Tag Archive | death

The Little Things – Mother’s Day 2017

Mama and DaddyIt’s the little things that I think and dream about now that Mama is gone. Some of them are real and some, those in my dreamworld, are reconfigured to how I wished or hoped they had turned out.

As time passes between my parents’ deaths, I find more and more Daddy and Mama are together, the two of them and sometimes with my sisters and and sometimes just with me, but we all seem to be younger, when our lives were more together than they are now and we shared the little things that glued us together.
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A Force Was With Us and What A Force She Was – Carrie Fisher (1956 – 2016)

Carrie FisherAlthough this post may not seem relevant on a blog devoted to caregiving and the myriad aspects and factors that come into play in the development of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, I assert that, in many ways, it is entirely appropriate.

It serves as both a cautionary tale, which Fisher herself told in many ways and many times over the course of the last 30 or so years, and as a fond goodbye to a lady, who despite her many mistakes and many flaws, has left a legacy of character traits to respect. Continue reading

Book Review of “When I Married My Mother: A Daughter’s Search for What Really Matters – And How She Found It Caring for Mama Jo” by Jo Maeder

When I Married My Mother: A Daughter's Search for What Really Matters - And How She Found It Caring for Mama JoWhen I Married My Mother: A Daughter’s Search for What Really Matters – And How She Found It Caring for Mama Jo by Jo Maeder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book this time of year with my dad’s birthday last week and the fourth anniversary of my mom’s death as our caregiving/receiving journey together ended was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had.
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Remembering What Would Have Been My Parents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary

mama-daddy-wedding-announcementSixty years ago today at 4 p.m. in Unaka Avenue Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, my parents, Ned Moses Ross and Muriel June Foster, in front of a few family and friends, took their vows of marriage to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as they both lived.

Although neither of them on that day could have imagined how their lives together would unfold, testing along the way the strength of the unconditional commitment they made to each other, my daddy and my mama were lovingly faithful throughout their union to their promise before God and their promise to each other.
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Book Review of “Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients” – Ben Goldacre

Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients by Ben GoldacreBad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients by Ben Goldacre (a physician in the United Kingdom) should be on everyone’s reading list.

While I have been more acutely aware for quite some time of the areas of misleading and harm that Goldacre spotlights in this book because of my own experience as the medical advocate and primary caregiver for one of my parents and my subsequent extensive research into Big Pharma, Goldacre digs into the details and presents scary and compelling evidence of the total corruption in the industry. Continue reading

Polypharmacy: A Dangerous and Potentially-Fatal Threat to Seniors

Polypharmacy poses dangerous and potentially-fatal risks to seniorsSenior citizens, including our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, are an especially vulnerable part of the human population to the dangerous – and potentially deadly – risks of drug interactions associated with polypharmacy (coexisting multiple prescription medications/supplements/over-the-counter medications use). Continue reading

The Memories Never Die

Mama November 2011Mama has been everywhere on my mind the last few days and I realized that her birthday is coming up this Wednesday – March 2 – or Thursday – March 3 – depending on whether the date on her handwritten birth certificate is correct or the date that Social Security had listed for her is correct.

Growing up, Mama’s birthday was always March 2. A part of me still sees that date as her legitimate birthday. It wasn’t until I started in the role of her medical power of attorney (several years before dementias came to stay) that I became aware that the government had her birthday as March 3 and I memorized that date as part of the litany of information I had to give to medical providers, insurance companies, and pharmacies each time we interacted with them. Continue reading

Grief

Grief is unique and the grieving process is different for everyoneRecently in one of my caregivers’ support groups, I was asked by of the members if I could give her recommendations on books she could read on how to cope with/get over the intense grief she is still experiencing several months after the death of her grandmother (who had dementia).

My response was that I didn’t know that a book would help her because grief  and the grieving process is unique to each of us, especially in the case of dementias because we lose our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s twice: first while they’re still living and then again when they die.

Grief is sometimes very complicated. We all grieve differently, based on our relationships, our personalities, our temperaments, and our experiences in life.

