Monday, March 21, 2022

It Sucks Getting Old

     Occasionally, I take a break from my News when I am moved by something else. I do this regarding my sobriety, I did this after The Boston Bombing. Now, I'd like to talk about my father and the care society gives the elderly. 

September 2021, before things got
a million times worse 
Let me introduce you briefly to Charly Gager

    My dad was an engineering egg-head, who worked on the Star   Wars Defense system.  He counted cards to win Hearts, Rummy,   Bridge...had a high winning percentage at Scrabble and a high   IQ. My dad had a dry sense of humor, not with the best delivery,   but the jokes and puns were delivered in a humorous way. 

    My dad moved from his home in Massachusetts, to an Assisted    Living in Maryland, to when his Dementia worsened, a Memory    Care Facility. Two weeks ago when he broke his hip, and his   body and mental status became even worse,  he went to a   Rehabilitation Nursing Home. I just drove back to Boston to   where he was in Maryland, and things aren't looking very good---  he can't feed himself or get out of bed. He needs help being   adjusted in the bed or in a chair which they move him to. He is    in pain. He yells out when being touched, and does not know       who, what, where, or why any of that is being done. He is only   able to be fed pureed food, which in that form, I was unable to identify by color or smell, or anything, what was being served.


    We systematically don't care about our elderly. The people who work as caretakers make minimum wage as the facility takes in the rest. Under paying makes staff people not want to stick around. On the weekend at the Rehab/Nursing Home there were thirty or so infirmed people needed care in phases of indignity and there was one nurse, and one aide. Minimal care which included feeding, which my father needs right now are not possible. So after the Nursing Home Care is paid for, for which you receive people hardly checking in you.

So, Pay More 

    Our family is spread out across the country, so it is best to pay an additional agency to make sure he gets nourishment. was looked at, but we had to vet the people ourselves. One, we liked, came back with an outstanding warrant, which was much less than outstanding. Next, up was an agency we used when my father was at Assisted Living. They still had him in their files but it was a different county. The contact was going to refer us to the part of the agency which covers that county, and we were told, if they can't do it, the further county would cover this. Then, days went by. Then more days went by. Then the in-county person ghosted us. Then the original contact person apologized and said they couldn't do it. 

Total: 5 days, no care.

 Now What?

    Another agency got involved and from intake to starting with an aide, it took 6 days (Total: 11 days, no care), which is pretty good. We needed 40 hours, and the hourly rate is $32.60. The aide probably makes minimum wage again, and even with 40 hours of staff, there's going to be turnover. Also, we don't know if they are going to do what we expect, like show up first, and feed him---and get help when needed. We wanted shift notes to be kept in the room so family/staff could read what happened. The extra agency of service said this wasn't possible because of HIPPA and possibly stepping on the toes of the Rehab. Hospital/Nursing Home. All we, the family wanted was the ability to see if my father ate, or much and what. Again, it was said this wasn't possible. 

Insurance--yeah, good luck?    

    Medicare doesn't kick in to pay for Hospital Level Care until unprotected money is drained at the rate of $4,000 (low end) to $20,000 a month. My father had bought additional Long-Term Care Insurance which kicked in at 90 days at the Memory Care Facility. Well since he is no longer there, it is now uncovered, and to save that placement, we pay out of pocket starting immediately. Since the Rehab has not served him for 90 days, the policy doesn't kick in there either. 

 No One Wants to Go Out This Way

    My father didn't want to leave this world in this state. He completed a DNR, and did the Five Wishes. His diagnosis is currently not terminal but, based on the care he is receiving, I don't think he'll live another two months. No one I've ever spoken to would like to end their lives in this manner. I've been very vocal about wanting loved ones to snuff me out by suffocating me via a pillow if I ever get to be in that state. My intelligent, humorous and kind father I knew has lost nearly all of his dignity. He never wanted this---being treated as a number, an unknown, a human widget in the quandary of the elderly care system.   Even preparing for the end, could not prevent this. The system is broken, and so is my father's quality of life. It's angering, heart-breaking, and devastatingly sad. 

You hear it all the time

    "It sucks getting old," is a phrase you hear all the time, often after someone pulls a muscle reaching for the bowl of potato chips or something. It's something we make about "us." There is something which happens as well and it's about loved ones, and us taking care of aging parents or family members---where it is observed just how much the care sucks. The pain of navigating through the system where it is take it or leave it---.people living their whole life to suffer in the end, and there is nothing you can do about it. 


POSTSCRIPT 03/24/2022: I lost my father today three days after I posted this. I'm blessed to have had him as a father and am, as well as I feel he is grateful his compromised version ended peacefully. 

