A Slice of Life

It’s official – I am a ham sandwich.  Well, really more of a corned beef on rye with Russian and coleslaw, but an official member of the Sandwich Generation just the same.

One knows they have arrived at this juncture when rushing to the assisted living facility in a thunderstorm because your ailing dad is literally trying to kill the head nurse who insists he take a shower at the same time that your 2 ½ year old daughter draws her personal line in the sand and refuses to take her evening bath.

When cleanliness becomes a fighting point to both your parents and your children, you have arrived – whip up some condiments, ‘cause you are a hoagie.

It’s an annoying feeling – not because you have to take care of both your parents and your own children, and let’s face it the only thing you really want yourself is an uninterrupted shower – but because it is one of those moments when you realize you are the dreaded adult.  You were roaming around in your happy self focused little life, thinking you might just control your own destiny and have the freedom of choosing which mindless pastime to partake in after the kid goes to sleep when suddenly it strikes you – nope, you are truly an adult.  How on earth did that happen?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have met a payroll and paid a mortgage regularly for more than a decade.  I have made tough choices and had enough bad things happen to make me to know I am a card carrying adult.  But nothing hits home quite like having your child and your parent both sleeping in diapers.

So, what to do about it?  I have considered selling everything and moving to a small island where I can home school and fish for food.  But, let’s face it, my daughter would be a fine chef, but have no idea about dangling participles or anything about the periodic table.  I thought about curling up in a ball and ignoring it all, but too many people know how to find me.

Alas, I figure I should use this blog to give some helpful hints to others who might find themselves suddenly in need of taking care of their parents.  Or at least impart some information that the deli meat out there should know before they are slapped between two slices of bread.

First, and most shocking to me, your parents can not be claimed as dependents on your taxes.  REALLY?  Yes, it is true.  My parents cost me 8 times what my daughter costs me on a monthly basis (you gasp, but that is down from 10x when they lived in NY) but yet, the federal government doesn’t consider them my dependents.

Second, neither Medicare nor Medicaid cover assisted living facilities.  Nope.  Keep those mortgage payments going out the door on time.  You don’t want your parents to lose their homes.  You will need a house to sell if you want to finance your parents move.  Of course, they could move in with you.  Good luck with that.

Having said that,  you do want your parents to apply for Medicare when they are eligible, and you want to find a good supplemental insurance plan (because Medicare is mediocre) with a good prescription drug coverage.  Old people take a lot of drugs.  I would like to take a lot of drugs to deal with my mother, but that is for another post.

The greatest resource I have found in dealing with the recent move of my parents from New York to Virginia was to hire an Elder Care Consultant.  Kate Caldwell www.ElderTreecare.com found an available location within my price for both my mom (who needs to have a studio apartment – no sharing) and my dad (who needs to be in a secure Alzheimer’s unit) and she even negotiated special rates for me.  She’s virtual so I have never met her yet…but I love her.  And, the whole consultancy cost me less than $500.  My parents haven’t cost me less than $500 in a decade.

Take control of the situation.  It is true that there is a point when you become the parent and your parent the child.  Deal with it.  Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.  And like all good parents set the tone.  Remember how your parents made you have a strict curfew on Saturday night when all the cool kids didn’t have to call home at 11 to ask permission to stay out?  Remember how your mother didn’t buy you the toe shoes that you always wanted in the sixth grade (shout out to my gal Sal)?  I am not saying you should hold those minor acts of parental stridency against them now that they are unable to defend themselves, but I am saying be strong.  No guilt.  Guilt – as my exceptionally guilt ridden best friend often reminds me – is a waste of time.

You can not allow the perpetual needs of your unoccupied parents take over your life.  You will become that crazy person who yells at the neighborhood kids to stay off their lawn.  Instead, you need to establish a system and rely on your support system.  Simply, take care of yourself – before you keel over and no one is taking care of anyone.

So here I am…feeling like the soggy ham and cheese my kid plopped in the dog’s water bowl, writing blog posts to keep my sanity and remind myself of the great support network I have (paid and otherwise) and all of us can have with a bit of forethought and compassion.

Love my parents.  Adore my little girl.  Enjoy my life…except for being stuck as an adult.  Pass the pickles please.

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