Our regular readers might that noticed that our volume of content dropped over the past few days.
I was in Albany, New York for the past three months, taking care of a relative with Alzheimer’s disease and getting him ready to move to a memory care facility near us in Cobb County.
Alzheimer’s disease is terrible. It robs the individual of their ability to remember the past, and to navigate the present.
Our relative had early onset. He is only 57 years old, 13 years younger than I, and by the time we realized he had the condition, his entire life was in disarray. Papers were stacked knee-high all over the house. The first thing I had to do when I arrived at his house in New York was clear out pathways so I could do basic things like cook and look for important things).
Many bills had gone unpaid.
There were two fortunate things about his situation.
The first was that his local bank noticed the steep credit drop brought on by the unpaid bills, and set up autopay for those while he could still communicate well enough to give permission.
The second was that he had a high-salaried job with a good defined benefits pension and had managed his money well, which provided a cushion against the enormous expense of long-term care.
I took care of him for the past few months, taking him to get his COVID vaccination (and mine, too. Thanks, State of New York, for making an exception to the residency requirement for me!), to medical appointments, and arranged Power of Attorney and the sale of his house.
Starting July 1 the schedule got even more hectic, which accounts for the two-day lack of content on the Courier.
July 1 was spent in airports and on planes bringing him down here.
July 2, I set up his room in the memory care facility (the basic furniture has already been delivered. I brought a streaming-ready TV, lamp, bed-clothes, toiletries, shower curtain and liner, a lamp and his clothing, and set them up.
Then July 3 we brought him to memory care, and did some final paperwork and setup of the room, and introduced him to a few of the staff.
I’d talked to him about what memory care entails every day for two months, and he seemed accepting of the need, but when we got ready to leave, he asked “I’m staying here?” and seemed obviously upset.
At this point he’s going through the intake and orientation, and we’ve been asked to wait for the okay before we visit again or take him to hang out with us.
The need for universal long-term care insurance
I’m a firm believer in a strong social safety net, including national health insurance (or a system that achieves the same goals of comprehensive, universal medical care), and national long-term care insurance.
Many people, no matter how hard they worked their entire lives, or what accomplishments they made that benefited the nation, are virtually discarded at the end of their lives because they either have no family, or their family is unable or unwilling to intervene when the need arises.
This is a wealthy country, and to refuse to take care of its residents, especially compared to other wealthy nations, is a stain on our national character.
My relative was lucky. He has both family and friends who intervened when his life deteriorated due to this horrible disease, and the resources to set up his care as his mind and overall health inevitably and steadily declines.
Not everyone is so lucky.
There are two common fantasies that are put forward in opposition to providing decent care as a nation.
The first is that it’s the responsibility of family to do all the work.
The family members don’t always intervene, and when they do they are often put through a living hell.
Typically one family member takes on most of the burden of primary care-giving, which triggers a cascade of conflicts and resentment between the caregiver and other relatives, and even between the caregiver and the person being taken care of. And like other forms of chronic illness, it often drains the financial resources of the family (I played chicken with bankruptcy during the chronic illness of my late wife).
The other fantasy is that charities will pick up all the slack.
If you think that’s true, find a person with Alzheimer’s disease who has little or no resources, identify a decently run longterm care facility or a community care service that will keep them safe, then match them with a charity that will provide the resources they need.
If you’re not willing to go through that nearly impossible task, study the issue a bit before you either put that notion forward again or try to shame the family members.
The bottom line is that we’re long overdue as a nation to take care of our people.