Tag Archives: health

Aged Out

“I hope I die before I get old.”

– “My Generation”, The Who, © 1965

I’ve thought about this scenario: I’m home alone at age 80-something and I have a stroke or some kind of cardiac event.  I can’t get to a phone and I don’t have one of those Life Alert devices.  As a staunchly independent, childless 50-something with few friends, that thought has crossed my mind on more than a few occasions in recent years.  It became even more glaringly realistic this past January, when I told my mother she needed to take a shower.  I realized she had urinated on her bed; a simple of case having fallen asleep and – given her age, I thought – wasn’t able to make it to the bathroom in time.

“I’ll change the sheets,” I told her, before retreating into the hall.  A moment later I saw she was flailing her right arm and leg.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  “You need to get up and take a shower.”  But then it became clear.

She’d had a stroke.

It apparently had been a brief event and was already starting to heal by the time she’d arrived at the hospital.  But her left side was mostly paralyzed.  I sat beside her in the emergency room, as she gazed blankly into a flickering light panel, and thought, ‘Now what?’

Years ago, when her mental health started to wane, someone asked why I didn’t place her in a “home.”  “She has a home,” I replied.  “It’s the one she’s in now.”

But the now had changed.  And I was forced to contemplate the unthinkable: putting one of my parents into a “home” – whatever the hell that’s supposed to entail.

I had promised my father that I would do everything to ensure he didn’t pass away in a hospital; ensconced in a strange bed with tubes wrapped around him, as if he was a hostage.  And I was able to help him achieve his desire.

But this situation is different – and far more complicated.  After her hospital stay, I had to place my mother into a rehabilitation center.  I found one nearby and was able to tour the facility a few days before she arrived.  It’s an older building that looked like it hadn’t received a fresh paint job in about four presidential administrations.  On that Friday evening I accompanied her to the place, I felt as if I’d swallowed a tree branch – and it was now stuck.  The center looked even more dismal than when I’d first entered.  And that night, as my mother lay in bed, glancing around the room – her left arm and leg still mostly inert – my heart filled with trepidation.  I couldn’t stay that night, so after more than an hour – assuring her things would be alright and consulting with the amiable staff – I departed.  I almost felt like I’d abandoned my mother into a pit of despair.  And, even worse, I’d violated a solemn vow I’d made to my father more than a decade ago: if he should pass away first, I’d take care of my mother.

Looks, indeed, can be deceiving.  While the rehab center was an aged structure, the staff was incredible.  I did have a good feeling from the start, though, when I first spoke with one of their representatives.  But it didn’t take long for me to realize I’d made a great choice.

I brought my mother home in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation.  The startling number of coronavirus deaths in similar facilities alarmed me.  The center had banned visitors a few days earlier, but I had to get her out of there.  As good as the place had been for her, I didn’t she feel she was safe.  And I knew I could care for her just as well as the rehab center and get her back to some semblance of her former self.  I should know by now that far-reaching plans always look great on paper or in dreams.

After only a week, I had to return her to the rehab center.  Her health had deteriorated in that short period.  But, once back at the facility, she improved.  She’d regained some movement on her left side and was alert.  She still didn’t recall what had happened.

But then, matters became even more complex – and aggravatingly unsettling.  My mother’s lengthy stay at the rehab facility had exhausted her Medicare benefits.  They paid 100% for 21 days, when they lowered the rate to 80%.  My mother – and I – was obliged to pay the remainder.  But she didn’t qualify for a supplemental insurance policy – even through Medicare.  Or the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The requisites for either make the Harvard Law School entrance exam look like a daycare application.

Medicaid was our last option.  Completing the application for that was tantamount to completing one to be a Central Intelligence Agency case officer.  And my mother wasn’t approved.  With her Social Security and two pensions, she earns too much per month; just a “few dollars” too much, the rehab center associate helping navigate the morass informed me.

