Saturday, November 29, 2014

eldercare: a case study

Most everybody who reads here knows what a bad year it's been all the way around, including with my mother's health. Two weeks after my shoulder surgery she fell and had a spiral fracture of the femur which landed her in a touch and go surgical/post-op situation due to her congestive heart failure. A few days in intensive care corrected that to where she could be transferred to a regular room and then to a local rehab facility. Medicare pays for the first 20ish days in such a place and then her BC/BS pays for an additional ten. At that point, she would have had to pay 152 a day to remain there so she was transferred to a higher level of rehab care (technically,hospital) in another town where the Medicare co=pay of 1000 bucks was covered by the BC/BS. That lasted two weeks, but she still wasn't ready for home so she went BACK to the aforementioned local rehab for an additional two weeks at 152 dollars a day. She went home after that only to return to the hospital after two days because she couldn't walk. From there, she went to another local rehab for 24 days at 152 per day. They have enough in savings to cover this but it wipes out what they've put back for other expenses. Do the math y'all...who can afford that? Because they have an "adequate" income from my father's federal retirement, she does not qualify for state assistance with these bills. TennCare was not expanded in our state thanks to the Republicans in charge. She has been denied twice based on my father's income even though her personal income is only a few hundred a month in SS and it takes his entire income to run the household where he has remained.

Now, consider this. They pay for that BC/BS just like everybody else out of pocket which is quarterly out of their fixed income. Fortunately, it covers most medical costs in addition to Medicare, but in cases of long term care you are screwed unless you are (a)wealthy or (b)indigent, neither of which applies to her. A small VA housing supplement pays for the three hours of help a day that they have with cooking and cleaning but it took an act of Congress with a filibuster to get it. So now, she is to return home still in a brace on the broken leg with home health coming as often as possible. Back to square one, with 6000 bucks less in the bank than when she started this journey in August. Lest you think this couldn't happen to you and yours, think again.

Contrast this with my situation which is full time employment with somewhat affordable insurance premiums but co-pays that would strangle a goat. 20% of everything is a lot in this day and time and added to the premiums it shows why I can't afford preventive care, dental exams or glasses. The reason that I work is to keep that somewhat affordable coverage in case of a catastrophic illness, period. One bad run with your health can result in medical bills that will haunt you the rest of your life. And for this? We all pay much more than we can afford. I feel sure that one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in this country today is healthcare bills that are not covered by insurance. While this very industry is what pays my salary, I am quite disillusioned with the state of eldercare considering the fact that I will need it myself in the not so distant future. At 59, I can't begin to think about retirement until age 67 and then can't maintain my household on the meager SS "benefit" that I be eligible for IF there's any left. The aging of America is turning into one of the biggest crises this country has ever faced, world wars included. And all we as citizens can do is bite the bullet and let the 1% continue to trample us.

A social worker friend of mine shared with me recently that she feels sorry for my generation which includes her parents because we're in a tough position. More and more often people are working past retirement age because they can't afford to quit until something happens that forces them into unemployment and long term care options, which are few and far between. Those without families are the ones who depend most on the generosity of others to help them enjoy their last years. The EK Ross hippie in me is already planning a commune for me and mine when that time comes. Hospice is the word. It takes a village.

While my parents' situation is much better than many, it makes me really PISSEDoff..that it has come to this for them. They have worked hard all their lives, given back to the community that blessed them and kept the faith just like J would do. It's nobody's fault, it just is what it is. Healthcare is the biggest employer in the state of Tennessee and when you throw BC/BS in the mix sitting over there in Chattanooga all shiny and stuff, you can see an obvious conflict of interest. It is a story repeated time and time again in other states that have refused to accept federal funding because of conservative political views. Yet these very same people are in the bed with the likes of TVA and many more. My utility bill is 60 bucks higher this month than last and nothing was done any differently because the heat ain't running for sure. The tiny oil heaters don't use much if you leave them on but once they go cold it takes awhile to get the warmth back.

All of that being said, I feel truly blessed to be in a situation where I can help to care for my parents. My brother and daughter and I have pretty much tag teamed our way through the past six years and I can't imagine trying to handle it all alone. If you have to, just bless your heart. Ask friends to help! Caregiver burnout is common and dangerous, particularly for those who are still employed and have other issues to deal with. Every time I leave my mother's bedside she tells me "Take care of yourself, Janie." Lord knows I try. Keeping the faith here, hope you do the same ^j^

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