Not long ago a request for submissions came my way on the topic of Living Longer in America. Ironically, I was into the process of helping my own mother transition my father into a skilled nursing wing in the retirement community where they’ve lived the last five and a half years. Not only was it an emotional experience, but an eye-opening and thought-provoking one as well.
When two people have lived and loved together for over 63 years, it’s hard to imagine them suddenly separating themselves because they can no longer care for one another. It’s heartbreaking. But the reality of caring for a spouse with limited mobility and Alzheimer’s disease is daunting. It’s nearly impossible for one or both parties to let go of the other person or the control he/she once had over making caregiving decisions.
While my parents had planned for years and taken steps to position themselves for a long-term move, when the time came, it was still extremely hard. My mother’s parents had waited too long, and it was a struggle moving them. My grandfather, who was the caregiver, died shortly after that move. My grandmother ended up on Medicaid in a state-funded nursing facility. As a result, my parents vowed it wouldn’t happen to them.
Instead, my parents planned and prepared, but when the time came to accept the care for which they so diligently planned, neither welcomed it with open arms. Long-term care is far from perfect, and honestly, I don’t think my parents ever thought they would need to use the higher level of care, but with life expectancy increasing, they’re now living it. What they face shows and tells me we need to understand what may be coming down the road for us, so we can prepare more accurately and make our wishes known. Discussing and documenting this care now allows us to leave a legacy when that time comes.