Recently, I was mindlessly watching television and a 60 Minutes episode had started. In the episode, there was a segment on Alzheimer’s and given what I do day-in and day-out, I stuck around on the channel. I’m glad I did.
During the segment, a reporter began by explaining that he had met Mike and Carol Daly – Carol had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. For the following ten (yes, ten!) consecutive years from diagnosis, the reporter interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Daly.
In one of the first years, Mr. Daly sincerely explains to the reporter, “I’m not gonna put her in a nursing home. I can handle it.” Sadly and predictably, the segment proceeds with showing Mrs. Daly worsening – both physically and mentally. However, most interestingly, though not surprising to me, Mr. Daly very clearly began exhibiting signs of physical and mental exhaustion. I distinctly remember saying to my own husband, “For every one year that passes, he looks like he aged five years.”
Low and behold, Mr. Daly eventually hired home health care to come into their house to give him a much needed break. I knew this was coming because, frankly, I see it happen … all the time. My clients will say the very thing Mr. Daly said [about nursing home care] and I often gently remind them, “I know it’s easy to focus on the one that needs the care, but I’m worried about you and your well-being, too.”
Caregiving is one of the toughest jobs out there, if not the toughest – just ask Mr. Daly, a retired New York City cop who experienced suicidal thoughts while caring for Mrs. Daly. The physical exhaustion is real. The mental exhaustion is real.
Oh … financial exhaustion is real, too. The segment mentions that Mr. Daly depleted much of their life savings to care for Mrs. Daly. This point of the segment almost made me cringe – specifically because all too many families do not realize that there are options to protect assets and qualify for governmental benefits like Medicaid, which will help cover the cost of home health and long-term care.
I hope he knew that this type of planning was an option, but I have a sneaking suspicion he did not. Therefore, the “price tag” associated with caring for Mrs. Daly was a hefty one – and one that could have been avoided had he sought assistance from an elder law attorney.
The story ends with Mr. Daly confessing with tears developing in his eyes, “I’m comin’ to the point where maybe a nursing home is the answer for her safety.” Then approximately fifty-three years after their wedding day, Mr. Daly put her in a nursing home.
It was certainly the best thing for her, her safety, her health – but let’s not forget about Mr. Daly, who is equally as important. It was also the best thing for him, his health, and his well-being. If there is a win-win in this story, this would likely be it.
I would recommend taking fifteen minutes to watch the segment: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-alzheimers-disease-following-a-couple-from-diagnosis-to-the-final-stages/. There is so much to learn here, and I cannot commend Mr. and Mrs. Daly enough for sharing their journey. All too frequently do I meet with families that say and do the exact same as Mr. Daly – do not fall into that trap and certainly … never say never.
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Jennifer Rozelle, JD