I’m Fine

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I totally stole this title from a meeting that I attended today.

How many of us have said this and not really meant it? I am guilty. I think most people are guilty of this white lie from time to time.

The children are all sick, the laundry is overflowing, the car is in the shop and someone asks “How are you?” Quick answer: “I’m fine!”

Today, I sat in a room full of wonderful, loving people that have probably said that they were fine when they were anything but fine.

It is hard living with someone with dementia. Sometimes you have the same conversation over and over again all day, every day, for an entire week. Some days your loved one will not get out of bed and you have a 11 am doctor’s appointment. Some days your father who was once a very well dressed man misses some spots shaving, his buttons on his freshly starched shirt are not buttoned correctly and his cowlick is standing straight up. But everything is fine. I’m fine.

Some days nothing goes as planned. Some days you feel like you should just stay in bed or maybe go back to bed. Some days Dad does not want to go to “school” but the sitter is not scheduled to show up for 6 more hours. Some days your mom calls to say that she does not like the “fill in” sitter that you realize is scheduled to come back tomorrow.

But if you ask me how I am doing, I will tell you I am fine.

We all have our baggage. Some days are better than others. It is part of life.

Today I walked into a room of people that are walking with me on this journey.  We are all on different parts of the journey but we are all walking together. I walked into this room today knowing that I had something on my heart. I knew that I was in a safe place and would not be judged for saying it out loud.

I was right. A weight was lifted off my shoulders and I am pretty sure that everyone in the room had at least thought the same thing that I said.

We were all fine!

Before I left today, I gathered some “love notes” scattered on the table. So many of them spoke to me. Some of them reminded me of my children and things that I want to say to them. I gathered a few and put them in my pocket.

I will leave you with one of them tonight.

Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.

I believe that. I really do.

And . . . I’m fine.

I really am.

 

Start Saving for Tomorrow, Today!

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Over 25 years ago my parents built the house of their dreams. My dad designed it and my mom decorated and they loved every minute of the process. It was truly a project of love.

As my dad designed the house he intended to stay in this house until he was rolled to Elmwood. He thought of everything, or so he thought.

His two-story home had the perfect space to add an elevator should they become to feeble to climb the stairs. The master bedroom and bath were on the main and the hallways were wide. The back door had a simple step up and a wide door was added so that should a wheelchair ever be part of their future, it could roll right in.

Everything was carefully thought out.

But no one considered dementia.

After an unusual health situation my mom was actually in a wheelchair so most of their plans made it easy for her to get in and out of the house. We did have to purchase a ramp but those are relatively in expensive and can be purchased online or at a mobility store. The price starts around $100 and goes up according to the length of the ramp you need. We opted for a portable ramp so that we could transport it to friends’ homes if we needed to.

The problem with the house was the many doors to the outside. There were six ways to exit the house and when dad decided he wanted to “go home” he would be out in a flash. Mom was in a wheelchair and although she could leave the house, she was anything but fast!

By the time my dad developed dementia, we had employed sitters for over two years. These sitters were hired to help care for my mom. As luck would have it, they ended up taking care of my dad too.

Sitters are easy to come by but hard to find the right fit. Think about it; these sitters will be in your personal space every day and in our case, 24 hours a day.

There are lots of agencies in town and anyone can ask around to find out which ones are better than others. Obviously you will have to try many sitters before you find the one that it is best for your family. We have been lucky enough to employ a handful of sitters that allows us to put together a schedule that works for everyone.

If you do not know how sitters work, let me try to educate you on this relationship.

We schedule our sitters on twelve-hour shifts. It allows for little interruption in my parents’ day and with dementia it has allowed us to have very few changes during a normal day. If you go through an agency, you have the luxury of knowing that you are always covered. If your regular sitter gets sick or needs time off, the agency will send a replacement. Problem solved. If you hire sitters directly, you will be the one to fill the unexpected sick days. This can be very difficult and sometimes it feels impossible. I highly recommend that you have an agency in your contacts for these emergencies.

We have used two agencies for our back up sitters and we have been pleased with both. You will need to do your homework ahead of time so that when your emergencies arises (and it will) the agency already has a completed profile on your loved one. Be sure that you know the rules of the agency and that the agency knows what you expect a sitter to do.

Believe it or not some sitters do just that . . . SIT. This is fine if you are in a hospital situation but if you are trying to run a household, you will need someone with other skills.

Before I get into the cost of a sitter, let me make one more comment about the relationship that you have with a sitter. It is important that no matter how much you like or even love the sitter that you have hired, they are an employee. Relationships with employees can be difficult. If you are like me, you want everyone to be happy. It is hard to keep everyone happy. Sometimes you have to make changes, or have difficult employer-employee conversations or even fire a sitter. It is hard.

We have found that over time some sitters become so familiar with the family that they almost feel like family. But they are not. You have to make sure that if the person being cared for cannot be “in charge” that you are in charge! You make the rules and you make the decisions. I am not talking about deciding what is for dinner and when they should eat. I am talking about when it is time to seek medical attention and when changes in care need to be made. You do not want your loved one to feel like they are being told what to do by the people you are paying to care for them. I am not sure if that makes any sense at all but you will be able to tell if the sitter starts to feel like they are head of the castle. Sometimes things can change rather quickly; before you even realize what is happening. Stay alert and involved.

Now that we have touched on the emotional side it is time to talk about money.

As you might have guessed, everything comes with a price tag. The cost of a sitter can run anywhere from $10 an hour to $26 and above. Remember that in many cases you get what you pay for! You do not want just anyone taking care of your loved one. You need to check references, have background checks and most importantly make sure they are capable of doing the job you are paying them for.

Money. It takes a lot of money to have sitters in your home. Some people have long-term care insurance and this can be helpful in covering some of the cost. Unfortunately my parents do not have this type of insurance so I am not very familiar with the detailed benefits you receive from this insurance. However, I was lucky enough to meet Suzanne Blankenship this past Summer and she has a wonderful book called How To Take Care of Old People Without Losing Your Marbles. I believe she covers this topic in her book. You can purchase this book on Amazon.

So if you do not have long-term care insurance, you will need to have deep pockets. So save NOW!

If you are lucky, you will grow old one day and you will be glad that you participated in retirement plans and saved money out of each paycheck! You might prefer to spend your money on nice clothes and fancy homes but none of that will take care of you in your elder years. The sitter that you employ in your 80’s will have no use for the designer clothes you wore in your 30’s. And for that matter, neither will you!

So let’s do a little math and see what the cost of a sitter (using $15 and hour) will be for your loved one 24 hours a day for one week.  There are 168 hours in a week at $15 for a total of $2,520. If you need sitters around the clock for a month, it will cost $10,800.  This example does not include holidays. You will have to pay at least time and a half for care on holidays. That means Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, Memorial day and so on.

It adds up quickly so if you are not saving now, what are you waiting for?

It is safe to say that your social security check will not care for you in your elder years. Plan now! Consider these things:

  • If you are still in your home and your home is paid off, you will still have to maintain your home. (utilities, yard, insurance)
  • If you are in a retirement community, you will have monthly rent. In 2017 your rent in Birmingham, AL  will likely start at $4,000 and go up. You are charged a small fee for the second person.

Life is expensive. Don’t rely on Social Security or the success of your parents.

Start saving for tomorrow, today.

You will be glad that you did.