And what, I inquired privately in my angry cogitations, qualifies as a “few dollars” too much?  I researched a handful of other available and plausible alternatives – enough to fill a tea cup – and could find nothing viable.  Absolutely nothing.  For my mother even to begin to qualify for some semblance of Medicaid coverage to help with her health care expenses, she’d have to cede all of her assets, including this house – the house she and my father worked hard to get and to keep; give it all up to an omnipotent entity that designed the very system to which my parents (and millions of others) annually pay homage and taxes.

And she earns a “few dollars” too much.

By the end of April, the rehab center – the place that had proved life-saving and life-changing – had reached its financial breaking point with us.  They had to let her go.  They had no choice, they told me – and therefore, neither did we.

Fortunately, Medicare does pay for extended hospice care here at the house.  Representatives with the agency I selected have been incredible – even angelic – in their commitment and service.  They’re as concerned with me, also, as my mother.

Still, I seethe at the thought of the financial fiasco in which we’ve now been placed.  We’re in debt to the rehab facility now, as well as to a slew of doctors and the hospital.  My mother is just one of literally millions of Americans in similar straits.  At current rates, the crisis will only deepen nationwide.  The number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to almost double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million in 2060; rising from 16% to 23%of the population.

A half-century ago, programs like Medicare and Medicaid were designed to assist the elderly and poor with health care needs.  They’re not just altruistic; they’re vital.  As with the Social Security system a generation earlier, Medicare and Medicaid provided necessary safety nets for many Americans.  The nation had matured into a contemporary society where even the most vulnerable of citizens were not left to fend for themselves.

As usual, social conservatives scoffed at the notion.  Just like with the post-World War II GI Bill, they denounced such aspirations as welfare and socialized medicine.  These were the same fools who demanded people swear allegiance to the United States, be willing to sacrifice their lives to the Constitution, abide by established laws, and blindly pay money to ensure a safe democracy for all.  They still do.  Yet, when people earn a “few dollars” too much…they shrug their shoulders and change the subject to American exceptionalism.

My mother began working for an insurance company in downtown Dallas in the fall of 1952 at the age of 19 and retired from an insurance company in February of 2003 at age 70.  With the exception of taking off 15 months for being pregnant with and caring for me – at a time when maternity leave was more of a concept – she worked for half a century.  Fifty years.  And, as her physical and mental health decline from years of just being alive…she earns a “few dollars” too much.

“Age is just mind over matter,” my father once told me.  “If you don’t mind, who gives a shit?!”

People have told me that, for being a good person, I deserve a “big reward.”  And I’ve also told some they deserve a special place in the “Great Beyond” just for being themselves.  As genuine and thoughtful as those words are, does anyone have to wait until life in some other realm to be appreciated for their actions?  Is it truly necessary to wait until we’re dead to receive the respect we’re due in life?

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Worst Quote of the Week – May 29, 2020

“Well I did wear – I had one on before. I wore one in this back area. But I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”

President Donald Trump, in response to a reporter on why he didn’t wear a mask while touring a Ford plant.

Writer, artist and fellow blogger Art Browne (my kindred brother in weirdness) proposed this alternative:

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Stop or I’ll Spray!

A friend of mine snapped this photo of a neighbor recently.

1 Comment

Filed under Curiosities

A Trump Cocktail

Trump and Lysol

3 Comments

Filed under Wolf Tales

How the Chief Is Coping with the COVID-19 Quarantine – April 24, 2020

Taking out some pesky ants is always a great inconvenience.  But I don’t particularly like the aroma of insecticide wafting through my house, especially my kitchen, so I had to take a more drastic measure.

Gosh…I guess I should have thought of sledgehammer repercussions.

1 Comment

Filed under Wolf Tales

Dancing for COVID

Hans Holbein’s “The Lady,” part of his “Danse Macabre” series, c. 1526

From illness and tragedy, art always seems to bloom to place ourselves and our world into a grand perspective.  After the “Black Death” rampaged through Eurasia and North Africa in the 14th century, the “danse macabre”, or dance of death, became an artistic representation of how death is the ultimate equalizer.  Beginning in Western Europe and gaining popularity in the Middle Ages, it was a literary or pictorial representation of both living and dead figures – from pope to hermit – leading their lives as normal, before entering a grave.

