My mother has now been living at Garden Manor for six months, and here is where we stand:
- On the Aid & Attendance front, I reapplied in late February–four months ago–and have not yet received a decision. I had originally sent the application to the Providence, RI, office of the VA, but received an acknowledgement from the Philadelphia office shortly thereafter so I imagine that’s where the application is sitting. I send them a printout of the cancelled check for my mother’s assisted living rent each month, just to remind them of my situation.
My question for them at this point is: If you won’t allow folks to apply for the benefit before they commit themselves to a care situation–forcing them to OVER-commit themselves financially while crossing their fingers and hoping they’ll receive the monthly benefit–how do you expect the average middle-class potential beneficiary to manage? I DO appreciate that the benefit is awarded retroactively, but my fingernails are chewed to the quick at the possibility that they will pull some little-known subclause out of the darkness and refuse my mother benefits. And my mother is in a relatively good situation: she has a decent pension, she is in a reasonably priced assisted living home, and–maybe most importantly, not to blow my own horn–she has a family member (me) who is stubborn, tenacious and may also have an inflated opinion of her own ability to get things done on her own.
She also had a healthy savings account (now practically gone) and a life insurance policy that I cashed in. It’s true that my mother has a house, which is not included when her total assets are assessed by the VA. I am holding on to it for now for several reasons. The first is that I believe she is entitled to the A&A benefit and this extra monthly income will cover her AL rent without my having to liquidate her property. My father served this country for almost three years on a small boat in the Pacific during World War II, and he is a perfect example of the veteran this benefit was created for. When he returned, both parents worked from Day One for this house. If I sell the house now, my mother will no longer qualify for Aid & Attendance–this logic might seem disingenuous, but we are facing a very open-ended illness. My mother is in good physical health right now, but I have to consider the possibility that the Alzheimer’s will carry her along until she needs a nursing home–which we CANNOT afford. I spoke to a professional from the local Alzheimer’s Association who recommended that, if and when the time comes for a nursing home, my mother should at least start off as a “private pay” resident, if possible. That’s where the house will come in.
- I began seeing a therapist about a month ago, after the depression and anger began interfering too much with both my work and home life. I was sleeping and eating too much, dreading the weekends and feeling totally overwhelmed. I couldn’t understand WHY this was happening now that my mother was in assisted living and I was back in my house. I’d expected a letdown but not this. I like this woman very much–she’s professional and warm–and so we talk about what I think and what I feel, which don’t always jive. And I’m gradually feeling better. I’m recognizing that while a situation can be tackled intellectually, I can’t always set an emotional timetable for myself. Acceptance, grief and letting go can’t be pencilled into a calendar. It’s messy, especially for someone like myself who is most comfortable with a script. Things aren’t always what they seem.
- My mother seems to be “home” most of the time at Garden Manor. Yesterday when I was visiting, one of the aides brought her her pills. “She is always smiling,” the aide said to me. Of course there are wrinkles–I try to get to the bottom of my mother’s anxiety when I sense it. “What are you worried about right now?” I asked her yesterday. “I think you’re hiding something from me,” she said. I am, I suppose. She still asks regularly about “Ma”–where is she, where does she live? I think her anxiety is related to “Ma” but I’m still feeling my way around here. Redirect is still the best advice.
So this is the six month state of affairs. It’s still caregiving, but it’s a different kind of caregiving, for me.