Charles H. Gager, May 7, 1930 - March 24, 2022

Charles H. Gager, husband of Marguerite M. Gager, passed away peacefully in his sleep on March 24, 2022 in Sykesville, Maryland. Charley was born in Roosevelt, New York, graduated from Hempstead High School in 1946, and completed a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1950.

After marriage he lived in West Islip, and St. James, New York. Mr. Gager joined the Research and Engineering Division of AIL in 1951, where his work in the field of radar techniques led to the development of moving target identification equipment, video integrators, electronic counter-counter measures, video processing units, monopulse radar, high resolution radar and synthetic aperture radar. Mr. Gager joined the MITRE Corporation in 1979 and was engaged in a wide variety of studies on surveillance sensors, electronic warfare and tactical self defense measures. In 1984, he was promoted to Department Head of Space Surveillance Systems.

Retiring with his wife to Scituate and later Norwell, Massachusetts, Charley remained active as a member of The Institute of Electronic and Electronics Engineers, while also attending classes at Harvard Extension. He taught a course at Harvard’s Learning in Retirement Group bringing his interests and experience as an engineer in defense electronics to "Spying in America," which took a critical look at the history and evolution of American intelligence operations.

Charley had a love of classical music and regularly attended performances of the Boston Symphony. He excelled at card and board games involving strategy, especially at Hearts where he holds the family record for winning all the hearts, which is said to be untouchable. He also enjoyed reading, usually having a book in progress at all times.
Charley was preceded in death by his wife Marguerite in 2019. He leaves behind his four children Martha Siditsky (husband Andy), Mary Gager (partner Charlie), Frederick Gager (wife Rochelle), and Charles Timothy Gager. He also leaves nieces Linda Voner, Donna Changelo, and cousin, Carol Twomey, a brother-in-law Vincent Montalbano (his wife Catherine), and his ten grandchildren: Matthew (wife Caitlin), Michael, and Jordan (Siditsky), Dan (Kracht), Aaron (his wife, Sammantha), Michael, Aimee, and Nate (Gager), and Charles Gabriel and Caroline (Gager).

Services will be held at a date to be announced at Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts, where Charley and Marguerite were active and spiritual members. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking all to send a donation to the Abbey, at Glastonbury Abbey, 16 Hull Street, Hingham, MA 02043.


Bar L. said...

Heartbreaking and Unacceptable. I hope your dad drifts off peacefully in his sleep soon.

rachel cann said...

I AM TRYING TO HELP 2 people who are not in places like that, but the treatment one has had at the local level via brookline is horrendous. another friend seems happy about the VA treatment.

wkduffy said...

Tim, sorry to hear it. It all feels so inevitable. My mom died at 83 last November. She was spry and active; she drove and even worked part-time. But then a series of surprise cardiac arrests ended all that. The care she got after the heart attacks was OK. But when the docs said it was time for her to leave the hospital, she was petrified to go back home. (And my mother was definitely NOT a shrinking flower.) "I want to stay here. I don't feel right. I'm not going to leave." The docs in the room LAUGHED when she said that, laughed right out loud. No one listened to her. "We have no medical reason to keep you, and Medicare won't pay for a longer stay. You have to leave," they declared. Of course, she had no choice. She had a repeat heart attack 2 weeks later that killed her while she sat on the couch at home. This entire ordeal has created a shift in me: It's time for me to stop working myself to death and to start living freely. Within weeks after her death, I submitted papers to begin my retirement process (and I'm only 57). It will be tricky, but screw it. I'm done "living to work." Done with it. I'll be goddamned if I'm going to spend my remaining years working myself to death only to crap out sitting on my couch. Nope. I'm all done with the working world. I'll deal with the consequences later.

Robin Stratton said...

Sigh. I'm so so so sorry, Tim. I can't think of anything more painful than having to watch this. Sending you love and a hug.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the system is ridiculous and every step in the process is corrupted by greed and incompetence. I'm sorry you are going through this with your kind dad. I took care of my dad in his waning years (he died in 2020 at age 97). At times I thought I couldn't do it one more day, as it kind of made my own life disappear...but the next morning would dawn and with it, a refreshment of energy (well, most times). I've heard many horror stories similar to yours, from friends over the years. It's so sad. My heart goes out to you, Tim. - Kathy M

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for what you both are going through. I believe wholeheartedly in being allowed to decide when to die when life goes so far downhill. I pray we get that legislation in the US soon. I’m thinking about you, best wishes to your dad.