EP- 6 In this episode of Seniors We Love podcast, we are talking about my biological dad.
His name is Eddie.
I never really called him dad, except when I was in front of him, and that was out of respect. I’m not sure he really gets to wear the dad crown with me except for the donation of his sperm! In this episode, we’ll talk about his career, which was impressive. He escorted presidents, dignitaries and many famous actors and actresses.
I’ll talk about his family and the last years of his life which is full of many lessons for caregivers and other seniors. From his story, I hope that you pick up a few tips on helping your senior through some difficult times. Taking care of him taught me so much about dealing with doctors, hospitals and long term nursing care.
My mom divorced him when I was one.
Since I was so young, I don’t have any memories of living with him. You’ll hear in a minute why that’s so important. He had 2 wives after my mom and ironically his 3rd wife and my biological mom were good friends throughout their marriage.
His 3rd wife died a few years before he passed and I’ll talk about her in another episode. But since she passed first, he was a lost soul and in failing health.
The good news is that I’m not the only child.
There were 5 all together. I have a brother and sister related by blood and two sisters from his third marriage. I call all of them my brothers and sisters regardless of their actual biological relationship. Two of them are what I call ‘out there’. I rarely see or talk to any of them except my sister in Boston.
I honestly don’t know a lot about my dad’s life in his younger years. I know his parents were divorced. His dad remarried and had 5 children and we call them the Frederick Family. Once a year or so we would visit the Frederick Family. It seemed like such a long drive. Today it’s a daily commute for many people!
His mom remarried and had one son. We called his mom Nanny. I knew her better than his dad, but didn’t really know either very well. One time I remember going to her house one time and seeing pictures of all the grandchildren on her wall.
There wasn’t one of me.
I don’t know if that was because she didn’t like me or because no one gave her a picture of me. Regardless, it’s one of those things I remember.
Growing up, I had to visit my father once in awhile. It wasn’t like what we have today where kids have to go between parents every other weekend. I have to be honest, I’m really glad I didn’t have to do that. My life would be so discombobulated if that’s what I had to do. It might be why I feel so strongly that parents keep their children in one location instead of forcing them to go from one household to another, disrupting everything.
On some of the occasions when I would visit my dad, we would go to my grandmothers house in North Beach. If you are listening outside of the DC area, it’s a small town on the Chesapeake. Back then it was considered rural. Today people live there and commute to DC.
We caught our own crabs.
My grandmother would get up before dawn and get the chicken necks ready and we’d all wonder out to the pier later in the morning to help. We didn’t use pots like people use today, we put the chicken necks on rope and would pull the rope up and catch them with a net.
Catching crabs is a skill. You have to pull the rope up gently and have the net angled in such a way that the crabs didn’t see it. Crabs are smart. Humans are smarter!
For those of you outside of the DC area, we were catching Blue Crabs. They get steamed with some old bay, vinegar and beer.
OMG, they are amazing.
They are best when hot, but cold crabs are dooable too! Don’t be deceived in other parts of the country where they advertise Maryland Crabs. If they aren’t cooked like this, you are eating an imitation!
Once in awhile I had to see my dad.
You heard that correctly, I had to see my dad. This happened when I needed clothes. Apparently he and my mom had an arrangement that he had to take me shopping twice a year.
We would make the obligatory visit to Montgomery Wards and I’d pick out a few shirts and pants. I can still hear him telling me to hurry up or how expensive everything was. Maybe that is why I hate to shop……
Eddie was a police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department. He retired after 20 years as a Sargent.
Some of the work he did was memorable.
He worked in what is known as SOD which is special operations division. I’m sure many police departments have this division. In DC it meant he was assigned to escort all of the dignitaries when they came to town and the President!
He met many Presidents and escorted them as they traveled around town. I have autographed pictures of him shaking hands with President Regan and President Ford.
When I was younger, I remember he had to work the riots. This is when DC was torn upside down with protests, looting and arson. Fires were everywhere, protesters, police clashes…it was a very scary time. It destroyed the city.
If you’ve visited DC in the past 20 plus years, you’d never know how devastated it was in the 60’s and 70’s. It was a scary time ending with military involvement.
It was a horrible time in DC. I’m so glad things have recovered, but it’s taken almost a lifetime!
He also worked the special events and sporting events as a police officer.
As I got older and could do things independently, I would often go see parades in DC just so I could say that’s my dad on the motorcycle leading the parade! He was motor One. If you ever see the police riding in a parade, they are usually in a v shape. My dad was at the front of the V.
I remember he would work the Washington Redskins games, when the stadium was still in DC. One year I had tickets to the game and thought I would stop to visit him. After all, I really only saw him a few times a year, so I thought it would be nice to stop and say hello.
The police were set up in a trailer so I poked my head in and asked if he was there. Out of curiosity, they wanted to know who I was. Since I didn’t see him too often, he didn’t talk about me much either. They didn’t know about me, but were sports and believed me.
Actually they decided to play a joke on him.
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that I wasn’t the type to get into trouble. I wouldn’t call myself a goodie two shoes, but I stayed under the radar.
