My phone ‘beeped’ the other day, indicating someone was trying to reach me. When I checked to see who it was, I noticed it was my brother (Clover). “Give me a call when you can,” his message read. I immediately phoned him. The gist of the conversation was that the situation with my mother had reached a critical stage and that the care facility where she was staying was requiring that we provide and pay for a caregiver to be with her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it wasn’t something that we were given time to sort out, they wanted to implement the changes immediately. It put all of us in a heck of a bind, suffice to say, and sent my brother into a tailspin. He immediately called me (in a panic) and requested my assistance. “Can you be here tomorrow?” he asked. I sensed the desperation in his voice and assured him I absolutely would be there, I just needed to know ‘when’. “I’ll be with her all day, so whenever you’re able,” he replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” I assured him once again. After we ended our phone conversation, I went from first gear to fourth, rushing about, trying to knock out everything I needed to accomplish before making the trip over.
If I were like most people, I probably could or would have grabbed a toothbrush and a change of clothes, and sailed out the door. But I’m not like most people, I have very specific ‘needs’ which must be met, and these ‘needs’ have a tendency to complicate my life. Needless to say, I did manage to get everything ready by the following morning. I had washed every stitch of clothing I had, boiled a half a dozen eggs, whipped together some tuna salad (for sandwiches), and filled up my pill/medication dispenser, in addition to numerous other ‘tasks’ which I won’t bore you with at this time. Right after breakfast and right before hopping in the shower (the following morning), my phone ‘beeped again’. “Can you call me?” the message stated, it was my brother (Clover) reaching out once more. I called and he answered within two rings. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Well,” he hesitated, “I talked to Dapper Dan (another sibling) and he’s going on vacation on Monday, but can cover the shifts from today until then.” “Oh. Ok!” I replied, “So you’d like me to wait?” “Yes,” he answered, “I think so.” “Ok, well just keep me updated,” I responded, “I’ll plan on coming out on Monday (or Sunday) unless something changes.”
Whew! I have to tell you that I was a bit relieved to get a slight reprieve. I really hadn’t had a chance to catch my breath since the call the night prior. Dapper Dan (Dan) was going to cover the ‘first shift’ and that was all right with me! I was happy that he was stepping up in order to take some of the pressure off my other brother. Few of my siblings ever chip in during times of need so I was thrilled when I heard the news. The slight change of plans was a bit of an inconvenience (for me); I had to make a few adjustments since I had prepared a bunch of food to take along, but it really wasn’t a big deal. And from what I can tell, everything went great the first day. Dan showed up and looked after my mom. The following day, my phone ‘beeped’ once again. “Can you call me when you get a chance?” the message read. It was my brother Clover trying to reach me. What he had to share was more good news. After speaking at length with the temporary director and one of the head nurses of the facility where my mom resides, he was able to convince them that ’round the clock care wasn’t necessary, and they agreed to adjusting her supervised care requirements to between 11am and 4pm daily.
In light of the recent developments, I asked my brother whether he still needed me to come out and he indicated that he wasn’t sure. “Just let me know,” I told him, “I’m here for you.” When I got off the line, I thought everything would be fine. The situation with my mom seemed much more manageable. Well, that was until Dan decided to bail on Clover at the last minute. From what Clover told me, Dan called him and expressed that he was all stressed out and that he hadn’t yet packed for his vacation, and for those reasons he wouldn’t be able to cover as he’d promised (leaving Clover in the lurch). I thought it was a really sh*tty thing for Dan to do. “What do you need from me?” I asked. “Can you come out tomorrow?” was his reply. “Absolutely!” I stated before I hung up the phone, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” All’s well that ends well, right? The thing is, I haven’t told you what was going on behind the scenes when Clover received the call from Dan. While my brother was on the phone with my other brother, he (Clover) and his wife were driving around and taking care of errands. And from her reaction, it was clear that she’d heard every word and lame excuse. The best way to describe her mood? She was ‘P-I-S-S-E-D’!!!
