.

My sister and I had to pay our own way, being girls and all Smile. But we worked hard, got scholarships, took out student loans, graduated with honors and advanced degrees. We got the high tech jobs, with the high tech salaries and benefits. We spent, we saved, we invested, and we spent. Yes, we spent on things that don't seem so important now, but when you work 100 hours a week to get that top salary, the fact that some is wasted on restaurants and fresh produce that spoils because you aren't home to eat it, well it just doesn't seem foolish at the time. It seems necessary.

But life is a balance, and at the peak of our "financial" success, DH and DS both got cancer, and I was badly assaulted. As we recovered, we decided to take some time away, retire, live off of the interest from our investments. Which seemed quite reasonable ten years ago.

DH has managed things well, we didn't lose huge sums of money in this "downturn", but we also struggle with all the basics of everyday living that everyone else does. Gas, electricity, buying healthy food, making ends meet when they seem miles apart.

And so, today, I need some hope. Hope that life moves forward to better times. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and burned it many times over. Yet here we go ago once again.

Times are tough. So am I. There is reason for hope. I just need to find it.

But first I need to blow my nose, have a cup of tea, and turn the channel.

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