Tag Archives: illness

The Hard Realities of Aging and Falling to Pieces

A recent article on “life before death” dementia and late-life illness struck a cord with me and my family. While I’ve always been fearful of death, the reality is that death isn’t just a one-time end. Even if you’re “lucky” to reach 100, for everyone, that means many years of degraded mental and physical health. It must be terrible to go through, but it’s equally as terrible for everyone else around you trying to help you progress slowly towards death.

My Grandmother, 83, has a gambling problem. In the last 10, mostly 5 years, she has gambled away her entire life savings of more than $300,000. Everyone knew she had a problem, but no one legally could intervene to help. Now, she’s broke, and at age 83, approaching the age of severe medical problems, even after leading a relatively healthy life (more thanks to good genetics than being healthy.) My mother and her sister’s had already been in uncomfortable discussions around what to do with her — as her social security did not provide enough money to pay for her two bedroom apartment in her Las Vegas retirement community, but she refused to move into a smaller space.

A few days ago, my grandmother fell down. She broke a bone in her neck, which was operable. On the scene of the fall, the paramedic asked her how old she was — she said 64. The doctor’s brought her to a rehab facility after she stopped being combative and arguing with them, and after one day there she told my mother via phone she had been there for weeks. The doctor diagnosed her with mild dementia. Now the question is not how she can afford the 2 bedroom apartment and a $2000 tax bill, but how to afford many years ahead of assisted living.

Meanwhile, her daughters — my mother, and her two sisters — are not in strong enough financial places to step in and help. My parents are concerned about their retirement savings as the stock market has not recovered, and they continue to spend like it is magically going to. I tell my mom over and over to not make the same mistakes her mother did, but she cannot see spending money on clothes and cleaning help as the same as her mother’s gambling away all her savings. In the end, the money will be gone, I tell her, so it’s the same. She ignores me.

For now, they need to figure out what to do with their mother as she gets increasingly senile. She’s always been a bit crazy, so adding real dementia to that crazy could get very bad, very fast. My mother is considering trying to get her to move out to New Jersey to be closer and find a lower cost place to stay, but all is up in the air right now. I don’t think my mother can really handle her mother at the moment, as my dad is in the later stages of terminal cancer and his cancer will likely get worse in the next few years or even months.

Overall, this is a very depressing situation, but so goes life.

 

Facing Reality of Cancer as Autumn Leaves Burn to Umber

As I’ve written about previously, my father has cancer. He was diagnosed three years ago with advanced stage prostate cancer. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I have an interesting relationship with my dad. I wouldn’t say we’re the closet father-daughter pairing in the world, but regardless he’s still my father and I’ve always imagined watching him grow old and having him around as the grandfather to my future children — he was always good with really little kids. I wanted him to meet my kids, and for them to have him as a grandfather. I’ve always known he’d be a much better grandfather then father.

But everyday that goes by, I know this is more and more unlikely of how life will pan out. With cancer, you can be fine one day and the next your conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Living far away, I try to visit often, but in between there is little conversation. He doesn’t like talking about his emotions or what he is going through, though lately he’s admit to being depressed. He won’t admit to being depressed about dying, per say, more so that the drugs they have given him have removed his testosterone and have “feminized” him. Really, though, I know he’s equally, if not more depressed because he’s terminally ill. But I don’t know how to deal with that. He doesn’t want to talk about it. I want to be a support for him, but I don’t know if I can handle it, even if he was willing to talk.

The day today on the east coast is cool and crisp, with a heavy grey sky, and bright yellow leaves on the trees falling off in the wind to dry and die on the ground. Another year has come and gone — and things are slowly changing. Everything is aging, myself included. I don’t like change, but I’m not resistant to it. I’m more in denial about it. That will all change the day my father’s condition gets worse — which is any day now. That will all change when I need to decide how important it is for me to be out here with him through his final days, however long they may be, or to maintain my life across the country, far from his inevitable deathbed. I don’t like to think about it, but it’s getting to a point where I’m going to have to. I don’t know if he would want me here, he hates being seen as weak. But I’d want to be here. It’s strange knowing that in the next year or two, this is something I will have to face. It’s part of life, but he’s still young at 60, and I’m not ready for him to go. I keep hoping that someone will discover a cure for prostate cancer, and everyday there’s a new treatment available, but never a cure.

