Monday, October 3, 2011

The Cost of Care - Part 2: Act Now! (Reprise)

Rough morning. I'm tired and I feel like blaming someone....or maybe I just feel like calling a spade a spade.

It is, sometimes, a terrible thing to be right. It's even worse if you're right but you're waiting for others to either agree with your analysis (and come to the same conclusion) or just take the leap of faith required, and say, "OK, she sounds like she knows what she's talking about. I'll just go along." This, I have learned, is not how the world works. Certainly, it ain't how families work.

Several years ago, I figured out that illness might be a problem down the road for us. My family (not the nuclear one but the extended one) was very close and there was a certain expectation that it would be one for all and all for one. We also tend to be very long lived. My granny lived to 96.75 and my grandfather to 85. Well, with all that in mind, I worked out that a senior generation of four, could not be supported by a junior generation of four. The math simply didn't work.* In one case the aging parent would be supported by two children; in two other cases, there was only one child; in the fourth case, there were no children at all. To me, the forecast looked challenging. Actually, it looked pretty grim. I was right.

I tried unsuccessfully to have The Talk (about aging and planning and needs). I even wrote a business plan for how we could use an old, tired, underutilized property to create a stream of income. Nothing. No bites. Not even a couple of quick nibbles. No interest whatsoever. I'm not sure if the failure was entirely mine - a failure to communicate the urgency of the situation -  or if the failure was theirs  - a failure to believe that I actually had their best interests at heart. More than likely, it was a combination of the two. Whatever it was, we did nothing and a decade went by.

Today, the future I feared is now the present. That old expression: 'that which I most fear has come to pass', is now where we live. The lesson I've learned along the way is that sometimes you have to ignore folk and do what you know needs to be done. I should have gone all Star Trek on them and 'boldly gone where no one had gone before'. The trouble with that is that if you don't have the requisite power in your family to make things happen, you're stuck. Being stuck is fine if your assessment was wrong and your parents have it all figured out financially, or if you don't give a rat's hind parts how your parents live in their retirement years. If, however, you do give a rat's patootie, and you were right..............................

What I hadn't realized might be a consequence of having one's insights roundly and repeatedly ignored was the constant tension, the constant worry, the time and energy diverted from following your own path, which must now be invested in swimming against the current, without drowning. I am so tired. You have no earthly idea. Some days, I'm up and at 'em, no worries. Other days, the thought of what all I'm responsible for is enough to floor me and keep me floored.

I cannot say this often enough: TALK TO YOUR PARENTS. It is never too soon and it is never too late. Even after a diagnosis comes, you can be creative and make things happen but you must have the conversation. Go to the Volunteers of America website. Resources are available and if all else fails, pay a professional to help you. Talk to someone you love TODAY. Nothing is more important. Trust me on this.

Copyright © October 2011 L.S. Semper 

*Simply put, if one person's earnings comfortably support the earner, they necessarily cannot also comfortably support two. Once the needs grow, if the earnings do not grow commensurately, there will be some financial tension and stress.

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