It takes the heart & soul of a gypsy to live the sort of life the Universe staked out for John & myself. Praise be, he’s an artist, so a semblance of that unanchored existence was already part of our dynamic.
If we provided high-end maintenance support, folks would be clamoring for services. Alas, neither of us are experienced helping older people navigate daily tasks, provide other forms of in-home care. We rarely interacted with elderly people. Although our mothers lived to ripe old ages & both saw their bodies decay, their minds & spirits were sharp & their engagement with life keen to the last. They were old, never elderly.
People often quip, “We want to have you work with us when we get old!” – but wouldn’t think to have us scoot Great-Aunt Molly on a drive or take dear Dad out for a minor league ball game. At least one woman in our little hometown says she’d NEVER hire us to squire her around because we have too much fun, should do it for free.
Our client list is always fluid & not just because a client has departed us for Higher Realms. Over the space of four weeks, we lost two sustaining clients. In one case, the family didn’t consider it worth the out-of-pocket expense. In the other, the older friend’s family stepped up to the plate – an optimum outcome, just not for us.
One thing we discovered since starting older2elder (just being older doesn’t make someone an elder) is that if people value what we provide, they think we undercharge. If they don’t, they’d balk at anything.
Luckily, 25+ years in corporate America stands me in good stead in developing work that matters, that people value & give value. I am not frustrated that some folks think I flagrantly over charge. It’s of “soft” value, can’t be quantified. My corporate bosses could grasp a dire problem, but typically balked at doing something that would prevent it in the first place. Adult children aren’t all that different.
The same sort of thing that 25+ years ago made insurers balk at paying for at-home care, so people were kept in the hospital significantly longer than need be in order for it to be covered. Now, covering it is standard practice. Some day, Medicare will recognize the value of social support as well as maintenance care, but not at this moment. And youngers tend to balk at anything not covered. Don’t mean to guilt them, but the same child who sees the need for a sponge bath doesn’t see the value of being socially engaged, if it means out-of-pocket expense. A pity.
One younger I know, well off if not well-to-do, balked at getting a hospital bed for his mother because it wasn’t covered, purchased a walker with a flimsy shelf rather than spending the extra bucks for one with a seat. Family members – like insurance companies – too often focus on costs rather than on outcomes. Hopefully the son will realize, as the insurance company ultimately did, that dear old Mom being able to get up & walk with a good stride & sound sense of balance means less chance of debilitating falls, that a decent walker with sturdy seat will increase her choices of where to go – both will boost her confidence * reduce future care, costs.
We are a couple of gypsies, following the life purpose that courses through our veins. If that means breaking out a begging bowl to get to events like the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics World Congress, we’ll tap into our inner monk & stand by the online highway. (And offer up thanks it’s in the USA instead of Korea, France or Brazil!)
We go to conferences, read books, surf the internet, seek out thought leaders because the ripple made over the past years is swelling into a wave that will sweep across the world to our shores, transforming eldercare into a full spectrum of valued services, from in-home care to a wide range of socializing that provides oldsters elders ancients with the options, choices, freedom we all crave.
Options, choice, freedom defines the care John & I provide. Can’t do much better than that. At least not if you’re just a couple of gypsies!