I’m sitting at my daughter’s house watching her dogs while she is out of town. It’s easier than taking care of them at my home. They are familiar with the place and far more relaxed than when we attempt to haul them across town and introduce them to a strange environment. They are much happier than they ever are when they come see me. So here I’ll be for the weekend, but I’m still close enough that I can make a quick dash to where I live if need be.
I’m enjoying the quiet of this neighborhood and the fact that I don’t need to do chores like I would if I were at home. I’m feeling somewhat pensive as I sip on my tea and hear a train rolling along the tracks in the distance. I slept fairly well last night and had the usual strange and meaningless dreams that have haunted my nights since the beginning of Covid. There is nothing frightening about them other than the fact that they all feature individuals I have never known, and make absolutely no sense. They simply jump from one ridiculous situation to another. At least I’m snoozing now, which I was not for about a three week period of time. It’s amazing how much better I feel with regular sleep.
I read a story this morning about the hard lives of caretakers and the impact of the work they do on their health. Most of them make ridiculously low salaries that keep them at the poverty level even when they work forty hours a week. Others are family members who toil for free, and lose income that they might have had if they were working. The conditions that they experience often lead to huge turnover and so there is a concern that those who cannot fend for themselves are not always getting the best quality care. There is a kind of crisis in the industry which is only slated to grow worse as more and more Baby Boomers require assistance to survive from day to day.
The story reminded me of a friend who was stricken by a stroke that left her unable to walk or work or take care of herself. She had no family but she was able to hire people to take care of her in the comfort of her home. Eventually one of the women moved in with my friend and was assisting her twenty four hours a day. It seemed like a wonderful situation, and when I visited I marveled at how lovingly the woman catered to my friend’s every need, at least that was how things appeared. I would later learn that the caretaker also brought her son to the house and that he often sold and used drugs on the premises. Eventually the woman left suddenly after getting my friend to sign over her car. Once she had left we began to realize that most of my friend’s valuable items were missing. It was a devastating discovery.
Sadly my friend died not too long after being robbed by the woman who had seemed so kind and loving. Until her death the people who came to watch over her changed so often that I never knew who was going to be there when I checked on how things were going. While I don’t think that what happened to my friend is necessarily commonplace, I have heard of other such situations. I tend to worry about anyone who has to find assistance from people that they do not really know. I also think of how difficult my friend often was due to her anger at being incapacitated, and I wonder if that is what made it so hard to keep good people working for her.
I suppose that we get what we pay for, and sadly the cost of full time care is astoundingly high whether it is in a nursing home or a someone’s house. When family members take on the task, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain the needed energy. My mother and her siblings always took turns nursing their mother, but there were eight of them along with their spouses and a host of grandchildren who were able to volunteer for a shift. Nobody had to work more than once every two weeks and even then it was only while my bachelor uncle who lived with my grandmother was at work. I’m not underestimating what they did, but with so many available nobody ever reached the point of exhaustion. Today’s families are much smaller and less able to sustain such a plan.
There was a period of time when my brothers and I were tasked with checking on our mother every single day. We created a calendar designated which days each for which each of us would be responsible. We each were soon traveling to her home two times and week and then an extra day every three weeks. It doesn’t seem like much but after several months it became more and more difficult to keep up with the routine. We found it easier to have her live in one of our homes for a year and then move to the next place. It worked somewhat well but we knew that we would not be able to maintain that plan for much longer because she was having more and more difficulty moving around on her own.
We all want the very best for the people that we love, but circumstances can rapidly become untenable. As long as my mother was able to walk we were fine, but her mobility was decreasing and we knew that at some point we would have to rely on the kindness of strangers. We hoped that when the time came we would be lucky enough to find reliable and honest people.
I have a friend who did a great deal of research and ultimately found a very good nursing home for her mother. Even then she visited multiple times each day to be certain that her mother was receiving the best possible care. Her dedication resulted in a mostly good experience, but I know that she was often very tired. For many the cost of an outstanding institution along with the time needed to emulate my friend’s dedication just are not easily doable, and so I suspect that we may be heading for a national disaster with regard to the care of the elderly and disabled. I hope that we take this issue seriously and find ways to ensure that both those who need care and the people who provide it are all treated fairly.
I can’t really say why my thoughts focused on this topic today other than the fact that I was alerted to it while I was blissfully reading a little of this and a little of that while watching the dogs. I had time to learn about the issues, but how many others might come across the same article that I did or something similar? How many will take the time to read such things and actually think about what to do? It’s certainly something to consider.