Monday, March 16, 2009

What I've been doing

As you may recall if you've been reading my blog for a while...my mother is suffering from Alzheimer's. She was briefly in a psychiatric hospital last year due to effects of the disease...but they managed to get her moods and delusions under control with some new medicine. She's been living at her home, the house I grew up in, since she got out.

We did have some issues with Mom's care agency before we found her current full-time caregiver. However, her current caregiver is awesome and we're very happy with the care she provides. It took some doing but we found a good weekend caregiver for Mom also through the same agency. And if money was no object, we'd be happy to keep Mom in her home as long as we could. Unfortunately...

I'm sure everyone reading this has experienced some effects from the current economic downturn. I am happy to still be employed, but my 401K has definitely taken a hit. Since Mom's Social Security benefit doesn't even come close to paying for her current care needs, she relies on the money my father had saved and invested over the years (some of this money came from a lump-sum retirement benefit.)

As you can imagine, even though these funds were conservatively invested, they've taken a huge hit over the last six months or so. I read one article stating the current downturn has wiped out 45% of the world's wealth...I think it's come close to doing that to my mother's account. So while we're happy with Mom living in her house and the care she's getting, it's not a viable long-term option. Even if the recession hadn't happened, it still wouldn't be something we could continue indefinitely. 24/7 home care is very expensive.

Shortly after my return from my vacation, my sisters and I had a conference call to discuss what to do next. Since my eldest sister has a master's degree in accounting, we let her run the numbers for Mom's account to compare various options. We'd like Mom's money to last as long as possible, because physically Mom is still in very good health. Our options were to have Mom continue living in Albuquerque at a care facility there, or to have her move to a care facility located where one of us is located, either here in Texas where me and one of my sisters lives, or to Chicago where my other sister lives.

I had looked at a care facility in Albuquerque on my last trip out there, and it seemed nice but it was pretty expensive. There was another one in Albuquerque that was an option but it sounded to me like it wouldn't be a good fit for Mom. Also, we were concerned about my Mom living in a place without one of us being nearby to deal with any issues that may occur. My sister in Chicago looked at several places near where she lives, and me and my sister here looked around this area. I was having some trouble getting my head around the idea that Mom had to move, but I finally went out looking about 10 days ago, and I found a place I liked, close to where my sister and I live. They also had immediate openings.

My sister who lives here toured it later and liked it also...plus it was quite a bit cheaper than the facility in Albuquerque. Additionally, unlike the facilities in Albuquerque, this place allows pets, so Mom will be able to take her dog with her. I don't know how long Mom will be able to care for him, but even if it's just for another year or so, having him there when she moves in will be huge in helping with the transition, I think. Anyhow I can't post a link directly to where Mom will be moving without giving away my city, but here is a link to a similar facility that my sister toured (different company, though.)

We have reserved a room for Mom and done the preliminary paperwork. Actually, we got a private room I like that also turned out to be their last opening, so I was happy to get that taken care of. My sisters are flying to Albuquerque later this week to pack up clothes and things and move Mom out here a week from tomorrow. We will probably move some of her own furniture later but the facility provides furniture of its own for residents that need it, so she can use that for now. Also, after she moves and we figure out what to do with all the furniture...we will need to sell her house. Much work lies ahead, for sure.

That being said, when I compare where we were with Mom ten days ago, before we'd even decided on a place to move her, to where we've come now, I think we've done a lot. I am confident that Mom will adjust to her new residence, even if she hates it at first, and I'm happy that there will be two of us to help with any issues that come up while she lives there. And I'd better cut this short now, because I have some more phone calls to make to relatives regarding Mom's upcoming move.

By the way, because we are starting to tell relatives and friends that Mom is moving soon, I'm comfortable posting this entry (since I know my mother never visits the internet these days.) But just on the off chance someone reading this knows my Mom (and since this blog is linked and the entries are cross-posted to my Facebook account I think there's a few of you who do) please don't tell her anything about the upcoming move if you happen to speak to her.

Tune in next week to see how the move went.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Somewhat Rambling Update

Well, as usual, it's been far too long since I posted. What can I say, I've been a lazy blogger. February was a pretty good month overall, in that I had some vacation time and I also got a chance to go visit my mother, which is the first time I'd been there in quite a while...if you've been reading this blog any, you probably remember my last trip out there, which was definitely not a Fun Time. My friend Melanie was on vacation in Albuquerque at the same time I visited, and we had fun hanging out together. We drove up to Santa Fe one day while I was there and had lunch.

