I wrote this article five years ago and I’m posting it again today because it is one of the most viewed posts on my blog. Financial figures are five years old so current, 2018/2019 figures will be considerably higher.
I read a fabulous article in the “Home” section of today’s Seattle Times newspaper. It’s a throwaway section that I always read before I toss it into the recycle basket.
All of us are getting older – there’s no cure for that other than not growing older by leaving this earth before you’re ready – so where are all of us going to live – especially Granny and Pappy who can no longer safely live on their own?
Long-term care (LTC) facilities have priced themselves out of most households’ bank accounts and the alternative solution of having grandparent sitters is cumbersome and expensive in itself. What’s an adult child to do? If you have space on your property to have a guest house newly built or better yet, if you’re willing to turn your sunporch or guesthouse into accommodations for mom and dad, the original outlay of funds will pay for itself because you will have avoided the need for a facility’s ultra-expensive long-term care services.
One company that makes the pods spotlighted in the Seattle Times’ article is called Home Care Suites. Disclaimer: I am not advocating for this company’s product. I am merely pulling information out of the article and presenting it to the reader so you can do research that applies to your situation and your budget.
The pods made by this company range in size from 256 to 588 square feet with prices ranging from $42,000 to $83,000. This is no drop in the bucket but let’s consider the cost of facility care. Genworth (who sells long-term care insurance) states that the average monthly fee for assisted-living (AL) was $3,300 in 2012. I think that’s a very naive figure based on my experience of having worked in the LTC housing industry. Maybe Genworth’s lower number is just the cost for monthly rent – but what about care services? Cha-ching!!! Now you’re looking at double that amount and the cost will only go higher as care needs increase. But even at only $3,300 per month, that amounts to $158,400 for a four-year period. See how do-able the pod concept seems now?
Many of the AL service needs are simple monitoring of a resident – tasks that you can do for your loved one: waking them up, helping them get dressed, a certain amount of medication assistance, meal provision. Many seniors living in AL facilities don’t need the massive hands-on care of bathing assistance, toileting services, physical therapy, etc. I know for a fact that if a family member has the time – and a little patience – they can provide these lower acuity services on their own for quite some time before securing hands-on medical care for the elder member of their household.
Skipping ahead to after Grandma and Grandpa/Mom and Dad have passed on, you now are left with an added structure on your property which you can transform back into the porch or game room of its earlier existence, or simply leave as is as a guest room that may accommodate someone else in your family. I have to believe that your initial investment in constructing a pod is an investment that you won’t regret. And don’t forget – the costs for such a project aren’t necessarily out of your own pocket. Perhaps Grandma or Grandpa are willing to pull some of their savings out from underneath their mattress and contribute to the cost of this alternative living arrangement that would certainly be more attractive to them than a lengthy stint at an AL facility or nursing home. Just saying.
I have been closely involved in matters regarding Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia for eighteen years now: long-term care (LTC) housing, memory care, Alzheimer’s support group facilitator, and Washington State LTC Ombudsman. But it took me becoming a published author of a novel that focuses on a family’s Alzheimer’s disease experience before I finally found my Alzheimer’s community.
AlzAuthors is a group comprised of over 170 published authors (as of this writing) who have published fiction and non-fiction books reflective of their personal Alzheimer’s experience. The six members of the AlzAuthors Management Team (Team) is the Alzheimer’s community about which I speak.
The Team’s motto says it all:
We can sing a lonely song, or form a choir and create harmony.
Without exception, the authors featured on our site and each member of our Management Team had the experience of struggling with the learn-as-you-go-task of caring for someone with cognitive impairment. We all made mistakes, and we learned from them, but we also had successes, and we celebrated them.
As a recent addition to the AlzAuthors Management Team, I became even more convinced that my personal Alzheimer’s community resides within this group. The support, the kindness, the giving nature reflected within the Team is incomparable in my experience, and we are not just keeping it to ourselves. AlzAuthors is spreading their influence into numerous parts of the world…which is kinda why they asked me to join the team as their Global Outreach Coordinator. The six of us know our presence is evident in more countries than just the United States, but our imagination and passion is boundless so we have set out to become a household word in small and large communities throughout the world.
