Just a few months ago.
On a perfect spring morning, two women were reading their Sunday paper. They were remarkably similar. Both had children and grandchildren. Both were reliable volunteers for church and civic affairs. Both were looking forward to their 50th wedding anniversary.
Their comfortable homes were paid for. Both had substantial retirement savings. No debt. No extravagant or expensive habits. Other than spoiling their grandchildren at every opportunity. In a good-natured way, of course.
Both were the sort of middle-class people who enrich the world by their simple presence. And generosity of spirit. Authentic kindness.
Both were primary caregivers for their husbands. Both of whom, after many years as partner and confidant, father and grandfather, best friend and “accomplice” had succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease.
These women take their wedding vows seriously. Better or worse. Richer or poorer. Sickness and health. They said it. They meant it. They lived it.
Their kids think its corny, but they took the words of JFK seriously: “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” And Alzheimer’s is hard. Their kids, living in other states, also think it’s a good idea for Dad to be “placed”. What is it with kids these days?
Too Good to be True
As it happens, on this pleasant morning, both women were reading the same article. An account in The Michigan Elder Law Reporter describing the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, known as PACE. The Reporter claimed that PACE provided free, at-home care. All pharmacy needs with no co-pays, donut holes, delays, or frustrating paperwork. Specialist care. Respite care. Durable medical equipment. Supplies. Occupational and Physical Therapy. The list went on and on. It even claimed that PACE was intended to help folks just like her. On purpose. Family members caring for loved ones at home. Staying at home.
Most outrageous, though, was the bold statement that their life savings, their home, their cottage, their security, need not be sacrificed to long-term care costs. That a lifetime of shared work could be preserved for themselves, their children, their grandchildren. How could that happen?!
Two Roads Diverged in a Wood, And I – I Took The One Less Traveled By…
And this is where the women made different choices. One said to herself, “Stuff and Nonsense! I pity anyone foolish enough to believe this… Promises, promises! Too good to be true!”
The other thought, “I never heard of this before. Is it possible? Maybe I should find out more…”
Five years quickly passed.
And That Has Made All of the Difference
Another fine spring morning. But now these women were not so much alike.
In desperation, she turned to cash advances on the credit cards. In her pride, she did not share the burden with her friends or children.
One was physically exhausted. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Constant caregiving was taking a heavy toll. Worse was the mental stress. She was facing bankruptcy. She gladly spent the life savings to pay home care workers. She did not really mind selling the cottage. The proceeds had been spent years ago. She was still bound and determined that her husband would never wind up in one of “those places.” Then the cash ran out. She gritted her teeth and took a loan against the house. Twice. Plus, a line of credit. In desperation, she turned to cash advances on the credit cards. In her pride, she did not share the burden with her friends or children. She chose a solitary journey. Until the inevitable day when the house of cards collapsed. She reached for the phone to call her eldest child. Soon they were in a senior housing project, but at least the bill collectors had stopped calling.
The other woman was at the cottage window watching her grandchildren fish from the dock. The last few years had been tough. Her husband no longer knew her or their children. She was making the best of a bad situation. But.
She did not face it alone. Life savings protected. Life choices respected. “Well,” she thought, “sometimes too good to be true turns out even better.”
Her health was good. The PACE folks were a blessing. No worries. PACE had installed a walk-in shower at their home. Several times a week, expert aides came out to attend to her husband’s hygiene. During that coronavirus problem so many years ago, they even helped with her grocery shopping. And housekeeping. In addition to all the medical support. She knew her future was secure. She did not face it alone. Life savings protected. Life choices respected. “Well,” she thought, “sometimes “too good to be true turns out even better.”
Several months later.
I Have Finished the Course, I Have Kept the Faith
At the first woman’s funeral, her friends agreed. It was tragic. She had run the race. She had fought the good fight. At the ultimate cost to herself, she did what she believed was necessary. Pouring out the savings and accomplishments of a lifetime in a few short years.
But. Is there anything more tragic than needless suffering? Doing very well something that did not have to be done at all? As one mourner observed, “She killed herself with work and worry, all to keep him out of “those places.” And where is he going now? One of “those places.” It is more than sadness that we feel when a good person refuses the helping hand. It is more than regret when refusal leads to unfortunate consequences.
Not far away, at about the same time.
After the preachers kind words at the cemetery, the other woman turned from her husband’s grave. She too had run the race, fought the good fight. She had been there for him to the ultimate end. Hospice at the house. Familiar PACE folks who supplied the hospital bed, Hoyer lift and other necessary equipment and services. Given fair warning, the kids made it in from out of town. It was sad, heart-breaking. But not tragic. Surrounded by family and friends. Secure. At peace. What did the Lord have in store for her now? She did not know. But she looked forward to finding out.
What did the Lord have in store for her now? She did not know. But she looked forward to finding out.
Most people, reading this blog, will choose the path of the first woman. Most people, faced with long-term care costs, will close their eyes. Hope for the best. And watch their life savings evaporate like a snowflake on a hot griddle. Why does the caregiver spouse die first, almost half of the time? Why do hard-working, prudent, frugal, middle-class folks accept nursing home poverty? Most of the time?
Not Chance, Your Choice
There is nothing inevitable about losing your home, cottage, business, lifesavings, independence, security. All of that is a choice. Despite what “everybody else” says. For thirty years, people have told me, “I’ve never heard of this before!” “If this is real, why haven’t I heard of this before?” “My lawyer/financial advisor/accountant/tax person/banker/best friend/fill-in-the-blank never said anything like this…”
Well, here you are. Reading this blog. So now you know. No excuses. We are here to provide information, insight, inspiration. Now it is your turn. To ignore the message. Invite poverty. Or get the freely offered information. To make wise decisions about your life. And that of your loved one. If you want to take the right road, isn’t it time for you to call our office today?
The Law Offices of David L. Carrier, PC
4965 East Beltline Avenue, NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Toll-Free – (800) 317-2812