Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Me? I Didn't Ask For This: The Sandwich Generation, Part II (a)

By Miriam B. Medina

The harsh, cold winters are terrible for the elderly. Many attribute their painful physical conditions to that. There is also the risk of falling on the ice and in snow. The fact is, arthritis not only affects elderly people, but it can affect anyone at any age. However, since seniors believe that arthritis is handled better in warmer climates, many move away from their children to live in Florida where the heat is soothing. However, there are days when Florida's hot and humid weather can also cause pain. Another option that seniors have looked to is the desert climate of Arizona, which is quite advantageous for people with arthritis. Nonetheless, wherever they decide to go, the decision to leave will not diminish the fears or anxieties that their child may have in regards to their parent's well-being, especially when they are an only child. There is always the concern that something can happen that might uproot everyone's lives.

For example, you may have a situation like this:

The telephone rings. You answer. It's the emergency room at the hospital. It's the call you were dreading. The nurse speaks with a concerned voice, "Mrs. J., your mom was crossing the street on foot and was hit by a car. I want to let you know the nature of her injuries. She has internal bleeding; broken vertebrae in her back, a shattered pelvis and her arm and leg are broken as well. It's a wonder she survived. She is in a terrible amount of pain. Your father is very anxious and doesn't make sense when he talks. I think he is in shock. The doctor is examining him now. Can you please come soon? It is extremely urgent. Your mother is asking for you. The seriousness of her injuries requires immediate surgery. Your mother has agreed to it if it would stop the horrendous pain. Even with the surgery, the doctor is not sure if she will ever walk again. I am letting you know that she will have to stay here after her surgery until she is moved into a rehabilitation center."

You sit stunned by the complicating issues in this sudden, unanticipated mess, trying to figure out how best to break the news to your husband and children. How will they react when they find out you have to leave immediately? Who will take care of the kids when you're gone, perhaps a week or more? Taking mental notes, you wonder about the power of attorney and the living will that wasn't made at the time your parents moved, as they were both in full capacity and robust at the time so dad didn't think it was necessary. However, recently, dad has had some health issues with his heart which are causing you great concern. You are worried that dad might have a heart attack with all this stress. You say to yourself, 'I hope there is a will, because this can complicate matters. I don't even know if they both have life insurance and if so, how much? I'll have to take care of that later when I arrive in Florida, as one of my "Must Do's." You suddenly remembered what the nurse said, that your mom was going to be moved to a nursing home or a rehabilitation center after she leaves the hospital, if she leaves the hospital.

Now you are apprehensive, after considering the big "What If," what if they don't have long-term care insurance? My God, between the nursing-home residency, of which Medicare only covers a small portion, and the cost of long-term care, a mind-boggling figure of anywhere between $50,000 to a $100,000 a year may result.. Who is going to pay for that? "I can't think about that now," you say to yourself. "All of this is making me nervous." As you rush and make calls the wheels of your mind are still in motion pondering on the "What Ifs." You are starting to feel queasy and angry at the same time. You stop for a moment and say, "they'll have to sell their home and perhaps move into an assisted living facility which will be costly as well. Come to think of it, the worst could happen, they might just end up moving into my home. If mom can't walk, who will take care of her? Dad can't. Will I have to give up my job? Oh no, this can't be happening. WHY ME, I DIDN'T ASK FOR THIS! I don't mind dad living with us. He is such a sweetheart, but what about mom? It would be sheer hell. We never got along. To make matters worse, Jimmie dislikes my mom and the feeling is mutual. I am almost sure that my home will end up being a battle zone. I don't know what to do, why did she have only one child?" Your hands are shaking. "I hope my mother-in-law will watch the kids while I'm gone. What will Jimmy say? Now this will give him a good reason to leave.

To be continued: Part II (b)

To contact: . miriammedina@earthlink.net .

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