By Marian Jung, CPA - Wealth Manager | Senior Associate
Mid-2020, on the eve of the Covid 19 quarantine, my elderly mother wandered the halls of her independent living apartment. It was 2 in the morning, and she was knocking on neighbor’s doors, looking for her 13-year-old granddaughter. For the preceding 5 years, I and my retired husband, had been managing the care of my mother successfully, with part-time caregivers. When we moved her close to our home, it was a blessing that she was accepted for a 1-bedroom apartment for $927 a month thru an affordable housing program.
But with her progressive dementia, the facility required 24/7 care immediately. This was no easy task during the pandemic, with 2 of the 3 caregivers leaving due to fear of Covid infection. To make matters worse, California Labor & Employment Rules requires overtime pay @ double the rate, when working over 9 hours or 45 hours a week. What could have been $7000 a month or $84,000 a year for 24/7 care became closer to $108,000, almost triple what we had been paying our part-time caregivers.
We kept the hours to straight time, which meant we needed more workers. But with fewer available caregivers, I needed to make up for hours myself. I covered 3 morning shifts and slept over 3 nights a week. There were nights when I got up 3-4 times to assist her. Yet with all these challenges, became an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. I was around to witness my mom’s daily trials, lifetime fears and occasionally, her dreams. I was fortunate; my mother was always very appreciative and almost never complained.
Three months later, two of the new caregivers left. It was clear that it was unrealistic to maintain 24/7 staff during a pandemic. With the service of an elderly care provider, we interviewed and luckily, got her accepted for an opening at a top quality 6-person board and care home, all with private rooms. It was expensive at $8000 a month, but the personalized care provided by the owner/staff was excellent, and my mom quickly acclimated. She even thrived with the company of the all-woman patient group, as mom joined them at the dining table for meals, reading and her weekly manicure. I nicknamed it, “the Senior Sorority” and my mom was among the few who was getting manicures during the pandemic!
By this time, we needed to supplement my mother’s finances beyond her fixed pension and social security income. Now at 99 years old, neither she nor I would have guessed that she would have lived this long. With low interest rates, we were able to refinance our home with $100,000 cash out, maintaining the same mortgage payment which would cover her support for 1.5 years.
After residing at the “Senior Sorority” for over a year, hospice care was called in, it was “time.” About 3 more months, with no need for painkillers, she transitioned naturally, bravely and with grace. My mom had the gift of time, reaching 99.9 years old. In the Chinese culture, the number nine is associated with infinity, which my mom seemly had obtained. She shared this gift of time with me; I was able to drop all my preconceptions of her and see her clearly for all her qualities: acceptance, appreciation, surrender and a loving nature.
Upon reflection, what could have been a heavy financial or emotional burden became a precious opportunity to connect soulfully. It also afforded me time to gather perspective of mortality, now knowing that it is not only an essential, but meaningful part of living.
If you find yourself with an aging parent that you are responsible for care or financial support, we are here to help provide guidance. We can assist with planning, managing financial resources, and navigating the elder care system.