Recently some pallbearers in Ghana envisioned the dance for contemporary deaths and the ensuing funerals.  As many Africans tend to do, they celebrate death as the next stage of life – mournful and often tragic, for certain.  Singing and dancing, they honor the deceased for the life they led on Earth and the glorious new life they should have in the next realm.

It’s how I view death.  My paternal grandfather said he respected death more than any other aspect of the world because it’s not prejudiced or bigoted.  It simply spares no one.  I felt some measure of glee when I watch the ending of the 1997 movie “Titanic”, as the ship sank and the plethora of furnishings and luxurious items shattered.  Not because I love seeing things destroyed!  But because all of the vainglorious possessions of the vessel’s wealthiest patrons could not save them.  They may have been rescued because of their wealth, as many of them entered the smattering of lifeboats first.  But, whether dead at that moment or dead later, they would never be able to take those items with them.

We all come into this world naked and screaming, clutching nothing but our souls in our hands.  We leave with the same.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art Working

Tweet of the Week – April 24, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to a comment by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that individual states file for bankruptcy, due to the financial distress caused by the COVID-19 crisis, than apply for help from the U.S. federal government.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Worst Quote of the Week – April 24, 2020

“What I said when I was with you that night is there are more important things than living.  And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us.  I don’t want to die, nobody wants to die.  But man, we’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”

Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on jump-starting the economy in Texas and other states to stave off a recession.

Patrick is essentially trying to walk back a comment he’d made last month that he’d rather perish from the new coronavirus than see instability in the state’s economic system.

Too late.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Best Quote of the Week – April 24, 2020

“We live in a country where skin color is hazardous to one’s health and mortality is not determined by one’s genetic code but instead by one’s ZIP code.  We appeal to you to channel treatment and resources to those areas in our body politic that have suffered the most from this national infection that has allowed this virus to spread disproportionately.”

Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas.

Haynes signed a letter calling on the Trump Administration to address the racial and economic inequality that is making non-White communities more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Earth Day at 50

A lion pride naps on a road in Kempiana Contractual Park, South Africa, an area tourists do not see.  The park has been shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film “The Birds” was an innovative horror film.  A small, peaceful town in northern California suddenly finds itself the target of avian rage.  Seemingly unprovoked and without explanation, untold numbers of birds begin assaulting the townsfolk; leading to death and destruction in the most surreal ways.  Some film historians consider “The Birds” to be a call to action for the burgeoning environmental movement.

But I consider a movie that came out nine years later, “Frogs”, to be an even greater homage to environmental action.  It points specifically to environmental degradation caused by irresponsible and reckless human activity.  Whereas “The Birds” deals with one type of animal that suddenly goes insane, “Frogs” gathers an entire gallery of creatures that seek revenge on their human adversaries.  Just about everyone likes birds.  But few truly like spiders, snakes and alligators – the monsters that seem to band together in “Frogs”.  Even snapping turtles and clever geckoes get into the act!  And yes, frogs join in the mayhem with their ominous croaking, as if directing the chaos.

Unlike “The Birds” where both characters and audience are perplexed by the deranged airborne assaults, it becomes clear the frightening swamp creatures inhabiting “Frogs” are colluding to exact their own brand of justice.  As laughable as the antics can be at times, I always find myself gleeful at the sight of upper class people, trapped on an island off the coast of Georgia on Independence Day weekend, suddenly realizing their wealth and luxurious possessions can’t save them from the brewing ecological nightmare.

It’s the same feeling I get when I see bullfighting matadors gored by the massive horned beasts they stab with spears or when a circus elephant decides to bitch slap people dancing on its back.  It’s also the identical sense of euphoria I’ve been getting in recent weeks as I read of vacant cities resulting in clear skies and see pictures of wild animals strolling through urban streets because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day 2020, a movement begun as the realities of an industrialized society became brutally clear.  A number of celebrations and gatherings had been planned for this day.  The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has stifled those activities, and the revelry has been limited to virtual commemorations.  But, as raucous as some festivities have been in the past – with the usual cadre of corporate scions sneering overhead – perhaps there may be no better way to celebrate Earth Day than watching the world go quiet.

