Documenting My Parents’ Decline
Am I building a spreadsheet of medical appointments and notes to remind myself later that I did my best?
My parents have been experiencing a precipitous decline in health since last summer. Surely, some of it was decline that I missed during time apart before Covid vaccines allowed us to begin visiting again. But in recent months I’ve become the point person for managing their care, their bills, and transforming into whatever the equivalent of Mama Bear is when advocating for one’s own parents.
I charm nursing home staff when I think it will help. I coax or demand, depending upon the seriousness of a need. I slap a power of attorney (POA) around multiple times a week right now for all manner of issues — updating insurance, filling out forms, trying to get the electric company to talk to me. And in a time of nursing home care shortages, I have a near-daily responsibility to call, text, email, or stand in front of the staff who are there, insisting my parents receive the help they were promised.
I feel like that jerk, always asking for the manager. Some days though, it’s the only way to get things done.
If the emotional toll of watching your own parents age and suffer illness were not enough, I find myself in constant confrontation with a system that is not well-built for this transition: neither a child having to figure out how to stand up for (and in for) her parents, nor the caregiving system for the elderly itself.
My own kids just grew old enough that I’m no longer juggling the also-broken childcare system, and now here I am, confronting how our system is not easily equipped to care for people at the other end of their lives.
I have a Google spreadsheet that I started keeping when I became my parents’ POA. At first, I figured I’d need a document to show them that I was taking the job seriously. At this point, I’m not sure how well they’d even grasp my lengthy sheet of notes.
It’s a hodgepodge of calls on their behalf, notes on how many times my father called me, anxious about one thing or another. I track the bills I had to pay for them over the months it took for the bank to accept my power of attorney…