If you love your children…

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 5:16 p.m.

 This has been a sad time of year for a few of my friends as they have either had parents who have passed away, parents whose chronic age-related illnesses have gotten worse or parents who have been forced due to deteriorating physical and mental ability to move into a nursing home.

Someone once told me that no matter how old you are, you are still someone’s child, and even in middle age, I find that I miss my deceased mother’s guidance and the guidance of my father who is suffering the ravages of dementia. He does know he’s losing it and it saddens him. There is no question that no matter how old you are, it’s tortuous to watch your parents come to rely on you instead of it being the opposite way around, the way it’s always been for most of us who have had parents who did their best to bring us up.

What is so difficult for most families, however, is to undergo this kind of pain and to make matters worse, deal with disorganized finances of parents who could not face the fact that someday they might not be able to take care of themselves.  This was the case with my parents.  Although they had made out a will, they never created any trust funds, always kept their home in their own name, and never discussed any of their finances with my sister or me.  They assumed that they would live in their home until they keeled over. 

Then my mother’s cancerous tumour burst in her colon and as I sat with my father in the hospital while my mother was in surgery, it became all too apparent that Mom had been hiding the severity of my father’s dementia so that they could continue living in their own home.  Both were in their eighties and once they both came out of the hospital (yes, Dad had to be hospitalized at the same time with heart and respiratory problems), my mother and father had to be moved to a nursing home, which in the United States can cost $10,000 a month…each!

The usual practice below the border is that once placed in a nursing home, the elderly run through their money quickly, voluminous forms are filled out, and they go on Medicaid.  They lose the ability to pass down money, homes, etc. to their family.  I remember a horrible moment in a nursing home room in upstate New York with my parents and their elder care attorney when after learning what the nursing home would cost and what Medicaid would eventually take, my mother looked me in the eye and said, “You would have been better off if we had died.”  Sadly, if my parents had faced up to age and been better informed, this might have been avoided.

Firstly, colon cancer – if Mom had gone for regular checkups, the polyp that turned cancerous could have been removed, but my mother was too frightened to go to the doctor.  Secondly, if my parents had kept up with their taxes and if they had gotten financial advice when they were in their sixties or seventies, they could have made provisions to protect their family estate so that they wouldn’t go through the pain of watching the government take their home and all their savings.  We, their children and grandchildren, might have had more time to focus on their care then spending hours on the phone trying to settle matters and not fight with one another about the best way to deal with all the issues that we had to face. 

It is very difficult for all of us to face old age and death.  We don’t like to talk about it and we don’t like to think about it.  As I get older, I can understand how difficult it might be to talk with my children about these matters, let alone trust them with my finances, but if we love our children, this is precisely what we must do.

If you are in your sixties or seventies, I urge you to take a deep breath and make plans for illness and incapacitation so that things work smoothly for your children and so that they can take care of you instead of taking care of your money.  It’s the kindest thing that you can do for them and they will praise you for it, and you will keep your children from the kind of battles that might keep them from talking to each other for years. On the other hand, if you’ve done this already, kudos to you…go play with your grandchildren.

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Who Can I Blame?

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 2:56 p.m.

The good news is that Bangladesh has lifted its two-week ban on Facebook.  The bad news is that nine activists died in a flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies for the citizens of Gaza.  The good news is that, five days later, when the Israeli army boarded the Rachel Corrie ship, no one was hurt.  The bad news is that the Egyptian Supreme Court has upheld a law stripping citizenship from any Egyptian man married to an Israeli woman and there are approximately 30,000 Egyptian men who are married to women with Israeli citizenship as during the Iraq war, Egyptians found work in Israel and subsequently married women of that country.

The bad news from the Middle East keeps getting worse and the good news is so mild in comparison, so scant, that even a cautious optimist like me has to throw up her hands and try not to read too much news on the Internet.  There is so much conjecture and hot air fuming out of my TV and computer these days that I can scarcely breathe in my home.  I would like to throw a verbal temper tantrum but I would only be adding to the pundit global warming that is going on these days.

The Middle East isn’t the only problem: go south of the border, very south of the border to the oil-drenched shores of Louisiana.  The good news/bad news rollercoaster there is not buying friends for the folks at BP or for President Obama.  One day, capping the leak with mud failed.  A few days later, we hear that the containment cap placed on the gusher trapped about 1.67 million litres of oil…but the oil is still coming out.

I like a scapegoat as much as the next guy but if you’re going to pick between Mr. Obama and BP Chairman Tom “I’d like to get my life back” Hayward, I know which one I would choose to throw the rotten tomato at.  How he could fit a very big foot like that in his mouth is a question for physics.  When you think how many men died on that rig, how many livelihoods may be ruined by this disaster, it is hard to pity Hayward for losing quality time at the ski hill or golf course when so much of the Gulf of Mexico is likely to suffer damage that, some experts are saying, will not be fixed in our lifetime.  Perhaps this is a pessimistic assessment. The damage to fish stocks, animal and plant life may be understood better next year at this time, but right now, it’s looking very bad. Blaming Hayward may feel good, but what does it accomplish?

With all this bad news, the world desperately craves someone to blame, so making scapegoats of Obama, Hayward, the Israeli people, (instead of the Israeli government) seems to be a simple reaction to complex technical and political problems.  This is where we all get into trouble. 

There is no question that we need to hold guilty parties accountable for their actions and that measures have to be taken to provide equitable solutions to people who are suffering, whether it’s the people of Gaza who are living in an economic hell, the Israeli people who never know when a rocket will be lobbed on them, the widows and families of the men who were killed on that BP oil rig, and the people who make their living from the waters that still have gallons of oil gushing into them.

Regulatory agencies that are supposed to ensure the safety of offshore drilling need to do their jobs instead of kowtowing to the oil industry.  Politicians need to stop posturing and start negotiating in an atmosphere of mutual respect and a willingness to protect human life and the dignity of human life.  Until people do their jobs right, this planet and its inhabitants remain in a perilous state, and no amount of pointed fingers will change that.

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