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Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake

I let out a big breath, looked at both social workers sitting across from me, and said, “Let me see if I’m hearing you correctly. If Medicare and the insurance company determines that my father has ’plateaued’ and is no longer meeting his recovery goals, then they will no longer pay for his care?”

“Yes, that’s right,” Lisa said.

“Okay. It sounds like other skilled nursing homes are not going to accept him. So that means we’ll have to do private pay and hope that Medicare will pick-up the cost of his rehab sessions right?”

Lisa said yes again and I responded by saying, “I’m sorry, but the system is screwed-up. My parents could run through their savings in a few years to cover the cost of private pay for my dad. I know this isn’t your fault, but it’s shocking.”

Becky, the other social worker in the room, noted, “Well, there are things you can do to avoid that. Your mom could divide up her assets and that way the state could help cover healthcare costs. Many people have done that before.”

The social workers, my mom, and I went on to talk about other options for my dad and I sat in my chair thinking, Really? At a time when my dad is recovering from two strokes, the advice is to divide up assets? Or pay $5,000 to $7,000 a month for care, if we can get him into another rehab center? This is really what the medical system has come to? If my dad comes home we’ll make sure he has good care, but what happens when the money runs out?

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My dad had a significant stroke on January 14th. Once he was medically stable, he was sent to a wonderful acute rehabilitation center in Chico, CA. Unfortunately, he had another stroke a few weeks later. Luckily it was small but there was some bleeding in his brain.

He’s been in the same rehab center for the last month. However, Medicare and insurance only cover the cost of acute rehab for a short period of time because it’s so expensive. (It’s about $10,000 per day). In short, my dad is on borrowed time at the rehab center.

The social workers I mentioned earlier, have been looking for another rehab and nursing facility that he could be transfered to. Originally, we wanted him transferred to a skilled nursing facility and rehab center in Redding as a transition before coming home.

However, we found out last week that coming home is the only option right now. There are no long-term care facilities that will accept him in Northern CA because he needs 24-7 supervision and a lot of care. After having two strokes, he can’t walk by himself, eat by himself, or see well, and he’s cognitively impaired.

In a lot of ways, bringing him home is the best option. He’ll still receive rehab and he can actually get some sleep. And hopefully, the familiarity of home and getting enough rest will heal his brain.

The healthcare system is broken, and the status quo is not acceptable, but I will not abandon hope. In To Love What Is, Alix Kates Shulman noted, “I fear that to resign myself to the status quo and abandon hope is not only to betray myself but to abandon him – as Medicare dumps patients who are no longer improving, leaving on their own the millions of elderly in desperate need of humane long-term care, before returning to pick up the hospice costs as death approaches.”

I’m thankful that my job is mobile so that I can be here, in Red Bluff, for my mom and to help her navigate all the details. For example, she cannot physically take care of my dad by herself, 24-7, so we’ll have caregivers in the house to help. We also have to make sure the house is safe for my dad.

Making sure both my parents stay sane through the recovery process is going to be a team effort. It looks like I’ll have one foot in Oregon and one foot in California for the rest of the year.

Parting Words . . .

Yesterday, my mom and I spent some time at Barnes and Noble. I picked up a few books and found a lovely little journal for quotes. On the front of the journal it says, “Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake.”

It’s my new mantra. In the midst of a crisis, especially a healthcare crisis, it’s essential to stay calm and hold hope close to my heart. I keep reminding myself that the system might not believe in my dad—but I do.

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If you have constructive suggestions about caregiving, feel free to email me: tammy(at)rowdykittens(dot)com.

Be well,
Tammy

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