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  • I Want Mom's Hair to Look Good

    For about two months, I have been complaining to Jennifer (the administrator at my mother’s assisted living facility) about Mom's hair. It’s long and straggly and looks like a comb’s passed through it about once a day. It’s clean, mind you, but it’s ugly. I know, I know—I should be satisfied that my mom is getting the best possible care. Correction: the world’s best care.

  • I Hate Using Medicaid for Mom’s Assisted Living

    Some Medicaid bureaucrats and state legislators have it all wrong. The commonly encountered misconception that families sock away the elder’s financial resources and eagerly await eligibility for Medicaid is a misguided perspective at best. More likely, it’s a point of view born of personal inexperience.

    I just wrote a check for $6,000 to pay my mother’s February care at the assisted living. The check for February represents the end of Reva’s money. After years of independence, thrift and pride, my mother is broke, flat broke.

  • A Reintroduction of a Good Enough Daughter

    After posting blog entries here since June 2008, I thought, for new readers, it might be a good idea to reintroduce myself, my mother, and our story. (Jane Gross, author of the New York Times' blog the New Old Age, posted a version of this entry on January 22, 2009.)

  • The Sacred Cloth

    If I said it once to my mother, I said it a hundred times, “Move near me while you have the energy to make a new life for yourself. Don’t wait until you have to move.” As many readers know from their own experiences, my mother wasn’t going to move. Period.

    It happened suddenly: multiple falls, a broken hip, profound confusion, and my monthly flights to Phoenix. Something had to give. Finally, my mother relented and agreed to move to a rehabilitation center near me. That problem was solved. Now, what to do with the condo and all the contents?

  • New to Family Caregiving? Follow Simple Rules to Stay Sane

    Rule #1: Drop all expectations of “success”; caregiving is a process, not a goal. We boomers approach life tasks as if they were projects: identify the problem, determine goals, develop strategies and action plans. Forget all that. Caregiving is a day-at-a-time effort. It begins, it goes on for some period, and then it ends. It’s a process.

  • Family Funerals: The Good, the Bad, and the Wacky

    My mother’s sister Babe and sister-in-law Dorothy died this month. I went to both services, one in Phoenix and one in San Francisco. The services were both fine. Loving and appropriate sentiments were expressed by the rabbi and exchanged among family members. But the range of behaviors, outside of the formal settings, was really the most interesting part of both funeral weekends.  

  • What Will Happen When the Money Runs Out?

    Cordelia Robertson, age 99, was recently given an eviction notice from her assisted living facility in Seattle, after living there for a decade (“Assisted-living facility tries to evict 99-year-old woman on Medicaid,” Seattle Times, June 4, 2008). She had spent all the money she had, almost $400,000, to pay for her care. Out of money and eligible for Medicaid funding, Ms.

  • Aunt Babe Died: What Do I Tell My Mother?

    I opened my email this morning to find a message from my cousin telling family members that Aunt Babe died yesterday. Aunt Babe, my mother’s younger sister by two years, suffered from leukemia for about five years prior to her death and lived in the same city as my mother, Reva. Absent the dementia, Reva would not have been surprised by Aunt Babe’s death.   

  • The Importance of a Glass of Wine Before Visiting Mom

    I really love my mother. I really have no problem at all visiting with her and taking her to places she needs to go. We have been close all my life, and that has not changed. But, sometimes, the dementia thing becomes way more than I want to deal with.

  • Where Has All the Money Gone?

    I thought raising kids was expensive and sending them to college even more so. But those expenses pale compared to the cost of caring for someone who is old and frail. As the “attorney in fact” for my mother, I write checks for thousands of dollars at a time on a regular basis. My mother, a retired social worker, would have a stroke if she saw the amount of money being spent on her care.

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