Observations on a Freelancer’s Life

Caledonia by Dougie McLean

There went those plans.

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.


About the author




  • Paula Hendrickson August 7, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I’m so sorry your dad has to go through that all because of insurance issues.

    If my neighbor’s ordeal with a “rehab hospital” (nursing home) is any example, keep pushing the staff about your dad’s PT and stay on their butts and question every little thing. Her insurance only covered six month in the rehab hospital following a brain infection. When that was about to expire, they told her sisters they’d have to take over the payments. Their reply was great: “Before we pay a penny, you’ll have to submit all invoices directly to my sister’s attorney. He will determine what’s covered by insurance and Medicare, and then we’ll pay what is legally owed.” Hearing the word “attorney” probably motivated them, since that’s when they finally started really pushing to get her strong enough to be released.

    After none months in that place, she’s at her sister’s house getting far better care than she did in the “facility,” and has progressed so far that it’s astounding. She’s even drying dishes – and feeling more like family and less like a patient.

    So I hope your dad is strong enough to go home as soon as possible!

    Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too, Lori.

    • lwidmer August 7, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      That’s awful, Paula. It’s exactly what we’re running into. My mom wasn’t thrilled with the fact that his nebulizer was lying on the bed unattached to his face when she went in yesterday. And they charge $8K a month to ignore him?

      We’re looking into financial options that don’t require my parents to hand over everything or my mom to live in poverty. It’s sinful what they expect.

  • Cathy Miller August 7, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Lori, I am so sorry you and your family are going through this. It exposes all of the huge flaws we have in our healthcare system, which is little comfort to the families affected. I have a brother who deals with the VA as well and it’s another disgrace.

    You may want to see about contacting your local
    National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
    to get help understanding your options. If I can do any research for you, let me know, Lori. *Hugs*

    • lwidmer August 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      HUGE flaws, Cathy. Thanks for the link, though.

      He may qualify for Aid and Attendance help (and the VA does NOT tell you about that). We’re applying in hopes my mom won’t be alone in caring for him.

      • Cathy Miller August 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm

        Keeping my fingers crossed, Lori. Getting help for your mom is a big one. When we got hospice for my dad, I said I only wished we gotten it sooner. Not for Dad but for Mom.

        • lwidmer August 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm

          Cross those fingers tight, Cathy. We’re hoping so, too. Dad doesn’t qualify for hospice yet (amen), but he sure needs help with everything.

          • Cathy Miller August 7, 2017 at 2:49 pm

            And thank goodness for that! Hopefully, you won’t for a very long time, Lori.

          • Paula Hendrickson August 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm

            You’re probably already doing it, but keep a record – photographic, if possible – of every little thing like that and hold them accountable.

            Oh, and see if a local church or senior center has volunteers or people who can help navigate social service programs/qualifications.

            I’ve always told my siblings if they ever have to choose to pull the plug on me, unless there’s really great odds of a full recovery: Pull the darn plug.

  • Paula Hendrickson August 7, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    I should add to my last comment: because I don’t want to have them have to go through choosing and dealing with a nursing home and figuring out how to pay for it. It’s all too complicated.

    I’m just glad it sounds like your dad will get to go home once he’s a but stronger.

    • lwidmer August 8, 2017 at 8:29 am

      There is a county agency on aging (thanks, Cathy — the link reminded me of it) that helps with that sort of thing.

      My sister is our secret weapon. She has quite a bit of experience handling elder law, including dealing with Medicaid and placing people in Pa-based veteran’s homes. She’s like a bulldog when she sniffs injustice (hence, the lawyer part), so I have no doubt she’ll be on this and sort it.

      We’re lucky in that regard. Imagine what it’s like for people who have no one and believe what they’re told?

      • Cathy Miller August 9, 2017 at 8:38 am

        Thanks goodness you have your sister in your corner. We love bulldogs. 🙂

        • lwidmer August 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

          We sure do. 🙂

  • Olga Arakelyan August 22, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Dear Lori, I am not in the US, so I can’t share any tips. I can just say I am sorry to hear about what you have to go through. I will be praying about your family. Hugging you from Russia.

    • lwidmer August 24, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      Thank you, Olga! I appreciate it.