My wife, Loren, and I are moving into an assisted living community next month. Loren is moving in because she needs extra help to get through the day. I’m moving in because she doesn’t want to go by herself, and because I don’t want to stay home alone without her.
We are both 50 years old, which is young for an assisted living community, but Loren has stage four terminal breast cancer and I can’t take care of her by myself and hold down a job.
Loren was doing well through the end of last year – really well, in fact – but this year she took a turn for the worse. First it was a balance issue caused by swelling in the brain, which necessitated a course of dexamethasone, which has the effect of making Loren more stoned than Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Then it was another round of chemotherapy to address two large tumors that had sprung up in her abdomen.
Loren responded well to both the dex and the chemo, and, thankfully, the two big tumors are shrinking. But Loren now walks with a walker and has a limited amount of energy each day, though her energy is improving. Over the summer, I took care of Loren, but we realized in July that she needed at least 5 hours of home health care a day to get by.
Home health care is expensive, at least here in San Jose, and at least if you are not on Medicaid. One agency quoted me a flat rate of $32.00 a day, which works out to $3,200 a month for five hours a day, Monday through Friday. Add on weekends, and the cost rises to just under $4,500 a month.
We tried to arrange for that amount of care in early July, but the agency couldn’t find anyone willing to take a part-time (25 hours a week) gig. Full time care, eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, would cost us $5,120 a month.
Fortunately, Loren’s health rallied in July and we decided to hold off and see where she plateaus. She is doing well – much better than six weeks ago – but she still needs help. And she also wants help, so she doesn’t spend every ounce of good energy doing the dishes, or other chores, in order to take some work off my plate.
We are fortunate to have resources. And while spending money on assisted living is not what we expected to be doing in our early 50’s – our plans had more to do with expensive vacations and wine – spending the money on assisted living is the right thing to for us to do. It offers Loren assistance and autonomy, a chance to do more without me. And it offers me peace of mind, knowing that Loren is taken care of when I’m at work and not stuck at home, waiting for me to return.
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