My Personal Story Part Four

Pt. 4 Grateful for Medicaid

In October of 2016, my dad was hospitalized for about a week – he’d developed a clot in his leg. Shifting from assisted living to the hospital was hard for him. He was disoriented and agitated. It wasn’t long after his return to assisted living that the director told me that Dad’s needs were exceeding the facility’s ability to care for him and we needed to start looking for a skilled care facility.

For the past several years, my sister was in a position to supplement our dad’s income, beginning before my mom passed away. Her circumstances were changing – it was increasingly difficult to afford to keep our dad in assisted living, and now he was needing even more expensive care! We were getting ready to put his house on the market, but who knew if that would be enough to sustain him? I made an appointment with a social worker at the local Medicaid office.

I began the Medicaid application process, bringing all of Dad’s documents to the appointment. It takes about 45 days to get approved, and we were working on getting all the ducks in a row. Again, I lucked out! The staff at the assisted living facility began the search for skilled care, looking for one that would take Medicaid and had room for him – and one that had a good reputation. And they found one! Dad moved in the week following Thanksgiving.

We didn’t tell Dad that he was moving until the morning of the move. One of the effects of dementia is agitation, and we wanted to minimize that. Plus, my dad dropped his portable oxygen tank on his foot the day after Thanksgiving, and he was in some pain, and had to use a wheelchair. The skilled care facility soon had my dad walking again, though he did use the wheelchair more than he had previously. Then two days after Christmas he was back in the hospital.

It was another clot in his leg. After talking to the hospital doctors, we decided on palliative care. The medical staff said that if antibiotics didn’t work, they’d have to amputate the leg, and that was a distance I was not willing to go. They said that if he did recover, this would happen over and over again, and he was in so much pain that he was screaming when given an injection. So he was transported back to skilled care and he passed away three days later.

In many ways we were so lucky. My brother and niece were visiting, so we were all able to spend time with our dad over those three days. I don’t know if he had any awareness of our presence (I like to think that he did), but it was certainly a comfort to us. And when his doctor came to check on him, he sang hymns to our dad. I found that incredibly moving and heart-filled.

We didn’t hold a memorial service until May. We felt that the service needed to be held where his friends could attend, and it gave us all some space to grieve and come to terms with his absence. It was wonderful to see those friends of his we’d met before, and to meet those friends of Dad whom we did not know. And to hear how his life and love impacted so many others.

My dad passed away before Medicaid was in place, but I was able to sleep at night, knowing that this was an option. This is an option we need to keep in place as about 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65 every single day. We will soon have the largest old population our country has ever seen, and long term skilled care is not covered by Medicare. There’s already people banging the drum to cut Medicaid (and Medicare) benefits, so my question is, “What will our nation do when such a large body of citizens has nowhere to go?”