Why AlzAuthors? Because this 100% volunteer group has brought together some of the best books on Alzheimer’s and other dementia in one central location: our bookstore. We’ve categorized those books to make the personal caregivers’ or professionals’ shopping experiences an easy one with categories such as: Caring for Parents or Grandparents, Caring for Spouses or Partners, Living with Dementia, and Children and Teen books, to name a few. We know a caregiver’s “free” time is limited or non-existent, so we’ve done our best to make their shopping experience an easy one. They simply click on the cover of the book they’re interested in and they are taken directly to Amazon to make the paperback, eBook, or audiobook purchase.
We’re working hard so you don’t have to.
And finally, we understand the journey of unpaid (family & friend) caregivers because:
- We have experienced the loss of a loved one with dementia.
- We know the pain of being forgotten.
- We all have witnessed decline.
- We have provided countless hours of caregiving.
- We know many others have experienced the same and we believe in the power of sharing those stories.
I found a letter dated July 28, 1883, written by Henry James to his friend Grace Norton, in a reference book. He wrote a letter of encouragement to her as she was desolate, depressed, and determined not to live. I post portions of it here should anyone out there feel as Grace did, in need of life-saving encouragement.
You are not isolated, verily, in such states of feeling as this – that is, in the sense that you appear to make all the misery of all mankind your own; only I have a terrible sense that you give all and receive nothing – that there is no reciprocity in your sympathy – that you have all the affliction of it and none of the returns.
I don’t know why we live, but I believe we can go on living for the reason that life is the most valuable thing we know anything about and it is therefore presumptively a great mistake to surrender it while there is any yet left in the cup.
Sorrow comes in great waves, but it rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us it leaves us on the spot and we know that if it (sorrow) is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes, and we remain.
My dear friend, you are passing through a darkness in which I myself in my ignorance see nothing but that you have been made wretchedly ill by it; but it is only a darkness, it is not an end, or the end.
Don’t think, don’t feel, any more than you can help, don’t conclude or decide – don’t do anything but wait. Everything will pass … and the tenderness of a few good people, and new opportunities, and ever so much of life, in a word, will remain.
You are marked out for success, and you must not fail. You have my tenderest affection and all my confidence.
This week’s kindness spotlights the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) a fabulous group for writers of women’s fiction. Most if not all the administrative staff is volunteer – the reason why their kindness is this week’s selection. As a member of this organization, I was given the opportunity to have a podcast recorded for their Hear Me Roar program because I’m a debut author. Although my novel, Requiem for the status quo was released a year ago, it was my debut publishing effort.
This podcast is approximately 30 minutes in length, and although my novel is certainly the focus, much attention was spent on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the world. Perhaps this podcast will keep you company on your commute in the next few days; although it may seem a bit choppy, I think it’s worth hanging in there to hear my, and the host’s, provocative discussion.
- I don’t make enough money to go on vacation so I’m just going to get drunk until I don’t know where I am.
- “How was your vacation?” “I’m analyzing it now. I only got eight likes but one of them was from someone really influential.”
- I don’t need a vacation, I’d be happy with a trip to the bathroom by myself…said every mother of young children.
- Being on vacation with my family has brought me so much closer to my iPad.
- I don’t need a vacation, I just want time to sit, read, snack, and take a nap. Basically, I want to be in kindergarten.
- I’m sorry your post-vacation workload has negated all the benefits of your vacation.
- Honey, pack your fat pants, we’re going on a cruise!
- There should be sympathy cards for having to go back to work after vacation.
- If you answer “Awesome” to the question, “How are you?” you are either a) drunk; b) practicing your sarcasm; or c) on your last day before vacation or retirement.
This real story takes the place of this week’s Lighten up Mondays.
Most of our utility bills are in both my husband’s name and mine. Our Frontier phone/internet bill, for whatever reason, is only in my husband’s name.
