Elder care in the long emergency: my personal experience
We all get old unless we die young. That's a given. But what do we do when we get older and less capable?
My elderly parents (dad is 86 or so and mom is 82) live in Delaware in a crumbling huge house. We've all moved away. My dad is good-natured. My mother is hyper-critical, one of the reasons we've all moved away.
My dad has numerous medical issues, the worst of which is the nonfunctioning bladder (life with a catheter) and Alzheimer's and type-2 diabetes.
My mother is showing signs of mental decline as well as plain old age.
On Valentine's day, she slipped on the icy front porch steps (we don't need a handrail because we can grab the bushes and they'll break our fall). She broke her left wrist in two places. They called the ambulance, leaving my dad home alone. He managed to call me -- a good thing because the hospital did not bother notifying any family member that we could tell. I drove to Delaware with Mark.
She had surgery. I left on Saturday after a week. Mark remained because he insisted. Each day gets harder for him, but he's hanging in there.
What do you do when relatives refuse to be helped because they're doing fine? They are obviously not. Relatives who refuse to have any help at all and won't have handrails installed in stairwells because we don't need them. Relatives who complain bitterly about having to do everything, yet refuse to cede control to anyone.
Having everyone anywhere from 25 to 1,000 miles away makes it ten times as hard. Relatives who shouldn't be driving under any circumstances because they're a danger to themselves and everyone else. It's easy to say 'take the car keys'. It's much harder to do.
One of the miracles of modern medicine has been to keep people alive much longer and in much poorer health than has ever been possible in the past.
What will we do? I have no idea what we're going to do. We are, however, agreed that my parents need a minimum of home health care on a near-daily basis. Assisted living would be better still, as I watch my elderly father stagger, lurch, totter, and stumble around a room. He needs a walker and my mother won't hear of it.
My mother is so difficult that none of us (me, my sister, my sister-in-law, and granddaughter-in-law) can have her in our houses so that's not an option.
In ye olden days, people didn't live as long and I suspect we'll be seeing more of that in the future.