Virtue is not its own reward.

This caregiving thing is really wearing me down, tiring me out — especially now that she’s recovering from cataract surgery and it means putting three different eye drops in her eyes every four hours or so. It takes a half-hour to go through the series. Then I have to put out her breakfast and lunch or she forgets to eat. Then I have to make dinner — well, I have to eat dinner anyway. And then there’s making sure she takes her medication three times a day. In between, I do food shopping, mend her clothes (which are getting too big for her), and still spend hours helping her look for items she “lost” somewhere in her apartment. Somewhere in there I sneak in time to blog.
I’ve decided to “pay” myself out of the money that’s set aside for her care — nothing like an actual home health care aid would make (which is $20 an hour during the week and $23 an hour on weekends), but just enough every once in a while to help me not feel like a victim of circumstance.
My mom, like so many other very elderly, doesn’t want to go into nursing homes, even though, financially, it’s cheaper than full-time home health care. According the the article linked to above,
Choosing to stay at home is the easy decision. Paying for it is another question altogether. Home health care costs an absolute fortune, especially if you need an aide 24-hours a day. According to the MetLife Market Survey on Nursing Home and Home Care Costs, the average nursing home costs $66,153 a year (for a private room). Fees are considerably higher in metropolitan areas or for premium care, but either way, your loved one is getting full-time attention from a staff that includes nurses, social workers and other professionals.
Full-time home health care can cost more than twice as much and most agencies don’t even recommend it. That means you’re on the hook for the hours when your parents have no aide. Phyllis Mensh Brostoff, a social worker and president of Stowell Associates and SelectStaff Services in Milwaukee, says her agency charges clients $20 an hour during the week and $23 an hour during the weekend. Brostoff admits her fees are a bit high. She justifies it by offering “an enriched service” that includes a care manager who keeps track of your loved one with unannounced visits. SelectStaff will also ensure there is someone always on call.
The fee, however, is just the beginning. Don’t forget that if your parents live in their own home, you’ve still got to pay to take care of it. And tipping is considered part of the compensation. “This is just expected within the industry,” Ramsey says. For example, she tips her aide every time her incontinent parent has an accident. In addition to money, she also provides gifts and lets her parents’ caregiver go home a little early whenever she can

I’m a relatively good person, but I have to say that being rewarded, financially, for some of what I do feels a lot better than just feeling very virtuous.
I recognize a time might come when I just can’t handle the stress any more. If/when that time comes, I know a good nursing home where I’m sure she can get in. That’s where the rest of her money will go, but by that time, getting back my life will be worth every penny that I will no longer be able to pay myself.
Whoever tries to tell you that virtue is its own reward has never been a caregiver for an increasingly befuddled elderly parent.

1 thought on “Virtue is not its own reward.

  1. I do think, Calla, it’s time for The Home for your Mom. Of course she doesn’t want to go — nobody does. But for your own piece of mind, you gotta bring this about. You’re just gone from being a slave to being a maid. There’s gotta be more for you in life than that.
    Where I live, she could get housed, fed and looked after for less than $3,200 a month. It’s called Assisted Living. You might want to look into it.
    My best to you,
    Hoss

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