Elderscams vs. Home Care


An E-vertisement (is that what they are called?) arrived this morning warning of elderscams — all the myriad ways people my age are exploited.  Advice was given: look at your prescription sales slips, don’t let just anyone sell you a new roof….and much more.

At the bottom was a link to information about Home Care.  It is considered by many to be a safe  and humane alternative to congregate care or assisted living.  It is –  up to a point.

We had home care for my mother, both at her own home in Texas and at our home in Arizona.  It was frustrating for me to handle home care matters from 1000 miles away, and some rather sketchy things happened in Texas, so, after checking and than ruling out assisted living in her area, I persuaded her to come home with me.  It took two years to convince her she should stay.

The company I chose to provide companions (9-5 on weekdays) was perhaps the first home care agency in our city, and I knew the owner. She is a real pioneer in the business, and had the additional goal of helping mid-life women without financial security to work at a noble job.  She went so far as to set up a training program for in-home caregivers, and it now has a Foundation.

At the same time, Judy Clinco’s crusade involved getting health insurance for the work force and better wages.

When we hired Catalina In-Home Care, the wages were, I think $13 an hour. At some point they went as high as $18. That was our cost — I should say, Mother’s, because this was coming out of the savings my dad had provided for her.  I don’t know what the take-home pay was for the caregivers, but the fact is that most elderly people or their children cannot afford to pay an amount that insures a caregiver a livable wage. As food prices increase, that is probably even more urgent an issue for such agencies.

This leads to my telling you about the one drawback for the recipient of home care, and that is that it is an unstable workforce.  While I cannot really complain about the quality of companionship and caring my mother received (with one exception), it was very disturbing to have someone she began to think of as a friend suddenly disappear.

One woman Mom liked  a lot actually died because she was not able to afford good health care.  That was a shocker.  She loved to drive Mother around and look at houses for enjoyment.

Others — too many — moved on to better opportunities.  The one we loved best was a veteran  teacher — a music teacher – and was just waiting for her license and a chance for a job that suited her calling.  She would bring a lap harp  and got mother to sing along with her.  It was lovely to see and hear.

At the end of Mother’s life (exactly six years ago today) we had been assigned perhaps ten caregivers over three years here in Tucson.  It got most hectic at the end.  We had a lovely woman with us during most of the time Mom was under hospice care, and then, suddenly, she took a job offered by an old man, not through the agency but in the higher-paying private sector. In her place we got two new people — young and inexperienced, unfamiliar with my mother, and more strange faces for Mother to puzzle over as she lay dying.

I can’t blame this woman for taking a job that would pay her more, but I was frankly angry that she left knowing that my mother was dying.  I begged her to wait it out — another week! I was willing to pay her extra. But she left. I’ve since wondered if the true reason she departed at that point in my mother’s life was that she couldn’t face the reality of death.

I last saw my mother alive when I tucked her in at about 11 p.m. on March 1, 2005, after we celebrated my daughter’s 44th birthday.  In the morning at 7, I checked on Mother in her bed. She was not breathing, her skin cold, but her expression peaceful. I called hospice. I called my daughter. My daughter came to say goodbye to her beloved grandmother. The hospice workers came and prepared her for her journey to the crematorium.

Yesterday was my daughter’s 50th birthday.  I picked her up at 4:30 and we shared a bottle of merlot, Spanish cheese, artichokes, and beets ( hors d’ouerves) at our top neighborhood wine shop/restaurant. I presented her with a Pueblo-made, shell necklace set with turquoise mosaic, and with a coral “chain,”  which I had purchased from a trader for $75 back in the early 1970s when she was a young teenager.  I knew she would remember it well, and  how it fit into our lives then.  She put it on and it looked perfect. I was wearing my mother’s favorite bracelet.  We had a nice celebration, and felt connected, especially when we had to leave to pick up her daughter and granddaughter from drama practice.

The best home care caregivers cannot give a fraction of what we can give each other.

1 comment to Elderscams vs. Home Care

  • This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. Youve got a design here thats not too flashy, but makes a statement as big as what youre saying. Great job, indeed.

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