An article in today's NYT presents a familiar picture for those of us with elderly parents to care for. We're very well versed in the home health care industry these days, an education that was earned through experience.
The partner's mother is on the downswing portion of Parkinson's disease, largely unable to dress herself and definitely not able to safely cook a meal. Add to that the onset of dementia, a common problem with Parkinson's patients, and there's a woman in need of 24 hour watching. The only solution was to hire a live-in caregiver.
Word of mouth, via a friend who had a friend with a sick mother, brought us to an agency staffed by Filipinos. Caregivers came and went, a revolving door. They were women who wanted to become nurses but could not afford an education back home, so they turned to home health care and found jobs through family channels. However, dealing with a demented, sick old woman who hated having strangers in her house was wearing and so the carer's face changed with regularity.
After a couple of years of paying the agency, we learned that the agency was ripping off their employees, which explained in part the frequent turn-over. A dissatisfied caregiver quit the agency and offered her services as an independent employee. She was the first aide to get along with the old woman, who was finally accepting her dependent status, and the price was right. When there's only so much to go around, you don't take on a luxury agency.
Our personal home health care aide worked for six months, after making enough money to cover some old bills, and gave notice. She also introduced us to her sister-in-law, another full time caregiver, whom we promptly hired. The whole family, husband and wife, grown daughters, are all home health care workers who earn more money in a week than me and the partner combined. It's a lucrative field, a growing industry, but every penny is hard-earned under unpleasant conditions.
Bit by bit, the savings are going down and we expect to be tapped out within five to six years. If the partner's mother is still living, she'll have to be put into a nursing home and Medicare will be left to foot the bill.
Pray God that I just up and die before I get so sick as that. I'd never be able to afford the health care.