Earlier this year a featured article in Atlanta Magazine offered a uniquely detailed and accurate portrait of what it is really like to help an ailing parent or loved one as their heath deteriorates. Entitled, “The Long Goodbye,” the article shares the author’s own story of heartbreak, worry, stress, financial loss, and confusion while caring for his ailing father. Each New York elder law attorney at our firm understands that it is often helpful to hear real, individual stories about the aging and caregiving process. Discussing numbers–assets saved, taxes avoided–is necessary, but at the end of the day this process is very much about emotions and family values.
The author explains that he thought his father was going to die in 2001. The elderly man had fallen while trying to get the mail, hitting his head hard on the ground and temporarily losing consciousness. The man then skinned his knees as he crawled back up his driveway to the front door of his house. It was that incident that prompted his family to take him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a deteriorating spine. Not only that, but doctors also found prostate cancer. A risky operation was undertaken, and the family was warned that the man was likely in his final days.
However, he was not actually in his final days.
Similar to the experiences of many local community members, the elderly man persisted. For the next eleven years he was shuttled from care facilities, hospices, and other locations as those involved struggled to find the best fit for him. Our New York elder law attorneys have worked with many clients who have similarly been confused as to what long-term care options are best for their loved one.
The eleven years of care took its toll on the family finances. The author explained, “Daddy’s long goodbye has drained his retirement income and life savings of more than $300,000. Where’s the money gone? Assisted living, mostly. Of course, that amount doesn’t account for his medical bills, most of which have been paid by Medicare and insurance policies that were part of his retirement.”
The author admits that he and his sister were completely unprepared to deal with their father’s deterioration. They were not familiar with long-term planning options, had not spoken with an elder law attorney, and did not know where to begin to get him the care he needed. The author warned others that while it may not be comfortable to talk about, the benefits of figuring some of these details out ahead of time is absolutely essential.
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