The reality is that no two people ever grieve exactly the same way.

And this is one of those areas of life where people can cause a lot of irreparable damage – and layer even more pain on top of the pain of grieving – by imposing their ideas about grieving (how long, how much, how deeply, etc.) onto those grieving in the form of criticism for and impatience with the process as it unfolds.

None of us can get inside the grief of another human being. We’re not them. We haven’t walked in their shoes. We don’t know everything about them and we don’t know everything they know.

To assume that we do and to turn those assumptions into lectures about how we have been where they have been and we know what they’re going through and we know they’re not “doing it” right is the height of ignorance and arrogance.

Having had several friends in the last couple of months lose a parent and walking through the valley of the shadow of impending death with someone else who is losing a parent right now has brought the grieving process, which I’m still in to one degree or another with both of my parents, and its winding road that it is continuing to carve out in my life, back to the forefront of my mind.

The reality is that grief never really leaves us (it changes over time and it changes us over time, but it also comes right back in full force at you in the oddest moments even after a lot of time has passed).

In the end, grief is the price of love. It’s a high price, but I know that none of us would ever choose not to pay it.

I can’t imagine not having ever had my parents in my life, so even though their deaths have left gaping, sometimes acutely oozing, sometimes intensely aching holes in my heart that will never be repaired in this life, having them both for as long as I was blessed to have them makes this worth it.

Even in those moments when the pain is so strong that I can’t remember it for that instance.

So, for all of us who are somewhere on that continuum of the grieving process, know that grief after death means we loved in life. It doesn’t have a playbook nor does it have a time limit. It will get easier to do over time, but it will be a constant companion for the rest of our lives. 

And, when it’s all said and done, that is a very, very good thing. Never forget that.

Remembering Mama – August 14, 2015

Mama November 2011Three years ago today at 5:50 pm, my mama’s journey through dementias, Alzheimer’s Disease, and congestive heart failure ended.

With Mama’s death, like my daddy’s death almost 17 years ago, each anniversary seems like yesterday and forever at the same time.

But I’m thankful for the memories to help me try to cope with the permanent voids of their losses in my heart and in my life and I’m thankful for the hope that I’ll see them again whole and healed. 

I promised you and Daddy both that I’d be there. God’s willing and so am I. So even on the days when it feels like life is just unbearable torment I continue to put one foot in front of the other with God’s help, enduring, persevering, and continuing to grow in that faith and walking toward fulfilling that promise, even if it doesn’t look like it and nobody else can tell.

But you, Mama, and Daddy would know if you were here and you’ll know when I’m there. That’s often the only comfort I have these days. And maybe that’s all I need when I can see that comfort through the pain. I know it’s worth it because I watched you and Daddy and I learned from both of you.

So I’m remembering you publicly today, Mama, just like I do privately every day of my life. I love you. I’ll see you soon.

The Layperson’s Guide to Revocable Living Trusts, Guardianships, and Conservatorships

Contingency Planning End of Life Planning Elderly Parents and ChildrenWhen our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease reach the part of the journey through these neurological diseases where they are unable to handle their own financial and legal matters, we as caregivers have no option but to step in and act for them and in their best interests.

Here in the United States, there is an incomprehensible aversion to planning for the possibility of having to entrust our lives to someone else and for how we want to die

It’s as though we have this national collective mentality that if we don’t think about it, then it won’t happen.

The bad news? No matter what, it’s still going to happen.

And someone is going to be left holding the bag – maybe the person we would have designated or maybe someone we don’t want making decisions for us – to decide for us.

If it’s a person we trust, then they have the agony of trying to figure out what’s best and what we would have wanted. This is especially agonizing when dealing with end-of-life issues.

Too many people in this position of not knowing what we want, because we refused to talk about it, prolong our suffering and run up needless bills in the process, simply delaying what would have been the inevitable outcome anyway.

If it’s a person we don’t trust, all bets are off. And it is not going to be pretty.

