The first time I ever learned how to manage a checking account was in the 7th grade. Each student was given a “checkbook” and taught how to write checks and reconcile their account with a bank statement. It was one of the most practical things I learned in middle school; decades later I’m still writing checks and managing my own account. I just wish at some point we’d learned how to take care of our parents as they age.
Some cultures just automatically care for their elderly. It’s a matter of honor. And those within their community who shirk their responsibility are shunned. Sadly, our western minds don’t really comprehend senior care. You graduate from high school and attend college or technical school. You earn your degree and get a full-time job or enter grad school. You get married, have children, a dog and a white picket fence.
One day you’re building your career and saving for the future. The next day your mother is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. One day you’re bringing babies home from the hospital. The next day your father has a horrible accident and is left with a debilitating brain injury.
So what do you do?
Sure, we can plan for the future, but insurance doesn’t cover everything. Maybe you were excluded because of preexisting conditions. Maybe the insurance is no longer affordable. Maybe you lose your job and there goes your insurance.
I think there should be a board game for students to help them prepare for senior care. I imagine you’d spin a wheel or roll the dice and pick a ‘Care Card’ from the top of the pile.
The cards would be designed to help students problem solve and they’d probably say something like this:
Your father has a stroke and temporary paralysis on the left side. He graduates to a rehab center and eventually returns home but your mother needs help in meeting his daily needs. You are an only child. What do you do?
Your mother has early onset dementia and your father has retired from his job to care for her full time. He becomes depressed, loses weight and develops serious health issues. He begins to lose his memory and cannot keep up with her medications. Their insurance does not cover home health care. You have one sibling who is married with children and lives 1,300 miles away. You are single and have no children so your sibling expects you to take care of your parents. What do you do?
Your mother is affectionately known among your children as “Hot Rod Granny”. She’s garnered a few speeding tickets and you don’t think it’s safe for her to drive anymore but she is determined to hold onto her keys. She won’t listen to you when you express your concern. What do you do?
Your parents are in their seventies and need care around the clock. You’ve looked into assisted living facilities, but the good ones cost $5,000 a month, which is way out of their budget. What do you do?
Obviously, people would rather play Candyland than Seniorville. It’s more fun wading through chocolate swamps and over lollipop hills than navigating care for mom and dad.
But we already know how to eat candy. We need to know how to take care of our parents.
I imagine there would also be helpful cards included with this game:
You find a support group five miles from your home and begin attending where you meet other people just like you who are caring for their parents. You finally find people who understand what you’re going through.
You’ve been approved for a community grant that provides funds for your loved one to attend adult day care.
Your doctor tells you about a promising new medical trial that he thinks may be a good fit for your parent.
While taking time off work to care for your mother, who is recovering from spinal fusion back surgery, the ladies in your church deliver home cooked meals to your door three times a week for a month.
I feel like I’m playing this game, only it’s for real. And today, I drew a helpful card:
You discover a solid company that specializes in navigating seniors through care options. Their whole reason for being in business is to help people and they’ve sent a representative to your house to talk with you and your mother about options.
As this kind professional listened to our story and answered questions, I felt as if a lifeguard had just tossed a life preserve ring so Mom and I would no longer be forced to tread water. It felt better than passing ‘Go’ and collecting $200.
I have no idea how helpful my Seniorville game would be in preparing students to take care of their parents when they get older. All I know is that I could have used some guidance somewhere along the way.