It’s been about two years now since my best friend and ancillary father figure, Nick, suffered his hemorrhagic stroke. He has a huge group of friends who have been amazing. Four of us were tasked to be his medical and durable powers of attorneys. The medicals are out of town and only marginally helpful. The two financial poa’s, one being myself and the other, Lori, a long term friend of Nick’s both live here in town.
What I have learned over the past two years has been nothing short of an education in family and friendship. Nick’s sister, who is a goblin of epic proportions, was there for him when he needed her. She drove out from Arizona to be at his side while he was incapacitated for months at a place called the Whetstone Rehabilitation Center. Well, that was horrific. Lori came in on him totally passed out, butt naked in a stifling room with no evidence that anyone was keeping him safe as he was designated as a fall risk. This is where his sister and brother in law’s presence came to be a good thing. At least Nick had them to watch his back at that awful place. Oddly enough, there are now multiple lawsuits against the facility since someone died, of septic shock if I recal correctly, there recently. For as expensive as that kind of care, and for how vulnerable people are when they need it, it breaks my heart that this is the best thing that America can come up with for our loved ones.
Anyway, moving forward, the group of local poa’s got Nick situated in an independent living community. It was another shock to see Nick’s living expense go from something like $700/month to $2600/mo for an apartment. Again, wow moment here. With the boomers aging, I can’t believe we don’t have more affordable housing options for our sick and elderly. It’s geared toward bankrupting people in my opinion. Not to mention in home care visits which were running about $1500/mo for things like showers and eye drops.
It’s also been an emotional challenge. I didn’t get along with one of the other medical poa’s first of all. So we decided to just stay out of each other’s way. Forever. Then there is coping with the loss of my old friend and life long advisor. The man who survived is changed. It’s hard for me to accept that the man who came home from the Whetstone was not the same man I’ve known and relied on for so many decades. Even now it brings me to the edge of a tear or two. Still, he’s alive and comfortable. He’s got his friends and he’s living a life.
It makes me wonder though. I plan to draw up my will this year and put some do not resuscitate orders in place if I can that far in advance. While Nick is not a burden in anyway, I would rather check out if I went through what he did, or my worst fear, become a shut-in due to a stroke. I wish America had laws protecting our quality of life, and dignity in death, by our own choice.
But yeah, so I’ve learned a great deal about compassion, empathy, strength and, yes, Medicare (which is flaming expensive for a Civil Servant who never paid into Social Security). I’ve learned about the industry built up around older people and the sick and how to be as financially resourceful as possible. The experience has also taught me how to better let go of frustrating people. Stop giving them the energy which had been causing me so much stress. I’ve witnessed the induced dementia caused by anesthesia performed on a stroke victim for a hernia surgery That put Nick in such a bad place he was calling upwards of 25 times a day despondent and fully believing the hospital was going to kill him. In time he went back to normal, but those are the moments where a caregiver and friend can feel hopeless.
Nick was robbed of his retirement years. His ability to write (he was an amazing writer and historian before the event). It took away his ability to reason and logically breakdown the world around him. He lost his articulation and sharp wit. His ability to walk and drive. I don’t know what the stroke gave him in return, but it gave me a chance to grow as a man and a friend.
I suppose this is the point of the post. Watching someone suffer? It’s raw and it hurts like fuck. But it’s not hopeless. Time is the healer of everything. While we may be powerless to change the circumstances, we have all the power to accept the situation, and grieve our losses, together. To find the strength within ourselves, when we have none left, to build new friendships and spend the remaining time we have together just as we always have. As friends.