Where have I been? Strokes & other things

It’s the perfect writer’s day. Snow falling. Jazz playing. Coffee hot. What better time to explain why I’ve been missing.

For the past 4 months, I’ve been caring for my mother who suffered a series of strokes.

Many have gone through this but it seems that no one talks about how awful and confusing it all is. There’s no flowchart, no serene doctor’s office pamphlet on what to do or how to do it. What is available is a 2×4 of life hitting one in the head.

“Bittersweet” is rather a floppy word for dealing with stroke. The word needs more iron, more steel, because that’s how it hits. It’s sobbingly raw to see someone you love afflicted by memory loss, disinterest in food, and the sudden flip of role from parent to baby.

It all happened so fast; trying to save this little life. Ripping her away from her condo, her friends, taking her home with us to another state, having siblings sort through the massive trove of the things of her former life. Christmas decorations, cookbooks, her car. “Gutwrenching” is another flobbery word. It needs some vitamin-infusion. “Eviscerating” is more apt.

She asks about these things sometimes. I get queasy and remind that priority one was to save her life. She relents.

The learning curve of the medical and financial world of stroke was steep. I’ll be writing a series of the jargon and mechanics of dealing with stroke and how to have those hard family conversations before stroke hits. Here’s what we learned at a high level:

*Assets-first and foremost you must understand what assets your parent has. A house, savings account, investment accounts. You cannot try to hide these either, there will be a 5-year look back. This determines the path of help you travel:

*Medicare

*Medicaid-for the poor

In our case, luckily, it was Medicare.

1. Medicare original, not advantage, is your best friend-it pays for all things hospital and medical (parts A and B)

2. Medicare supplement (part F) like AARP under United Healthcare picks up those parts that A and B don’t cover like deductibles.

3. There are levels to stroke care-most dire to more independence:

*Hospital

*Rehab Hospital

*Nursing home or “Skilled Nursing”

*Memory Care Unit

*Assisted Living

*In-home, In-facility care

4. The legal things you’ll need:

*POA-Power of attorney (durable)

*MPOA-Medical power of attorney

*DNR-Do not resussitate order

*Living Will

*Will

*Access to checking and savings acct

“Bittersweet” has a kind side to it like feet-shaped pancakes on a Saturday morning. In all this, I’ve been able to get to know my mom the way she might have been at 7. Sweet, mischevious, funny. Telling me stories from the 1940’s I hadn’t heard before. There are glimmers of the person I knew as my mother growing up of course. Month 1 was all hospitals in her state and us standing by at her house sorting legal papers. When she lived with us for 3 months, it was a mix of her wanting ice cream with caramel sauce and watching Homicide Hunter with Joe Kenda. She had a crush on the actor who played young Joe Kenda and was amazed at how they were able to go back in time and film Joe.

Today, she is thriving in assisted living and has much more space and activity to continue to heal.

So, back to the practical side of things; how do you find those documents and get them in place?

*Conversation-talk to your parents about their wishes. I did this in passing “Hey Mom, I know this is a weird question, but if something were to happen to you, what do you want to happen to your investments?” I asked this about different topics (the car, her condo, her things, her savings) over several months.

*Forms-these are hard to find but things are made easier if you have durable power of attorney. I’ll go over each form in different posts & explain what they mean.

You might start at yourstate.gov, in my case az.gov. Then do a search on durable power of attorney for example. The easiest alternative I found is here from lawdepot.com:

https://www.lawdepot.com/contracts/power-of-attorney-form/?loc=US#.YEzdkmRHYlQ

In the meantime, I’ll be researching other sites for forms. For these forms, do not let prices spook you, this is not a time to be frugal.

In the next post, I’ll write about durable power of attorney and how very important it is and how to get the form & what to do.

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