Meanwhile reality sets in and the dreamer, neck-deep in a new marriage, job search and non-fiction writing project exploring tempting and taboo sexual habits and spiritual beliefs, has to sideline life to focus on the sad-but-true actuality of dementia symptoms in a middle-class, eighty-something, widow she calls the Gramma lady…
It’s strange being appointed the Power of Attorney for a woman who sometimes resembled a mother, sometimes a persnickety, Pentecostal matriarch, sometimes doting grandmother. I didn’t ask for the position but an unfortunate series of events brought me to the role. My Auntie Kathy, the Gramma lady’s second born, had been the Power of Attorney for years. I, an ignorant grandchild visited blissfully with the Gramma lady as often as I could after the passing of Gramps, the patriarch that we all loved. I wanted to be in her life, like I was in Gramps until the end of her days. I knew much of the fabric of me was woven by her hands, her hymns and her reprimands. She bathed me, fed me, held me when my dad worked too much and my mother partied too much. She sang songs about blood and power to me when it otherwise would have been a dark and lonely childhood. She told me stories of her daddy and a war I only knew from movies and her worn-out, re-told tales. She visited me when my father’s work took me thousands of miles away from the rest of my family. She took me in when my mother kicked me out. She watched my boys while I got high. She was the Gramma lady I took for granted.
And then by a miracle of grace, God, for some reason, reached through my addiction and got my attention. The first place I went after the alter, was to them, Gramps and the Gramma lady. And like always, they were there. He, with air sucked through his teeth and funny little jokes or tricks to make me laugh, and she with hymns and too many words and lessons about life and the past.
I was an adult, they were retirees and great-grandparents to my boys. They (along with another set of dearly loved great-grandparents) fed them when I was getting on my feet but too poor to feed them myself. They gave us furniture and life lessons and way too much food. They proclaimed the gospel truth of Jesus not only in word but in deed. They were good and faithful servants.
Then as this life does, it came to call. In a moment, which actually stretched painfully long, Gramps was taken in a beautiful but melancholy way, home to heaven, and the Gramma lady was left alone again.
See, she’d been alone before… we all know the story; her daddy went to war and she was left alone. I didn’t want her to be so alone so I went to visit as often as I could. I knew how loneliness rots away at the bones and soul and didn’t want that to happen to the lady who woke me up for school and was at the dawn of almost all my early days. So I visited. After our family moved a hundred or so miles away I called regularly and visited once a month. I helped with bills and ‘lifting things’ when I could and left the hard work to my auntie.
Then cancer came calling for auntie Kathy. Who knows why, but it did. She got it and her life was suddenly about surviving. She is still fighting but couldn’t manage the Gramma lady’s affairs and her own struggle to live. The three siblings agreed, or something like that, and they asked me to be Power of Attorney.
Now here I am. 40 years old and in charge of a tiny estate. I have no idea what to do or how this will play out. All I know is I pledged my life to God nearly twenty years ago and He wants me to honor my father and mother. For much of my life, this Gramma lady was the closest thing to mother that I had, though I resented her. Additionally, though he’s largely absent, I have my own father to consider in this matter. Anything left will be partially his to split with his brother and sister… and me, because for some reason they included me in the will.
But will there even be anything left? The answer, according to “experts,” lawyers and people who have been down this road is… NO. Nothing will be left to pass on.
These two saints; imperfect, Pentecostal, preachers of the gospel, that they were, because they were middle-class and uneducated in the high cost of elder care will spend their lifetime of earnings and retirement on assisted living care until my Gramma is dead or has nothing left. Then and only then will she be able to qualify for Medicaid, a nice way to say welfare healthcare for the elderly.
I don’t know anything about this and here I am trying to pay my Gramma’s bills, protect her assets (which isn’t possible) and get her moved into a safe place. What I’ve been told now from more than one lawyer is, if she lives, in the mentally deteriorated state that she’s in for a long time, all of her assets will have to be “spent down” to pay for her medical expenses. It sucks!
I understand paying your way, I do, trust me, I do. I’m Italian, we work. We work long, and we work hard and we earn our keep. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s sad to me that … if she lives a long time, which I hope she does, they will have nothing of all of their combined years of ministry, work and service to pass on. No, I’m not money grubbing, I actually want to make my own way in this world, but I am sad that life comes down to this for the middle-class in America.
‘“Meaningless! Meaningless!” Says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.’
Like the bible says, it is the circle of life, they’ll die, we’ll carry on, we’ll die, others will carry on… without hope it’s meaningless. But still… for all their hard work, it would be nice to have something, other than a medical or elder care facility bill at the end. I’ve talked to four lawyers, two friends and my most trusted confidant, not to mention countless individuals with ideas and input and there is nothing to do but spend her money until it’s gone, so that she can get on Medicaid (welfare). The alternative is to hope she dies sooner than later, sick, but it’s the alternative…
I can manage her bills and assets as responsibly and mindfully as I can, but there’s not much hope for the Gramma lady to have anything “left” for her heirs.
If there is any silver lining, it is this… not for she who came before me, but for us, the honest, hard-working middle-class, who won’t be rich, but will hopefully have enough of a legacy we’ve worked hard for to pass down to our kids and grand-kids…
What I’ve learned is this:
1) ABOVE ALL… know where you’ll go when you die. Search your soul, your heart, your mind. If you’re confident and at peace, good for you. If not, try Jesus, He’ll give you a peace that passes understanding. If you want to know more, email me, I’m happy to share!
2) BUY LONG-TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE as soon as possible!! If my Grandparents had this earlier, they could have protected their assets from the dreaded Medicaid look-back period because they would have been paying to fund their own elder care! It’s expensive, it’s a bear but trust me… if you want to leave anything to your heirs, it’s imperative!
3) GIVE YOUR ASSETS TO YOUR LOVED ONES WHILE YOU CAN ENJOY THEM ENJOYING THEM! If you have kids or grand-kids doing right by God, you and their fellow man… don’t hold on to your things like a greedy tyrant, give them their stuff while you’re healthy enough to avoid the look back and offer them sage advice. If you’re building an estate to pass on, and you have heirs responsible enough and old enough to pass them to, make it a fair deal, but pass them on now…
This is only from my little tiny bit of experience, and I’m sure there’ll be more as the days pass by, but that’s what I’ve got for now. Take care of you now, for when you’re older, and pass on to them now what you want to when you’re dead…
I am open for anything and everything anyone has to share. Our family is neck deep in this dementia transition and spend down. It’s overwhelming and we’d appreciate all the wisdom and sage advice we can get!