Anger. Sadness. Resentment. Bitterness. Fear. Welcome to the emotions of Sandwich Generation 101.
Two years ago I was forced to sign up for a course in life that comes with very little desire to attend. Caught between a life of active children and ailing parents, it’s been an education unlike anything I ever imagined. And being that every course is different depending on one’s personal situation, there is no textbook for these lessons.
The last month has been my midterm test. I’m not quite sure I’ve passed.
As regular readers of this column know, my father has Alzheimer’s. A cruel disease that robs the individual of themselves and thrusts families into the horrible position of watching the person that was the champion of the family disappear before their eyes. Though Pops still remembers everybody’s name and is quick to recall memories of growing up in Saskatchewan, he can’t remember what he said two minutes ago.
Early last month the Hall Clan was in Revelstoke for my daughter’s soccer tournament. On Sunday morning I received a call on my cell phone that my mom was in the hospital and had suffered a small stroke. A few more toppings added to the sandwich and a whole new chapter for the improvisational textbook.
The last month has been a blur, but one that’s opened my eyes wider than ever before.
With no other family to rely on for support — my older brother lives in Australia — the responsibility for my parents has been solely plopped on the shoulders of my wife and me. To say it hasn’t sucked would be a lie. Such is life in the sandwich.
What the steady parade to Kootenay Lake Hospital, the far too seldom visits to Castleview residential care facility and lengthy phone calls with home care professionals has taught me is that the health care system is taxed. That said, those involved on the frontlines are doing an admirable job.
In a nutshell, here’s my predicament. My parents live in their own house. Neither can fully look after themselves. Together they may be able to team up to survive. Between full time jobs and busy kids, we can help where possible. There is a tiny bit of public home care that will garnish the care.
But the writing is on the wall.
My father is destined for a full time life in a residential care facility and my mom might not be far behind. Adding to an already complicated situation is the fact my father hasn’t even been approved to be on a waiting list. Even if he does meet the requirements, there are no beds currently available in the entire West Kootenay.
There is a solution to our current bind, but it’s costly. Interior Health has private pay bed options available and the waiting list is significantly shorter. If my father were to get into a public pay bed the cost would be just under $1,000 a month. The cost for a private pay bed? Just under $5,000 a month.
That number is staggering on many levels.
First of all, my parents did okay in their life and do have some cash in the bank. That said, $5,000 would drain the coffers within a year. It seems like the government’s course is to empty bank accounts before they kick in to help. More unlucky than unfair for people in positions like my parents.
What’s just as distressing is when I remove myself from the situation and look at the cost as a taxpayer. If $5,000 is the true cost of care for a person like my father, the rest of the population is being asked to take on 80 per cent of his care. There are a lot of people in this position and that subsidy when multiplied by all those who are in public pay beds is troubling. It’s simply unsustainable.
This front row seat to seniors care has shown me just how stretched and how expensive it is to take care of some of society’s most vulnerable. Unfortunately it has provided me with few answers to what is right. In fact, I’m pretty sure the answer isn’t out there.
I will continue to soldier on as a member of the sandwich generation knowing I’m certainly not the only person dealing with these heady issues. The learning curve is steep and I’m not sure when I will face the final exam.
The emotions of Sandwich Generation 101 are intense. Though mostly void of the positive, one uplifting word that can be added to the list at the top of this column is gratitude. Without the people who have assisted us in the last month, the situation would have been much more bleak. Those on the frontlines of seniors care are heroes who do an extremely taxing job.
Wherever this journey takes me, I will never forget those who helped along the way.
Bob Hall is the editor of the Nelson Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter at BobbyHall10