Caledonia by Dougie McLean
Last week, I had to go home. My dad was sick, and there’s nothing that’s going to get in my way when he needs me. That includes work. So I finished what I could, packed up the Surface and the cell phone, and headed west. It was a longer ride because of a baby shower for my youngest, which was held a tad north of here. It was a welcome respite from the worry and a nice visit with her in-laws.
I had it all planned. I would work Monday morning, spend the rest of the day and the next with my parents at the hospital, then spend Wednesday working and my cousin would drive my mom.
You think by now I’d be used to plans that evaporate. You’d think, since I’m a freelance writer, that I’d be able to juggle everything and do my usual look-like-a-superhero routine.
Like me, you’d be wrong.
Dad had been in the hospital a week. The thought was he’d be there for three weeks total. Tuesday morning, we found out differently.
He had to leave as the insurance coverage was running out.
And he couldn’t go home because he still needed physical therapy.
Did I mention he was under 100 pounds and not walking well?
Mom and I had met with the hospital care team (and excellent they are), who helped us understand what was going on, what we needed to do, and next steps. We needed to find him an open bed in a nursing facility. That day. They’d do the rest.
Off we ran.
Six hours later, we found a place. He’s there now. He’s improving, gaining weight, and right now not too happy to be right where he said he’d been wanting to go.
I had to come home. Work waits only so long, and while my clients were all very considerate, they have things they need to get completed.
So I got in the car on Friday morning and drove right back to where I’d come from.
Here are some things I’ve learned from all this:
You can drive and cry and sing at the same time.
When you hold it in because you’re too damn busy trying to get your dad to the best place you can, it eventually comes out. And if you’re singing as it does, keep singing. No one will see you or care.
This song is perfect for getting out the pent-up frustration.
It’s the right key. It has the parts where you can just yell out the lyrics. If you play it three times in a row, you release a ton of aggression. And you don’t have to beat on the steering wheel unless you want to.
The Veterans Administration promises more than it delivers.
Five years ago, they were giving my dad a list of the wonderful programs and freebies he qualified for because he’d served during the Korean War. Free healthcare, free nursing home care, free in-home hospice care, free care for spouses… Five years later, they add the second part of that sentence — except for you because you don’t qualify. Why? Because they choose now to bring up the caveat: you have to have a disability that is at least 65% caused by your service. Where was that in the brochure? In fact, if you go to the VA website right now, you’ll see the same promises. No mention of the rug they’ll pull out from under you when you really need those services.
Nursing homes are prohibitively expensive.
Beyond imaginable, in fact. The one we could get Dad into is charging just $20 a day copay for now, but after the insurance runs out? That’ll be $8,000 per month, please.
Medical financial assistance requires giving up the farm.
Literally. If Dad were single and had to apply to Medicaid for help paying for his care, even in a cheaper place, they would take his assets, his Social Security payments, and then if the bill isn’t quite paid, they’ll attach the remainder to the sale of his house. And this is common practice. But because he’s married, my mom gets to keep her money. For now.
One day in a nursing home is enough to turn even the most ardent fan.
He wanted to go. She wanted him at home. Within a day of his admission, he was ready to see her side of things. Things are quieter at home. And home looks like home, not just a hospital with a different colored wall.
Somehow, you get through it.
We all do. It’s a learn-as-you-run marathon, and there’s little way of preparing for the new parameters. You just research, ask questions, and find answers. And you refrain from shouting at people who wait until your worst moments to tell you your loved one isn’t qualified or the insurance has run out or those promises weren’t really for you.
Being freelance can be a blessing in many ways.
Mom will be able to care for Dad at home because I have a job that travels. I can give her a break, help out, get the details sorted all while working and meeting deadlines. When family need you, it’s the best job on this rock.