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Taking Care of Mom

That 70% of our population will require long term care before departing this life is staggering. That's the situation where as the competent person looking out for your spouse, parent, or loved one, you've accepted the responsibility to try and ensure their dignity and care when they can't. Adding this responsibility on is like taking a second or third job.

Practically speaking, you become their advocate when the basic assumptions of self care aren't happening like: bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, eating, money and medication management. The list goes on. Things you've never thought of, like fixing up and selling their home and finding a home for the cats or dogs.

My father told me that years ago people would use an old empty bedroom or add on to the back of the house to take care of an aging parent. Nobody was using the term "Alzheimer's" then, just plain ole "dementia." As long as most the children were gone and an adult child or in-law had the commodity of time, grandma or grandpa could finish out their days in a home atmosphere.

However, "Welcome to the 21st Century!" I know a little about this. My mother experienced early onset Alzheimer's at 67. She suddenly needed an around the clock watchful eye. This was the most extensive reorganizing of my life I even had ever gone through. It was the toughest challenge emotionally I had ever faced. People will tell you it is tougher than divorce. I've cried plenty of times and so have other adult children who have to make hard decisions.

The day my brother and I introduced her to her new apartment in another city--my home town, at the behest of her Doctors and other relatives, it was the worst day of my life. There was still enough of my mom inside that she realized what was happening and fought it tooth and nail. One minute she'd hate and curse me like a sailor and then the next she'd hug me as a loving caring son she knew was doing the best he could. For a year I never knew which one I would face.

She called the State for elder abuse and the local police nine times and contacted the police departments of various cities across the State she could think of. She held on to her life of the past, but for what she experienced five minutes ago, like invisible ink, the memories vanished. One motor cycle police officer was so very kind. He took all her calls seriously. In his tall leather boots and fitted uniform he knocked on her door.

"Mrs. Boddy...," My mother told him her sons had abandoned her and the apartment they imprisoned her in was starving her on purpose. (My mother in 4&1/2 years has never admitted to living in assisted living, a nursing home, or memory care. It's "an apartment.") The officer, going beyond the call of duty, went and retrieved my mother a tray of food from the cafeteria and brought it to her room. He probably didn't get a commendation for that act of kindness, but should.

Strategic retirement planning is more than figuring out if you'll have enough saved to tour the world, there is a more important component of dignity. My mother wasn't rich by an means, but her and my father did make some responsible choices when they were much younger to at least empower my brother and I to help them should something like this occur. Like a lot of things in life, the Alzheimer's didn't come at a convenient time, it just came.

I love my mom, "Grandma Ginny" to her grandkids, with all my heart. I believe she knows we are doing the best we can given we still have children at home and the responsibilities of our earning years. There is a saying, "even if they don't remember us, we still remember them."

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