Satellite photos of many locations taken before and after mandatory quarantines and lock-downs exhibit how the reduction of human and vehicular traffic has resulted in less-polluted skies.  On clear days, for example, overhead views of Lake Michigan often reveal shipwrecks on the sea bottom.  But recent COVID-19 restrictions have produced many more of these days.

Undoubtedly, the disease has been heartbreaking and tragic.  But as Earth Day 2020 quietly sunsets, I still feel things couldn’t be more glorious with quarantining and social distancing have become common practice.

A fox wanders through a residential street near West Middlesex University Hospital in London, England on April 2, 2020. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

Jackals howl in Hayarkon Park, in the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel. (Oded Balilty/AP)

A Hindu holy man feeds monkeys at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, the country’s most revered Hindu temple on March 31, 2020. Guards, staff and volunteers are ensuring animals and birds on the temple grounds don’t starve during the country’s lockdown, which halted temple visits and stopped the crowds that used to line up to feed the animals. (Niranjan Shrestha/AP)

Horses in Huajchilla, Bolivia, on the outskirts of La Paz, wander a deserted highway amid government restrictions that limit residents to essential shopping in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus on April 15, 2020. (Juan Karita/AP)

Two women take pictures of the pelicans in a deserted St James’ Park due to the Coronavirus outbreak in London, England on April 14, 2020. (Alberto Pezzali/AP)

Cats eat food on a street that is almost empty before a nighttime curfew imposed by the government to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Beirut, Lebanon on April 3, 2020. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

A lone peacock walks along a street in Dubai on April 1, 2020, past shops closed during the pandemic. (Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images)

Fallow deer from Dagnam Park in Romford, England rest and graze on the grass outside homes in the Harold Hill community on April 2, 2020. The deer are a regular sight in the area around the park, but as the roads have become quieter due to the nationwide lockdown, the deer have staked a claim on new territories in the vicinity. (León Neal/Getty Images)

A young puma wanders the streets of Santiago, Chile shows on March 24, 2020. According to Chile’s Agricultural and Livestock Service, the animal arrived from nearby mountains in search for food as fewer people occupy the streets due to COVID-19. (Andres Pina/ATON CHILE/AFP via Getty Images)

A wild deer, from a herd used to mingling with and be fed by the local population, roams a deserted street during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown, in the port city of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka on March 31, 2020. (STR/AFP Getty Images)

Mountain goats roam the streets of Llandudno, Wales. The goats normally live on the rocky Great Orme but are occasional visitors to the seaside town, but a local councilor told the BBC that the herd was drawn this time by the lack of people and tourists due to the COVID-19 outbreak and quarantine measures. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A stray dog walks in front of an empty historic India Gate as a nationwide lockdown continues over the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) on March 30, 2020, in New Delhi, India. (Yawar Nazir)

Stray dogs stand on a deserted square in Pristina, Kosovo on April 1, 2020, during a government-imposed curfew from 5pm to 5am as part of preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19. (Armend Nimani/AFP)

Sika deer cross a road on March 12, 2020, in Nara, Japan. Like a number of tourist hotspots around the country, Nara, a popular ancient city where free-roaming deer are an attraction for tourists, has seen a decline in visitor numbers in recent weeks amid concern over the spread of COVID-19. Some groups of deer have begun roaming in the city’s residential area due to shortage of food partially fed from tourists, according to media reports. (Tomohiro Ohsumi)

A seabird swims across clear waters by a gondola in a Venice canal on March 17, 2020, as a result of the stoppage of motorboat traffic, following Italy’s lockdown within the new coronavirus crisis. (Andrea Pattaro/AFP)

Sea turtle hatchlings scamper towards the water. (Ben Hicks)

The History Channel’s “Life After People” series examined what the world could look like if humanity disappeared.  It didn’t describe what might cause a massive die-off of humans, but a variety of experts discussed how flora and fauna would slowly consume and ultimately destroy human-made creations and induce a chemical- and pollution-free world.

Hm…would that be a bad thing?

7 Comments

Filed under Essays