Oh my gosh, she was madder than a hornet and she still is! When I showed up, the atmosphere in the house was so thick with tension that you could practically cut it with a knife. I’ve been trying to stay out of the crossfire but it hasn’t been easy. I feel bad for both of them because they’ve been the ones left with the responsibility of looking after my mother’s needs and despite having 7 able and capable siblings who could help out, no one rarely does. Depending on the traffic, I live between 2.5 to 4.5 hours away, but I don’t mind the drive because I know my brother needs my help. He and his wife shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden exclusively. And since I’m here (at their home) now, I’ve been trying to think of ways to actually be of some use. What I’ve determined to be the most helpful (in addition to ‘babysitting’ my mother between 11am and 4pm) is assisting them in finding her new accommodations. They both have very full schedules and lives and even though my house is under contract and I’ll be moving in 6 weeks (give or take), I’m not working and can lend a hand for a few days. Let me tell you, I’ve learned quite a bit during the time I’ve spent looking for quality care for my mother.
What have I learned? Holy crap! In the United States, if you don’t want to stick your loved one in a ‘dump’, you’d better be able to pay a substantial sum. For a quality facility near where my brother lives, the starting rate is around $8,000 – $9,000 per month. Mind you, there are plenty of places for less than that but they’re not places I’d intentionally leave my mother. In fact, I don’t think I’d leave my dog in a place like that. If I were to, she’d probably never ‘speak’ to me again. When you walk into a ‘sterile’ building and encounter a row of people lined up in the hallway in wheelchairs, most mentally ‘checked out’, it doesn’t leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Some are verbal and some aren’t. The ones who are verbal often plead, “Help me!” while the nonverbal ones sit slightly slumped over in their chairs, eyes glazed over and drool oozing from the corners of their mouths. My mom is in a situation where she doesn’t have to settle for something like that, and I’m glad; however, there is still a tight budget to follow. According to my sister-in-law, in order to ensure the money lasts, $7,000 per month (or less) is what we have to work with. I’d be ‘living large’ on $7,000 per month, but it’s a very different story for someone with Alzheimer’s.
For someone who needs specialized care, the costs can really add up! At minimum, there’s a charge for the room and the meals. There’s also a charge for laundry services and medication management. In addition to that, there’s a charge for assistance with dressing and bathing. At one of the places my brother toured earlier, he was told that they would ‘cap’ the monthly expenses at $12,500 per month. I thought that was very generous of them (being sarcastic, fyi). In a place like that, I’d be afraid to ask for a band-aid. For something as basic as a band-aid, they’d probably demand my address and later send me an invoice for $25! Needless to say, I’ve got my work cut out for me! I’ve been looking up places (via Google) that accommodate people with Alzheimer’s and have put together a list of seven ‘adult family homes’ that I need to contact to determine their charges and availability. I found a lovely one that has a room ready to go, but they want $8,500 – $9,000 per month, and my sister-in-law said it’s not financially feasible. Dang it! As much as I want to help my brother and sister-in-law put out this fire, I’m not sure whether I’ll be successful. I still intend to give it my best shot though. Maybe if the stars align it’ll all work out in the end.
Until we get something figured out, I’m going to continue ‘plugging away’. My hope is that we can get something arranged before I head back and start packing up my house. My brother and sister-in-law could use a much-deserved break and until my mom is ‘contentedly’ settled in somewhere, that’s not going to happen. By the way, I use the word ‘contentedly’ loosely because I don’t think my mom’s capable of being ‘content’. It’s just not in her DNA. As much as I hate to admit it, she’s always been a complainer. At present, if she’s not complaining about having her car taken away and losing her ability to drive, she’s complaining about the furniture in her room, or the crappy food, or the fact that she’s bored. Anyway, time’s-a-wasting so I’d better get back to it! There are still plenty of ‘adult family homes’ listed on Google that I need to read the reviews on to decide whether or not they’re worth pursuing. If they are (and the price is right and they have availability), I then have to make additional calls to schedule formal tours. Yippee, cannot wait! Anyway, thanks so much for listening. I wish you much joy…and I hope you never find yourself in this situation. I know of no other way to put it other than to say, “It sucks!”