Dynamic Woman — Changing Times
Assisted Living: Bottom line and blessings
When you find yourself the point person for relocating your aging mother, the bottom line is that you now manage her life. It becomes your responsibility to ensure that her bills get paid, she gets to her medical appointments, and she has appropriate clothing. (Older people can’t deal with clothes that challenge their agility.)
Here are some steps we took that made the process work.
- Where possible, establish yourself as the responsible party and form relationships with everyone who is involved with your mom.
- Get a Financial and Medical Power of Attorney (POA) that allow you to make financial transactions and medical decisions on her behalf. Open a joint checking account. We printed out POA forms for the state in which our mom lives. We visited the bank with her and had the forms notarized by her banker.
- Contact all her creditors: insurance companies, health plans, utilities, and anybody she owes payments. Explain the situation and have the address on her accounts changed to your address. We went through piles of papers our mom stuffed into drawers because she didn’t know how to deal with all that mail. We grabbed addresses, and phone and account numbers off the statements. That made it easy to contact her creditors and divert all her billings to our address.
- Wherever possible, set up her bills on autopay so it doesn’t become a burden. If you set up her accounts so you can see them on a program like Mint.com, a quick glance every few days will set your mind at rest that payments are being made and received appropriately.
- In order for her to receive insurance benefits for her care, she needs a diagnosis. That diagnosis is often Cognitive Impairment, but it could be as simple as “needs help bathing, transferring from a wheel chair to a bed, or feeding herself.” Tell her doctor in advance what diagnosis you need. A chat with her doctor beforehand will ensure her exam is handled sensitively. She may be cognitively impaired but believe me, her memory is not so bad that she won’t know what you are talking about if she hears you use that word. A good doctor will tell her she is doing just fine when he asks who the president is and she answers “Eisenhower.”
- Visit her church and ask if they have a ministry that will drive her to church.
- Contact the local home health services. That may be a state or regional service. A home health care nurse visits our mom weekly to monitor her health and medications. If she needs a prescription, her doctor phones it into her pharmacy and the home health care nurse picks it up and delivers it to her assisted living facility. They in turn chart and dispense her meds to her daily.
If you are willing to step up and take charge when it feels so wrong, here are some blessings you will experience.
- Nothing puts you in the moment and makes you feel like you are living an authentic life like the physical and emotional stress of a seemingly impossible situation.
- Nothing drives you to prayer like uncertainty.
- Nowhere is God more visible than when you emerge from a dark tunnel of what looks like insurmountable obstacles into the light of peace.
We lacked the time, resources, physical strength and emotional constitution to do what we had to do. We had less than a week to make a tough decision, persuade mom to go along with it, clean out her apartment and move or give away her furniture, execute the paperwork, and establish her in an assisted living community. But, I’ve done this once before, for my mom. I learned you have to push through pain to get to the other side. And, it is worth the effort. We have a big God. We are stronger than we think we are.
We talked briefly to mom on the phone last week. She had dropped by her room to get a sweater when she heard the phone ring. But, she didn’t have time to talk because her new friends were at the door urging her to return to a birthday party. Hearing the cheer in her voice was the biggest blessing of all.
We’ll see her at Thanksgiving. This time, there will be no papers to sign, no work to do, only time to visit and enjoy her company. We’ll spring her from assisted living be with us at a bed and breakfast where she can listen to the musicians who gather on the porch. We’ll bundle her up and take her to hear the carolers at in the Blanchard Springs Caverns. This visit, no worries.
© Sydney Avey