Inside Lane

Prepared for Nothing

When I found out I was pregnant with Thor, I got right to work. I had daycare sorted out before my second sonogram. I had my ready-bag packed before I was showing. I knew where the best school districts were, and what it was going to take for us to be able to move into one by the time the Braxton Hicks started.
After he was born, I gave myself 2 weeks, then I started practicing time management for how we were going to get up, get dressed and get me to work on time while he was eating, pooping, barfing and crying all over me. I mean, I started getting us up drilling for how long it took to get him ready, then get me ready, then get him ready again, get out the door, drive the distance to where his daycare would be, estimate how long it would take to walk him in, drop him off, and get back into the car, then drive myself to work. By the time I went back to work when he was 5 weeks old, I was ready for everything but the actual emotion of leaving him in someone else’s arms.
You can’t drill for emotion.
I’ve been preparing myself for my mom to need memory care for almost two years. Shortly after moving her into Independent Living, we started working with home health care to try and help get her diabetes under control. After her third visit, the RN asked me to come talk to her privately.
“Your mom is going to need memory care,” she said. “And you need to prepare yourself for it. She’s doing okay right now, but she’s going to start going downhill. I’ve seen this a lot. And…sweetie…you’re going to need to do this sooner rather than later.”
It was a sad confirmation for me, but it validated my fears and gave me permission to start calling around.
I know it’s declasse to talk about money. I’m going to show you my roots by doing just that because money has been one of the biggest stressors for me in this journey.
For my mom to live in Independent Living with 3 meals a day provided and nothing else, her rent was $2700 a month–this was after I negotiated like my life depended on it.
This left my mom with $300 a month to cover any other expenses of things she needed/wanted. She needed phone service and insurance, personal grooming and prescriptions. She wanted a fully stocked refrigerator and bottled water, shopping trips and to buy things for her grandson.
So, it was either say no and just resign myself to the fact that she lived in a very fancy prison, or help fund her. That’s my mom. I’m not going to tell her she can’t have bottled water and a pair of new shoes. However, I will tell her she can’t have cases of Smart water, and she can only get one pair of new shoes.
When I started calling around to get pricing for memory care, I like to have passed out. Pricing was starting in the low $5000s. We couldn’t afford that. We just couldn’t.
That really propelled me forward into getting her house sold. That, and needing to get out from under the utility bills and insurance we were paying there.  I needed that nest egg for her.
Obviously, we are incredibly fortunate that my mom has an income at all, and that I have a job that lets me make up the differences, but once we moved her to Assisted Living (at $3600 a month) and then to memory care (at $4700 a month), I started having to take a piece of savings away every month to cover her rent.
I started doing Death Math.
Death Math goes like this: If it costs this much to keep you alive, and you have this much in savings, then you can afford to live this many years before I have to start looking for less appetizing solutions for you, or start a GoFundMyOld account to keep you in the good diapers.
My mom’s Death Math isn’t looking good. If she lives to be her father’s age, or her mother’s when they died, she’s looking at living 5 years longer than her savings account.
It’s gross and it’s a terrible way to think. But you know what? The memory care where Mom is is worth EVERY PENNY. She is safe, she is cared for, she is still able to kind of appreciate it. In five years, if her decline continues apace, she won’t know a mansion from a public restroom stall by the time I have to look for a place that will accept her on Medicaid.
As my husband said, “Drink the good wine first.”
But you see there? I’ve got all the numbers planned. I know exactly where she’ll go when she has to move. I’m ready.
I’ve been ready. I’ve been prepared (and thank god–I’ll tell you about that in another blog) for every eventuality. But I was not prepared for the moment I was sitting across from her as she babbled nonsense and I realized, “I miss my mom.”
Just like I was not prepared for the agony of dropping off my five-week-old baby, I was not prepared for the moment when I realized my mom was gone. Yeah, she was sitting right there in front of me, but that was just her body. My mom was gone.
My mom moving into memory care has meant less for me to do. In fact, it means that other than visiting, making sure she has pull-ups, and the occasional appointment, she’s out of my hands. That has meant me having more mental time and that has meant having time to miss her. I hadn’t even realized that was a luxury.
My mom’s been gone for two years. I’ve taken care of someone who looks like her, and who shares some personality traits, but I haven’t been able to have a conversation with that woman for two years. In the last two months, I haven’t even been able to get her to remember she saw me the day prior.
I wasn’t and am still not prepared for that.