This has truly been one of the most intense weeks of my entire life. I feel like I’m running on adrenaline that is pumping through me from head to toe, keeping me going through day after VERY nutty day. God keeps giving me strength and I sure do need it. Every day is incredibly packed with a million things to do – a visit to the neurologist at Jefferson and many other doctors, meeting tons of friends (and wishing I could meet many, many more), making around 5-10 phone calls per day, scheduling doctor’s appointments, taking time for explaining things to my mom, food shopping, errands, cooking meals for my family, paying bills with mom, etc. I barely have time to breathe!

My parents and I had “the big talk” last week. For the first time, my parents said that they are willing to enter an assisted living facility. Up until this point, they have been 100% opposed to the idea and wouldn’t even discuss it with us. They had a “let’s cross that bridge when we get there” kind of attitude about this very important matter. However, after a visit to the neurologist at Jefferson and hearing that they need to seriously consider entering an assisted living facility, they were more open to the idea. We spent two hours talking things out and I was amazed at how lucid my dad still is and able to talk quite a bit (although quite slowly). Since “the big talk,” we have made what feel like days of conversations with many helpful people to navigate our way through the very murky water of affording the seemingly unaffordable – welcome to “Assisted Living 101” in the USA!

Before I talked to people who explained things to us, I thought assisted living was totally unaffordable for my parents. In a way, it is! My 93-year old grandmother pays $7,400 per month from her hard-earned savings to live in a moderately nice, often understaffed assisted living facility 30 minutes from my parents’ house. I couldn’t imagine how my parents would be able to afford such a high cost. However, we have determined that for my parents there are two main options:

1) pay for assisted living out of pocket – in our case, that’s around $4000/month for one parent, $7000/month for two parents (not possible)

2) Apply for Medicaid and upon approval they will pay for assisted living if ALL of my parents’ assets total less than $2,000.00. Yes, that really is $2,000, not $20,000. I have been told that my parents will have to pay for one year of assisted living out of pocket and once they “spend down” (which means run out of money) they can apply for Medicaid. This basically means they have to go broke before Medicaid will pay for assisted living.

Incidentally, I would strongly urge anyone reading my blog with parents who are around 60-65 to strongly consider meeting with the Eldercare attorney as soon as possible. You ought to discuss all possible options to protect their assets if your parents are forced to enter an assisted living facility. These places are not cheap, there are waiting lists, there are tons of rules and regulations to consider, and your parents could potentially lose all of their assets to pay for assisted living. For example, if my parents had signed over their house in my name five years ago, they would not have to use their home as an asset to pay for assisted living. Sadly, they didn’t find out this info until it was too late to protect their home for being seized for payment of assisted living.

To be honest, it’s very late at night and I am writing to get all of this off my chest so pardon any horrible grammatical mistakes and lack of clarity. It has been a very intense week but also very good. Today we had a tour of the most likely place where my parents could live. It was a really lovely, wonderful place full of happy elderly people in Voorhees, NJ. I could easily imagine my parents living there and enjoying the many perks of assisted living – doctors and nurses on-site, three meals a day, social activities, friendships, and a safe, caring environment. I’ll keep you posted on how things work out – our hope is that they will be in an assisted living facility within 6-12 months.

Going through all this is really tough, but I also am filled with so much joy to be with my family during the holidays and knowing that we are doing everything we possibly can to help my parents. I am learning that helping my parents when they are frail and elderly is one of the most joyful and painful experiences of my life. I am often moved to tears to think that I can serve my parents who have spent my entire life serving and sacrificing for me. It’s finally time to give back to them and love them as they have loved and given freely to me for my entire 34 years of life.

Anyway, besides all of the crazy family stuff, it’s been a fun week! Matthias turned 29 and we went to the Big Apple for a day trip. Here are a few photos:

Christmas Eve

with my parents and niece

My mom opening her gifts!

Christmas dinner – just the four of us

In NYC’s Central Park in the exact spot where Matthias proposed

Birthday dinner at a vegetarian Indian restaurant in NYC

A New Year’s Eve visit to friends with the cutest baby ever!

We enjoyed a quiet New Year’s Eve with dear friends until 11:30, and then we headed home just in time to ring in the new year with mom and dad. I watched with joy at midnight to see my frail dad walk over to my mom and plant a big kiss on her lips. He said to her, “Happy New Year! I love you!” and I was about the happiest girl in the world. Life is good!