$2,800. to $3,200. a month for nursing care.
$3,600. a month for memory care.
Didn’t matter where the senior care referral service sent me, or how many care homes I visited. A three-month deposit of a $43K per year price tag stared me in the face.
Elderly residents strolled quietly about each care home, their mini-communities. Pardon my French, but how did people just pull that kind of money out of their asses? How were they all able to afford it?
1) They’re already crazy-rich, or sitting on a giant nest egg. 2) Long-term care insurance, something I’m sure my dad never even thought or knew about. Neither did I. 3) Liquidation of assets, so that all income goes to the care home instead. Understandable. What isn’t understandable is how liquidation is supposed to take place overnight and you’re expected to pull all the money out of your ass the next day.
4) The Veterans Administration. My experience with the VA sticks in my craw. I could type for an hour and still only scratch the surface of what I want to say, so in the interest of not wasting any more of my time on them, I’ll only hit the highlights. The military provides a Veterans Aid & Attendance pension for things like this — good news. It would take 9 months for our application to be processed — not so good news, but okay. In order to apply, I needed to send a copy of Daddy’s DD-214 — bad news, because after turning the house upside down and searching, he had a different type of retirement form. So, I headed to the National Archives to get the right form, only to find out I could only order it if my father was dead. With him alive, only he could order it. There was no one to talk to about his condition. No one to get advice (or possibly the form) from. Guess why?
I called our local VA and the headquarters in Atlanta to find Daddy’s past social worker and doctor there, in the hopes they could help us get a VA doctor’s appointment plus advice on military facilities that might take him in. Couldn’t get a person on the line, and when I did, they informed me that even though he’d served 21 years and through several wars, though brain-damaged now, he couldn’t get the help he needed unless he’d been physically wounded in battle. What?
I scoured websites. I called and called. I researched forums and senior sites for solutions outside of the military. No matter.
For three weeks, nothing panned out.
There had to be somewhere for him to go at discharge from rehab, somewhere safe and comfortable that didn’t require $10,000 USD on the spot. Right? We didn’t want to not pay. We just needed something we could pay.
His ailing 1960s bungalow wasn’t an option when it came to vascular dementia. Home would not be safe. For him, or for us.
My stress manifested itself physically as time ran out.
Without realizing it, I made myself sick.
I ate erratically. Couldn’t sleep, and when I did, faceless nightmares snatched me awake. Every sound made me jump. I broke out in hives. I lost control of my blood glucose because I couldn’t remember to take my insulin, couldn’t keep up with my diabetic regimen, couldn’t stop eating PB&J sandwiches (ultimate comfort food). My memory went sketchy. I had desperate, irrational thoughts. I vomited for no reason. Hours that seemed like minutes would pass as I sat on my bed with my stomach in knots, distracting myself with soap-making videos on YouTube, trying to hide my depression from my worried brother, trying to will everything back to last year, a la Arthur Curtis.
Nothing would ever make me leave my father. But, God, he terrified me.
Then, the phone call I knew was coming.
My social worker at the rehab center let me know Daddy would be discharged in a week and would we be picking him up. I responded, how is that supposed to be okay or safe? How were we supposed to take care of him in his condition and with his strength, in a house that needed repairs? Her voice sounded sad as she replied, “I’m sorry. We can’t do anything about that. He has to be picked up on his release date, regardless of where he’s going to go.”
I felt I was balancing on a tightrope. On the edge of an escarpment. On a long, serrated sword, my bare toes clutching the point of the blade.