The time to prepare for both of these inevitables – unless we die early and truly unexpectedly (I can’t help but laugh every time I see an obituary for a really elderly person that says they died unexpectedly: suddenly, perhaps; unexpectedly, no) – is when we have the ability to and can make sure what we want to happen happens.

A Revocable Living Trust is A Good Option for Ensuring Elderly and End-of-Life NeedsFrom the standpoint of appointing someone we trust to handle our financial and legal affairs (most of us do an okay job with medical powers of attorney, but even that gets ignored more than it should), a revocable living trust is probably the best and safest way to go.

The benefits of a revocable living trust are:

  • The person creating it retains control and can revoke control at any time as long as they are competent;
  • It can be set up with a small amount of money or a piece of property in the trust and the attorney’s fee (varies by state);
  • The person creating it designates the person/people they trust to handle their legal/financial affairs;
  • It eliminates the need for a will;
  • It cannot be legally contested;
  • The process of transferring control to the designated trustee in the case of incompetency requires a professional (psychiatric) letter with the diagnosis and evidence of incompetency;
  • It, with the professional letter declaring incompetency, is the only documentation needed for the designated trustee to handle finances and legal matters.

A revocable living trust is probably the easiest way to ensure what we want both in life if we can’t do it ourselves and in death after we’re gone.

However, it is of supreme importance to choose wisely and be absolutely convinced of the trustworthiness of the person we designate to be our trustee.

The bottom line? If we have any doubts as to whether we can trust someone completely, we do not choose them as our trustee.

It will not end well for us – in fact, it could end gruesomely and tragically – and all our careful planning will have been for nothing, to put it mildly.

But what if, as many Americans do, our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease reach the stage where they are not competent to handle their affairs without any legal documents in place?

There are two options, and by the time this is needed, it’s likely that the petitioner (us for our loved ones or our families for us) will need both of them granted.

Both options are very costly (much more expensive than the cost of powers of attorney and a revocable living trust), often take a long time to be granted, and, in many cases, set off a family war, which not only can delay a decision, but can also create irreparable rifts within the family.

One option is guardianship. Guardianships give the petitioner the legal authority to take physical care of the loved one who is incapacitated.

The process to obtaining guardianship begins with getting a professional letter confirming the person for whom guardianship is sought is incompetent to handle their own affairs.

That letter must be taken to an attorney to have a petition drawn up to submit with the letter to the court. The petitioner is responsible for all the attorney fees (general estimates are in the $2500 to $4000 range if the petition is uncontested) and court costs.

Petitioning for legal guardianship and conservatorship is a lengthy and costly processThe court will decide – slowly – whether to grant the guardianship and the entire process can take several months at the very least.

The second option is a conservatorship. A conservatorship gives the petitioner the legal authority to handle financial and estate matters for of the loved one who is incapacitated.

A conservatorship has the same legal requirements and process as a guardianship and has the same potential problems as well. That’s why if a petitioner has no other choice but to pursue these options, it’s prudent to do both of them at the same time.

There is an additional requirement for the petitioner who is granted a conservatorship for a loved one who is incapacitated. The petitioner will have to file a detailed annual financial report for the estate to the court for review to ensure that the estate is being managed as the court sees fit.

If the petitions for guardianship and conservatorship are uncontested, they will take a much longer time and much, much more money to obtain than having an attorney draw up a revocable living trust that settles everything.

If the guardianship and conservatorship petitions are contested by other family members, it’s conceivable that the legal fight could outlast the loved one who is incapacitated and the amount of money spent to fund the fight would be outrageously high.

We may have no choice in these matters with our loved ones that we are caregivers for, but I urge each of us to consider taking care of these things for ourselves now for our potential caregivers.

We need to tell our families what we want, carewise, for longterm care and at the end of our lives. We need to choose and discuss with the person we want to ensure that our wishes are carried out. We need to get the legal paperwork done and keep one copy in our home safe or a safety deposit box at the bank and give the other copy to the person we designate to carry out our wishes.

We never know when time and chance are going to happen. Today is the day to prepare for that. Tomorrow may be too late.