Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wrap-Up on the Health Crisis Posts

I wanted to thank everyone again for all the supportive comments on this series. It's been hard dealing with what's happening to my Dad and what it means for our family, but it has helped to share it with all of you.
As you can all tell from reading the posts, this has been a whirlwind time full of more questions than answers, some of which include:

  • What does Medicare cover?
  • What does supplemental insurance cover?
  • What kinds of things should you think about when making a will?
  • How do you pay for a nursing home?
  • When is it appropriate to set up a trust, or transfer assets to children?
  • How do you budget to make sure your retirement savings last long enough?
  • How do you cope with managing things for a parent who hasn't dealt with any of this stuff?

I have not yet been able to educate myself on all the issues enough to really be writing any how-to or advice posts, I'm just trying to show you what it's like to be caught in the midst of this, and hopefully encourage people to investigate these things for themselves in advance, well before it's ever needed. Believe me, once you are in the thick of it, you will feel so stressed out and emotionally drained that you won't really want to deal with it.

And the tough thing is that you never know how much time you'll have. My father's prognosis sounded quite positive at first, but further discussion with the doctors was very sobering: they removed most of a large glioblastoma (yep, just like Ted Kennedy), but even with the radiation and chemo treatments he'll soon be undergoing, the life expectancy with this kind of highly malignant tumor is often only a year or two.

So now, there's another thing to think about, as suggested by one of the oncologists: what has Dad always wanted to do? Should he spend a little mad money on a trip or some other treat for himself, to help him enjoy the time he has left? I think he's still a little too much in shock to think clearly about it, and I'm not sure he's in the frame of mind where having some kind of last fling would really help. I think we're all a bit in shock right now, somehow trying to be optimistic and resigned at the same time. It's tough.

Posts in this series:
Yikes, family health crisis!
More info on the crisis and what I needed to do
Organizing my father's finances
Attempts at estate planning
How Mom felt about all this
Details on Dad's Finances
What About Me?


T'Pol said...

Madame X,

I am so sorry that your dad's condition is terminal. My thoughts are with you.

I lost my Dad 15 years ago to an aneurism of the aorta within a matter of hours. It was sudden, too early at the age of 54 and truly unexpected. I do not know which is worse; whether to know he has limited time or not... e-Hugs to you.


Gord said...

I'd have to recommend a last fling. At least your Dad could likely enjoy himself. I've had to deal with a lot of the same things with my Dad but he's alone now (no one to go with) and his mental and emotional state is such that he cannot make a decision about anything. He's not quite incompetent so I can't take over with my power of attorney, but his holdings have been deteriorating for months now and he can't seem to pull the trigger. He needs assisted living, but won't sell the house. He needs exercise but won't even get dressed, let alone go outside. He needs others around him to perk up but wants his privacy. He's simply waiting for God, as they say. So, yeah, if you can get him to do something he always wanted to do or see......go for it!

Anonymous said...

Madame X,
That is very hard news to hear. My mother suffered from brain cancer (which started out as breast cancer) at the end of her life, and while every situation is different, I have some experience of how hard these things can be. I recommend you try to take advantage of what time there is left with your dad, and even think about things you were maybe afraid to talk/ask about before. I connected with my mom in very loving, unexpected ways during the final months, and I will be forever grateful for that. I wish you and your family the very best in all of this.

On another note, I'd highly recommend you get your family a good Elder Law attorney who practices in the state your parents live in. You obviously are resourceful enough to research the relevant laws/options on your own, but a good Elder Law attorney who knows all the ins and outs of the system, and all the tricks to try to protect assets in the event that long-term care becomes necessary, etc., may be able to help you out.

Anonymous said...

Madame X,

I am so very sorry that your Dad is so ill. Thank you for sharing the financial aspects of this very difficult time - I know your posts were the wake-up call I needed to force me to deal with some of my own parents' issues.


Sicilian said...

Having watched my parents save all their lives, and then seeing my mom slip away last year to cancer. . . . I say get him to enjoy his year or so . . . . I get very angry every time I think how much my parents sacrificed and how my mom did not get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. . . . my dad has memory issues(probably undiagnosed alzheimers) You know where his money will go. . . . to long term care because we could not(and currently can't) get him to transfer assets.
Make lots of memories this year. . . . you will have no regrets when he is gone.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about your Dad's health, Madame X. He's very lucky to have you for a daughter. If I was in your situation, I suggest your Dad take some money and have some fun. He worked hard for that money and he should enjoy some of that. Also, he may help you build some very pleasant memories with him. After's he gone, you won't even think about the money that was spent.

Sicilian: My father has Alzheimer's so I can totally relate to your situation. My Dad wanted to cash out his IRAs/401ks, put them in coffee cans, and bury them in the back yard. Yikes! And that one just one of the many challenges we faced with him and the hits keep on coming. I would recommend that you check out the message boards on The caregiver board is full of great people who have been through it all.

Anonymous said...

This can't be easy. I feel for you and your family. My father's been gone since 1992 and it all seems so surreal. I wish you all the best in whatever decisions you decide to make as a family. Take care of yourself. Be well.


Anonymous said...

Madame X,

I would like to offer a word of hope.

An aunt of mine was given 6 months to a year with a similar problem. That was about a decade ago.

Now all wasn't wonderful since she's had to have many surgeries and some periods have been rough, but nevertheless she continues to lead a pretty full life.

Kitty said...


I'm so sorry to hear about this. My thoughts are with you and your family during this time.

You're still giving great advice in the midst of your situation. You're right, we should definitely know more about our options and those of our parents beforehand.

I can imagine not being able to have a 'last fling', either...which points to the fact that we ought to enjoy what we have right now, while we still have the chance.

warm thoughts

Anonymous said...

Madame X, I am sorry to hear about your father. I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of his time with him.

Definitely consider setting up a trust, start making sure your mom knows about all accounts, is the beneficiary, and knows passwords, etc. Talk to a lawyer about a will.

Nursing homes take your assets until they are down to zero. Then you go on Medicaid or welfare.

You have to spend down your assets to less than $5k. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Anonymous said...

Madame X,
Saw this article and thought of you:

"You can fight cancer, doctor believes"

(regarding a doctor who was diagnosed with brain cancer 16 years ago)

Blessings to you and your family, and peace to us all...

Anonymous said...

my best wishes are with you and your family

Kady said...

Madam X,

I haven't dropped by in a while, and was catching up w/ the events in your life w/ your dad. I'm so sorry to hear about his condition.

I'm so impressed with the resourcefulness you've shown since your father's hospitalization. It cannot have been easy to have to deal with such complex financial issues on top of the very real, very present, medical ones. Being a lawyer, though not in family law, I can't find fault with anything you've done. You've been methodical, thoughtful, fair... maybe you should consider the law yourself.

So many of us have parents that are going to be in similar situations soon, and we can all learn something from you.

Bravo, Madame X