Someone asked me to write about Santa Fe...I am kind of at a loss as to what I should write about, but I'll give it a shot. Santa Fe was founded in 1610, and Albuquerque in 1620. It used to be that both cities had about an equal cost of living, but starting in the late 1970's, Santa Fe began getting very popular and trendy as a "New Age" type of city, and real estate prices have really shot through the roof there since. (At least they had...I'm not sure what prices are like right now.) There is a lot of historical architecture and art galleries around there. I used to visit periodically when I was growing up for school trips and such. Santa Fe tends to have kept more of its original architecture than Albuquerque, which I think is a good thing. Traffic there is kind of a pain since many of the roads were built when cars were a lot less common.

Later in the month, I had a dedicated block of vacation days, but I ended up not doing quite as much as I planned...I was hoping to do a mini-road trip plus a regular trip of some kind, but due to finances, I had to choose one or the other. I ended up doing my a trip to London with a relative of mine, Rex. We were originally going to go to Honolulu but the flights were all looking very full going there. I had my annual jumpseating requirement to take care of, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. Flights to London were wide open so we ended up getting first class both ways (except for the time on the trip over when I did my required five hours of cockpit observation...on a 777, in this case.)

My airline allows single people to designate a person as their "travel companion" that enables them to enjoy the same pass benefits as a relative would have...and in my case, I chose Rex. His actual relation to me is something like third cousin once removed but we've always been pretty close...him and his wife were the people my parents had designated to raise me if anything had ever happened to them while I was growing up. I sometimes refer to him as my godfather although that's a term that tends to make people think of the mafia or something.

Anyhow, Rex is about the closest thing to a father I have in this world, so it was fun to travel with him. Although he is in his early eighties, he sure doesn't act like it! He is still active with his church, and often goes on mission trips with them. He also still regularly walks a couple miles each day, and he definitely had no trouble keeping up with me . He did usually go to bed a lot earlier than I did, but I didn't mind going out at night by myself.

We did go to a show there together on our first night, and that was a lot of fun. London shows, while not cheap, I think are cheaper than Broadway shows, although I'm not really positive since I haven't spent much time in New York City. It also helps that the dollar is doing well against the pound right now. Last year, when I went to Amsterdam, the dollar was doing not nearly as well (although in that case I was dealing with the Euro and not the pound) and prices seemed a lot higher.

I spent my junior year of high school in London, 1984-85 to be exact, and it seems like a LONG time ago. The show we ended up going to see, Billy Elliot, was based on events (the coal miner's strike) that happened while I was living there. While I was living near London and not in Northern England, where the strike was taking place, I do remember seeing tons of news about the strike over the course of my stay there. Anyhow, I suppose I liked the show in part for that reason. It was very well acted and directed.

I visited London a fair bit as a tourist when I was living there as a high school student, but with a city that size, there are always new things to see that you've missed. We went to the Churchill Museum (in his secret WWII headquarters located near Parliament), St. Paul's cathedral, and a few other spots. One of the few things I did that Rex opted not to do was climb up the stairs inside St. Paul's cathedral. They have three galleries you can see...the first one is a stairway that goes around the inside, about a third of the way up, and the second gallery is an outdoor walkway, about two thirds of the way up. The uppermost gallery, called the "Golden Gallery," is located inside near the very top of the dome...but it was closed when I visited. I still enjoyed seeing the cathedral though. We also did a bit of shopping at Harrod's and Fortnum and Mason's...although not TOO much, since their prices were sky-high.

A link to my London pictures can be found here. I may be adding some more soon...I think Rex is sending me some prints. He does have a digital camera and is not afraid to use his computer, but he still prefers doing some things the old fashioned way...in this case, ordering prints and emailing them to me rather than just uploading them to Flickr. I'm not being critical though...he's a lot better on computers than most people I've met over 65.

Our hotel in London, called the Wellington, was very reasonable but also very Not Fancy. We didn't have private bathrooms although there was a sink in the room. The room itself was pretty small also. However, it WAS very clean, and the beds were comfortable. They had a pretty decent (free) breakfast, and there was also had a computer available for rental to access the internet. I think the building was originally a college dormitory before becoming a hotel...as with most buildings in London, it was built quite a while ago. It was a pretty good location, near Victoria train station. Their website can be found here if anyone needs decent basic hotel acommodation in London. If you want your own bathroom, though, better seek elsewhere.

Of course, I managed to catch a cold on the flight back (the trip was fun, but travel is always a bit tiring, and planes are notorious places to catch a virus, with all the recirculated air.) Last week I had my annual recurrent training, so I was busy studying (and trying various cold remedies.) I'm finally getting over the cold, though (yay Mucinex!) and getting back into the swing of things at work. I do still have my annual "desk check" coming up later, but that should be no big deal. I really like working afternoons compared to the graveyard shift I had all last year. Some people love graveyards, but afternoons will always be my favorite shift. It's a lot easier to sleep when it's dark outside than during the day.

Hope everyone has been having a great 2009! Talk to you later with other rambling thoughts.