A Post About Life, Death, and “Stuff”

My father worked his entire life taking a train into the city and home, five days a week, with an hour-and-some-odd-long commute and long hours. He earned good money, enough to support an upper middle class life for myself, my sister, and my stay-at-home mom.

He retired early because he was overweight and couldn’t take the commute anymore. A few years later, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The recession hit and his 401k, once nearing $2 Million, was down to below $1M — still a respectable amount for retirement, but not necessarily enough to support his lifestyle, illness treatment, and my mom’s high-maintenance lifestyle.

Three years ago, my father was told he has two years to live. I’m glad he’s outlived that doctor prediction, but the reality is that it’s unlikely he’s going to live for many more years. He doesn’t want to think about that, or believe that, understandably, so while he complains about his slowly depleting bank account, he’s been spending the last year obsessively purchasing stuff to put in our NJ home. It’s actually really sad, as he’s spending lots of money to fast redecorate the entire home, and completely refurnish rooms, because to him, stuff is important, or at the very least a distraction from reality.

He purchased a $3,000 rug for the dining room, he’s bought paintings for thousands of dollars that have questionable value, but he liked them. He wants the house to look like a museum, now that he has time to shop for art. He complains that building on to the family room cost too much money, yet continues to spend. It’s not my place to say anything about his purchases, but the other reality is I’m going to be the one left to deal with my mother when she runs out of money later in life. And I’ll deal with it when the time comes, but all I want to do is teach my parents how to be responsible with money. It’s not a conversation I can have with my father — he’s worked his whole life while barely living and if acquiring “art,” movies and books makes him happy, then he should be able to do this… even if it means my mother is going to have to learn how to live on less or, more likely, run out of money when she’s 80.

I really hope I can live a life where I never get to the end and feel like I need to rush to spend my money buying stuff to fill the emptiness that extends beyond a few white walls. For now, I’ll continue to be surprised by the latest addition to my family “museum” every trip I take home.

 

Who wants to be Charlie Sheen?

With 2 million followers on Twitter since joining the site a few days ago, it’s unquestionable that Sheen’s celebrity power is worth enough money to fund his addictive, bipolar, goddess-filled lifestyle. America LOVES Charlie Sheen, in all his crazy glory. America LOVES to hate him as well, because he can get away with all the things the average person would be doomed by. His cocaine binges, his self-indulgent media whoring, his ability to become MORE famous for his crazy antics despite causing his show to shut down, makes him almost as invincible as he thinks he is.

I admittedly haven’t followed Sheen’s story closely, and have only caught glimpses of his interviews online, and have seen the stars glistening in my boyfriend’s eyes as he defines Sheen as “awesome,” half jokingly, half… well, half surely wanting to be Charlie Sheen. His 24-year-old blonde Goddesses clutching his side, watching his children, and undoubtedly providing a party in the bedroom, without asking him to grow up — after all, who needs to grow up when you have billions of dollars to blow through?

Our society both glamorizes this type of outrageous celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to forget these people are human, not gods, and probably have as many downs as they do ups. Yet somehow — even with all the drug use and body-hurting behaviors — most live, and seem, well, happy. Especially Charlie Sheen — maybe he just fakes it well — but he sure seems to love being able to exploit his mania, and have the financial cushion to do whatever he wants in life.

Ok, so maybe YOU don’t want to be Charlie Sheen, but I might. Not to be HIM exactly, but to have enough fame and fortune to live a life of extremes and spontaneity. That may be unhealthy, but I’d agree to some extent that it IS winning. Then again, as someone who struggles with a more mild form of Bipolar, I lust for an even more extreme mania than the hypomania I occasionally experience with Bipolar II. I’ve never had a real manic episode, but — deep down my happiness seems tied to the ability to live manic. Why do I need a lot of money? I want to be able to, when in a manic-type of mood, go to a mall and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and other items. I want to be able to blow a few thousand dollars on a weekend trip to Hawaii, or London, or anywhere else in the world. And I want enough money to buy my friends, because then you don’t have to be the perfect friend, just the one who can afford to keep your selected company around.

I guess I do want to be Charlie Sheen, and with that being my goal in life, I don’t think my dreams are all too realistic. Especially since the female version of Sheen is Lindsay Lohan or something, and I wouldn’t want to be her.