We All End Up There in the End

I’ve always been afraid of dying, but after visiting my now deceased grandmother’s “home” in Las Vegas, I gained a new fear of living. Aging is not a fun process by any means as we lose control of our minds and our bodies towards our inevitable fate.

Why am I thinking about this on Christmas? My husband’s grandmother, who is in her 90s, is in one of those homes and the situation, from what I gather, is not a good one. When you’re in your 90’s – even if you are mentally intact – you often lose your autonomy. If you are lucky, you have a family member who genially cares for your well being who is given power of attorney¬†¬†over you and everything in your life. Where you live, when you go to the doctor, when you can go for a walk, and practically how often you’re allowed to breathe per day.

Mr. HECC’s grandmother was moved to a home about six months ago. His uncle has power of attorney over her life. Of the three siblings, he was the only one who wanted this responsibility, and I think he means well but the whole family is neurotic so he limits what she can do and refuses to look for a new place for her to live even though it’s clear she is unhappy there. She’s the type of person who doesn’t like to cause problems, so she’ll just go along with whatever her son says is best for her – but her daughter (my husband’s mother) wants to visit with her and be able to have some control over what she can do, but they won’t allow it. What’s unclear is what the grandmother actually wants — and Mr. HECC’s uncle (and apparently his wife) are very strongly driving all the choices.

This makes sense should she have dementia like my grandmother did, but she is completely aware and functionally mentally. She’s 90-something, so her body is weak because she’s just old and that’s what happens. But being fully there mentally and being forced to live in a household with other elders who have lost their minds, with the only TV channel that is on during the day basketball or news (and mostly basketball), of course she’s going to deteriorate fast. Who wouldn’t?

These are the places we end up if we’re “lucky enough” to live to old age. I wonder if those who are truly lucky are people who die in their 60s and 70s in quick and painless deaths like a heart attack in one’s sleep, versus aging to the point where you are just living to die.

It was a whole production to get permission to bring the grandmother to her house for Christmas because the uncle didn’t want her to leave the place. Eventually after my husband begged him and guaranteed he’d be extremely careful he agreed and signed the paperwork to let her leave for four hours. Her house is only five minutes away from the place she must live now, but she hasn’t been home since she moved there. I know when I’m old I am going to want the freedom to go places – with help from others, of course, but I don’t want to be locked up in a house with sports on TV all day and no where to go. What a life that is… after whatever you’ve accomplished in your many years, you are just an animal in a zoo waiting to die.

One of the reasons I am so invested in saving a lot of money for retirement is to hopefully bypass this experience in old age. With enough money one can stay in their home and hire full time care, or at least have a good lawyer to ensure one’s family is not forcing you to do things that you don’t like. I am concerned in this case that the uncle with power of authority is making decisions based on inheritances as well – which is a challenging thing to consider since the more you spend on your mother being in a home they are happy in, the less money they have to pass on to their children. It is nice to think that all children would put their elderly parent’s welfare as top priority, but not everyone does that. Not everyone has good relationships with their parents or the best intentions.

This is not to say that the uncle is doing this, but who knows? If I save a lot of money in my life then what is to stop a child from having power of authority over my well being and then trying to force me to not spend the money so they can get it after I pass? It is so strange to me that as we age we are treated like children at some point, even if we can still make our own decisions. In these houses our elderly deteriorate rapidly. Apparently the home makes more money if she is wheelchair bound, so they have incentive to refuse her walking on a daily basis so she soon requires more assistance. It’s all so messed up, and I wonder how to prevent this sort of situation for when I reach old age. I wonder how much money at retirement is required to procure a good lawyer and retain control of where I live and what my life is like, even if my mind fails me. How do I guarantee that I will be taken outside on drives to see new things — to watch the sunset and to see the ocean? How much retirement savings are required to ensure that?

 

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One comment

  1. azure says:

    This is one of my biggest concerns! But this is one area where it’s not just a matter of having enough money. Most important is having someone who is looking out for your best interests–one would hope that would be a child but sometimes that is not the case. Since I’m childfree I know I won’t have that, so I’m hoping to set something up far in advance with an elder care committee (such as a lawyer, social worker and a trusted friend) who will make sure I’m not being abused. But one can never be sure. Augh!

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