The May/June Issue 2010 of AARP Magazine reports on Gail Sheehy’s latest book Passages in Caregiving, that on any given day in the USA 35 million people are care giving for their parents. One third of these folks are male.
The male children usually handle the paperwork part of the process though some do it all and the female children usually handle the hands on care and many more do it all.
This is another health care system in the USA that needs attention and care itself.
We must purchase Long Term Care Insurance and pay the premiums. Of course, the younger you sign up for this the better the premium rates, and of course the money is counted on to partially cover the bills; insurance companies need some enrollees to die earlier of car accidents and other illnesses so that they might profit.
Many people cannot get Long Term Care Insurance because of pre-existing conditions. I am one of those people.
My Mother lived well in a retirement community with Medicare and a supplemental insurance. She worked all her life as a teacher. “No Child Left Behind” changed her medical benefits, plus she had to enroll in Medicare Part D. Three Thousand a month entitled her to good care and gave her opportunities to travel and eat out for some of her meals. I helped her out with paying her bills, doctor visits, and keeping the paperwork – working. Then she fractured her back. Now the cost of her daily care was about $13,000 a month. Kyphoplasty took away the pain and kept her upright, but she now could not dress herself or drive or stand. To get enough help would have used up all her retirement funds in a couple of months.
I moved her into our house and with a few modifications was able to give her 9 months at that $3,000 monthly level. And thank goodness for HOSPICE, which sent the nurses to her and the chaplain and a volunteer so that I could have one afternoon off a week. My Mother had to let them know she was ready to die – a huge decision, but at 93 after a good life she was ready. 24/7 care giving with lots of help and I could no longer work because I could not afford the licensed caregivers to come in and do the day care.
In other countries, such as Canada, my cousins waited about 3 months and a new facility was built closer to them and they moved their mother into her own small apartment. They visited her after work every day or once a week and knew that she was in great hands. Her doctors came to her. Specialized meals were provided. No one was bankrupted; no one had to give up spending money to make sure their mother was well cared for or that the caregivers got a day off. The care givers were supported and so was the family.
It is hard to imagine being in these circumstances and knowing you have to make these life and death choices.
Those 35 million care givers are too busy to work on legislation, teach about the issues, take care of themselves and they are unsupported in our current system.
It is why most men are happier being married and the vast majority hope they will die first so that their partners will care-give. For women it is another way they lose, unless their partner leaves them very well off financially and they can pay for everything they need and all their assistance.
We need to redefine work in the USA too, because there is very little equity, seen radically in old age benefits.
This system pits family members against each other and many are only in it for the money.
Care Giver’s Syndrome is probably going to go epidemic before it gets better.
Have you got your plans in order? Who will care- give for your parents? How do you think about your own death? How do you want your family involved? Plan B? How can you support a care-giver?
Looking forward to your responses and ideas. I think we need to learn about what really happens in other countries – that works.
Other related reading:
How to positively cope with the passing of a loved one
Book The Last Adventure of Life by Maria Dancing Heart
Care Givers Syndrome
Personal Health Records
Becoming Another Persons Advocate – #1
Becoming Another Persons Advocate – #2
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