(But Fortunately, Four Pillars Was There to Help)
In September of 2011, I dropped by my parents’ house for a quick overnight visit to discover a scary situation which lead to a year of realization and reckoning for my family. I had been there less than a month earlier, and at that time, our Dad exhibited some of the forgetfulness one expects with an aging parent. This time, however, there was a noticeable shift for the worse that was not normal and very concerning. It was as if he had lost the ability to generate new memories; he repeated every question he had over and over again as if he never retained the answers. Indeed, soon after that visit, he was diagnosed with vascular dementia.
My brother and I began making the respective two-hour trips to my parents’ home on a weekly basis to try and give some support to our Mom in her sudden new role as Dad’s caregiver and as the head of household. But how much help can one really be during a once-a-week visit in a situation that requires continual ‘round-the-clock attention seven days a week? My father had managed the family finances, so my brother and I focused on assuming this duty, locating and scheduling additional outside help, and trying to offer emotional support.
Over the course of a few months, Dad’s condition continued to decline and so did Mom’s. The increasingly challenging physical and mental stresses left her exhausted. We continued to seek out additional methods of assistance but found few options, other than paying for in-home help out of pocket. Medicaid sent a nurse weekly, but their visits only offered a few hours of support per week. We were maxed out financially, paying people to assist in the home five days a week, but it still wasn’t enough support for Dad’s situation. Aside from abandoning our own jobs and lives and moving back home, we were unable to do more. It was very painful to watch our mother’s own decline as she attempted to provide a level of care for our father that wasn’t sustainable for one person.
About a year after that fateful September visit, we planned a big family Thanksgiving that we hoped would cheer our Mom up. We had adjusted to the impending feeling of doom and were probably in some level of denial about where we were in the larger scheme of things. We rented a beach house near my parents’ home thinking it was close enough for Mom to spend time at home, and that the beach house would serve as a refuge and an escape for her, even if for just a few hours each day. Although we intended for this time to be a refuge for Mom, it was a time of realization and reckoning for the family. Mom was so beaten down, she was one step away from a nursing home herself.
On the Monday morning after Thanksgiving weekend, my brother and I made the decision that Mom would not have let herself make. We found a skilled nursing facility with an open bed, paid the required $5000 advance for a month of care, and checked him into the facility.
At this point, we only had enough money for a month or two of care. Other than securing supplemental health insurance, our parents had not done much planning for a situation like ours. We had already exhausted the other limited funding in the family’s budget, and our application for government assistance from Medicaid had been denied because my parents owned property. We were out of options, up against a ticking clock, and very afraid of what the future held for our family. We had tried, but the truth was we knew nothing about how to navigate the sea of healthcare regulations to find the help we needed.
In a desperate search, we made contact with a friend of a friend who works as a financial planner in Greensboro. He did some online research for attorneys in the Wilmington area, and based on his experience and knowledge, he recommended that we go to Four Pillars Law Firm first. It was the best advice we could have received. Personally, I didn’t even know that this type of help or planning existed. But it did, and finding Four Pillars Law Firm changed everything for us.
Matt Schrum and Kelly Shovelin literally rescued our family; I do not know of a better way to put it. They are highly skilled and a pleasure to work with, and I am not overstating my feelings when I say that I firmly believe they are the reason our Mom still has quality time left to spend with us.
There is no cure for my father’s condition, but at least now he has the right help in the right place; we’ve been able to make the best of a bad situation. My brother and I can rest easy knowing that both of our parents’ needs will be met.
I am not sure that there is any way for people to emotionally prepare for a situation like this, but the right health care and financial planning make a tremendous difference in one’s ability to endure the experience. If this type of planning had already been in place for our parents, it would have helped immensely. My wife and I will be doing this same planning with Four Pillars Law Firm for ourselves in the near future.