A Place of Aging

On Monday, thinking it was the 25th, I started to tell you all about George Armstrong Custer’s last day on Earth. Then I was going to postpone it to the real 25th, but that didn’t happen. So I was going to go with it today, but reviewing the actions of an egomaniac who manufactured his own demise just aren’t as great a concern to me today as other, more personal issues. Someday when I can’t think of anything else to discuss, we can review what happened in Montana 143 years ago.

When the Livermore family arrived on Tincup Drive in Gunnison in 1969 (50 years ago last month or this), we slotted neatly between the Bartlesons and the Barils. Bartleson: geology; Livermore: history; Baril: English, all at Western Then State Then College. Seven kids ranging from me as the oldest to Tia as the youngest, and we all just tumbled in and out of all three houses pretty much at will.

Then the Bartlesons got divorced and moved away from Tincup Drive; Chuck Livermore died and his family ended up leaving Tincup Drive; all these years later, and the Barils are still in their house. For now — but their time on Tincup Drive is coming to a close.

The Barils, only two weeks apart in age and married for what must be closing in on 60 years (I can’t remember how long ago it was that Lynn and I went to the party for their 50th) reached a point a few months back where they couldn’t really live on their own. They wanted to stay in their home of more than 50 years, the place where they raised their kids (and Livermores and Bartlesons), so their kids did what they could to honor that wish.

But (if you can imagine this) 24-hour in-home care might cost a sou or two, and the aging process has continued to take a toll. Neither of their children lives here, and the decision has been made to move them to the Denver area, close to daughter Kristi.

I don’t know how aware either of the elder Barils is of this decision. Kristi has talked to them, and even took her mom to look at a facility, but memory issues have plagued Mrs. Baril for several years now. And, unbeknownst to Kristi until very recently, a doctor at the hospital here, treating her dad for a broken leg, diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s. (That seems like something you might want to let your patient’s relatives know.)

And now, with the decision made, the younger Barils are starting to run into problems from an unexpected quarter: their parents’ hired caretakers.

I know just enough to be dangerous here, but after talking to Kristi last night, it sounds like she and her brother Kent are being told by the nursing staff that it would be “cruel” to remove their parents from the house and that they are going about this all wrong.

Kristi was quick to praise the care her parents have received the last several months, but at this very stressful juncture the last thing she needs is Monday-morning quarterbacks questioning her judgment. Particularly after they informed her that their already costly service was going to double since they now consider both her parents to be their patients.

Here’s the part I don’t get, though: after the head of this service (I had assumed it was through the hospital, but it might be a private service) told them how awful they were being to take their parents from a two-level house with stairs out every exit, parents who keep falling despite the 24-hour care, she then informed them her service had other clients waiting and they were no longer going to care for the Barils.

I feel like I’m missing some big piece in this equation, but Kent had to schmooze them into staying on duty through July 14. So while the Baril children are bad people for not letting their parents stay in their unsafe house with care that has become too expensive, that care seems to be going away without a backwards look.

And since Kristi was only told one week ago that memory care would be appropriate for both her parents, she had been looking for the wrong type of facility: assisted living rather than secure, full-time care.

So she and my mom (who has had her own struggles watching her friends of 50 years slide away mentally) are going to go Friday to look at two facilities in Arvada, which would be close to my mom, easily within Kristi’s reach, and also accessible for the Barils’ longtime friends the Blacklocks.

Assuming one of these, or a place Kristi had already located, would be suitable and space is available, Kent and Kristi then will have an entire two weeks to get them ready to move.

I have been in my house only half the amount of time the Barils have, and although I’ve been working on it for months, I’m neither particularly packed nor down-sized. (In the middle of our conversation last night Kristi was kind enough to offer her parents’ house should Lynn and I find ourselves homeless come mid-August.)

Kent and Kristi are well aware how traumatic any move is going to be for their parents, although Kristi doubts the instruction she is being given by the caretakers, to not mention any possibility of a move. While her parents may not remember, it has been discussed, and her mom thought it would be a good idea, and what is the option? Surprise! We’re taking you to Denver today! Don’t forget your toothbrush!

I don’t know by what stretch these caretakers think they’re being helpful, berating the younger Barils essentially for not having an endless pile of money and resources. Like many people, if Kristi takes a day off, it’s unpaid. Kent may get more paid leave, but he is far away in Seattle, with a job that involves a lot of travel, so it’s not always the best option for either of them to drop everything and come to Gunnison for a parental crisis — crises that seem to be increasing.

You all will soon have to remind me I said this, but when it comes down to it, a home, even one of 50-plus years, is just a building. Being safe, closer to family and financially more secure all seem more important to me, and I really don’t understand why the Barils’ caretakers can’t see that and instead of castigating Kent and Kristi, work with them to help this huge transition go as smoothly as possible.

5 thoughts on “A Place of Aging

  1. For all of the issue you discuss, and more….we (my sisters and I) are currently working with a Senior Care Advisor from a national organization called Care Patrol. There are representatives everywhere and they are invaluable advocates for the person navigating a very tumultuous system of senior healthcare. My best thoughts to Kristi. Nan

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  2. Nice piece. Glad you talked to kristi. We all need to pitch in with support. Not an easy time for Kent and Kristi.

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  3. This enrages me! As a society, and apparently some individuals, are really, really bad at elder care. Thanks for the update and thoughts.

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