We’ve lived in our current house for over fifteen years. Approximately one year into our residency at our current address I called to make a change to our services. I found out that because only my husband’s name was on the bill, I was not permitted to even talk to the Verizon (now Frontier) customer service rep. Jerry was home at the time so I requested his presence in my office and told him he needed to talk to the utility person to authorize me to do business with the utility. He did so, they supposedly noted his permission/authorization in the file, and I was able to complete my service request with the utility. Over the years, it took at least three additional calls to Verizon/Frontier before they stopped asking my husband to intervene to authorize everything I said to them. Dilemma solved, right?
We recently upgraded our internet from Frontier’s DSL, also known as slow-poke broadband, to internet service provided by our cable TV company, Wave. The new cable modem/router was installed and voila! Instead of a Download speed of 9.6 mbps, Wave’s Download speed is a wapping 100+ mbps. The primary user of our iMac computer – that would be me, The Little Woman – is thoroughly ecstatic with the improved service.
The day after unplugging Frontier’s DSL and plugging in Wave’s extraordinarily fast internet service, I called Frontier to cancel our internet service – but still retain our landline phone service with them – and the technician said, “Is this Jerry I’m speaking to?” to which I responded, “No, I’m, Irene, Jerry’s wife.” “I’m sorry, you’re not authorized to make changes to your service, is Jerry available?”
Imagine the top being blown off a pressure cooker on my end of the phone line.
“Oh, do not go there. My husband authorized my involvement with this account almost fifteen years ago and did so repeatedly each and every time you questioned my authority to the point where you finally stopped requiring Jerry’s personal authorization.”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, but if your husband is there to make the request, we’ll take care of this for him.”
I hung up on them. Five minutes later I called back to make the cancellation of service request, speaking in a lower voice and identifying myself as Jerry, and the customer service rep simply asked Jerry’s birthdate, which I provided, and presto-chango, our cancellation of internet service request was granted. Keep in mind, in the past when I successfully was able to get through to Verizon/Frontier to talk about our account, I had to provide Jerry’s birthdate, our account number, and the private PIN provided by the utility to verify my authorization capabilities. If they had asked that of Jerry – the authorized person – he wouldn’t have known where to find such information. Why? Because The Little Woman is also the Finance Manager for the Olson household. Bills get paid utilizing bank account resources because I set up these recurring charges to be paid automatically just as so many of you do for your own household. I move money around from one account to another, set up new accounts, fund them and the like because as the household Finance Manager, I am dedicated to keeping us financially organized, healthy, and comfortable in our retirement.
Am I mad at Jerry as a result of this fiasco? Not in the least. He was out of the house when this most recent matter occurred and when I relayed it to him he said, “Oh oh, I hope you didn’t hurt anyone too badly.” He thinks this whole authorization requirement is a joke, especially since he relies on me to manage everything having to do with our finances. He knows I’m quite accomplished at taking on these tasks and is thrilled that he doesn’t have to mess with the minutiae of managing this aspect of our lives.
I guess I can say I had the last laugh, however. Lowering my voice and using language patterns that might be common for the Man of the Household allowed me to wield the authority that up until now had fully evaded The Little Woman of the Household.
One way of expressing kindness is by expressing gratitude.
My husband and I have been gifted with daily gratitude each time we take care of our grandson during our daughter and son-in-law’s work week. We have a routine: our daughter drops off our grandson and all other items needed for his day with us and as she gets into her car she always says, “Thank you.”
Our son-in-law picks up our grandson after a grueling day of work outside and after securing our grandson into the backseat of his truck, he says, “Thanks you guys.”
We’ve been caring for our grandson a few days a week since early August and now with September coming to a close the routine is pretty much set in stone but what isn’t set in stone, what is always fresh and affirming, is that our grandson’s parents bend over backwards to express their gratitude for what we’re doing to enable them to go to work and not have to worry about the care their son is receiving.
Big deal, right?
It is absolutely a big deal. We thoroughly enjoy the time we spend with our grandson – it is such a privilege we have been given – and we enjoy seeing his parents each caregiving day. Their expressions of gratitude never get old; every time they say “Thank you” I am filled with warm fuzzies that carry me through the day and the night. Such delightful adult children.