He was in the stadium at the time and they called him and asked him to come to the trailer. While doing this, they asked me to sit on a chair with my hands behind my back. They told me they were going to pull a prank on him. It was a ball game, I was there to have fun, so I went along.
What I didn’t know is that they told him that they had arrested someone for throwing missiles into the stadium. They said this person had asked to speak to him. When he walked into the trailer and saw me sitting there with my hands behind my back, he flipped.
Then I jumped up and gave him a hug. He almost had a heart attack!
Everyone laughed and had fun with the prank but I know he always wondered if I was a good kid or someone that caused a lot of trouble!
After he retired he drove a limousine. Apparently retired police officers were in demand as they could be trusted, had a good work ethic and knew their way around! He drove the limousine for several years and began to drive some big celebrities.
Every time he drove a celebrity he asked them for an autographed photo. He had a room in his house that was filled with signed photos of everyone he drove. There must have been over 100 photos. It was an impressive.
I want to pause from talking about Eddie to thank Lynn Michel, our sponsor of this podcast. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. Lynn Michel Insurance helps seniors, people over 65 with their health insurance decisions.
What if someone who is over 65 is still working. If they decide to stay on their employers plan, they need to make sure it is creditable coverage. If they don’t have creditable coverage then they need to go on Medicare or be subject to a penalty when they are ready to go on Medicare.
In addition to having credible coverage, they need to get confirmation every year that the coverage is credible and hold on to that letter until they sign up for part B insurance. Without this confirmation, the penalty can be substantial and expensive for someone in retirement.
If you know someone that is 65 and still working, have them contact Lynn Michel Insurance and discuss their options. Lynnmichel.com
BACK TO OUR FEATURED SENIOR
Eddie had 3 wives. My mom who left him when I was under 2, Pat who left him after about 10 years of marriage and Elaine who stuck it out until she became an angel.
He married Elaine when I was 15. She was an interesting character but I have to give her credit, she did what she could to keep me in the picture. She made sure I was invited to different events and included in the family as much as I could. For me, this was a first. Perhaps I appreciated it because it was new or maybe I was just ready because I was maturing and forming my own decisions about my family.
Remember I said earlier that when I went to my grandmothers house that there wasn’t a picture of me. Well, when my dad and Elaine were married, someone was outside writing on the car and they put 4 children and only married one day. I looked at the person and asked who the four children were. When he didn’t mention my name, I politely let him know that I was Eddie’s daughter and he put an x through the 4 and made it a 5.
This isn’t something that I hold a grudge about but it’s a reminder of how little he knew his own daughter. Biologically I was a part of the family, he had to pay child support but he didn’t talk about me much.
He was an abuser. Both physically and emotionally. I knew that is why my mom left him but I didn’t connect the dots about his second wife until I was older. He always said he didn’t know why she left him, but one day he came home from work and the house was empty.
I haven’t done a lot of research on abusers, but based on my experience with him, abusers are in denial. He was in denial hence he didn’t know why she left him. I think his dad also abused him so it was a way of life for him. Sad. Makes me glad I never lived with him because I avoided the abuse that I know his wives and my siblings had to experience.
I only saw his second wife once or twice after she left him, but in all honesty, I give her a lot of credit for doing what she did.
His third wife would often show up with at family gatherings with bruises on her body and have an excuse that she walked into the wall or fell down the steps or drank too much. She did have a drinking problem, but behind the scenes we knew what happened but no one said or did anything.
When my own children were born, it took me a long time until I would let them be alone with him. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, I felt I had to respect him because he was my father, but I didn’t feel that I had to give him an opportunity to hit my kids.
After Elaine passed, he was miserable. You could say he didn’t have anyone to abuse any longer but he couldn’t be alone. Having seen the impacts of this is one reason why I try to be as independent as I am. I don’t want to go down the same path that I saw with him, always lonely. I’m alone but not lonely.
In the last 2 years of my dad’s life, he would go into the hospital once a month and be there for a week at a time. My brother worked during the day and my sister was in Boston (and the other two were MIA), so since I was the only one who wasn’t ‘officially’ working.
For whatever reason, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure he was getting the proper care. While this was really a strain on my life,, I made sure he got the best care he could.
He didn’t make life easy. You see, he had congestive heart failure which is fluid around the heart and diabetes. He didn’t want to follow a good diet and he didn’t want to lose weight.
Either he didn’t want to admit that there was a correlation to his health or he just didn’t care. Maybe it was a combination of both. Personally, I don’t think this is uncommon in a lot of people today.
During the day I would go to the hospital and my brother would go at night. His brother and sister in law (my aunt and uncle) would also visit, although I’m not sure how often. They were taking care of their mother who had alzheimer’s which kept them busy.
I’m sure I wasn’t liked much because I would make him stick to the hospital diet when I would visit, hoping to get him well. What I learned after he passed is that my brother would bring him all of his favorites, pizza, soda, chips…all the things that he wasn’t supposed to have at night. I wasn’t happy about that when they told me, but it was too late at that point.
It’s one of those situations where you have to make a decision, do you let them do what they want or do you try to get them to do the right thing? It’s like raising kids, you have to pick your battles.
Initially when he went into the hospital, I’d go when I could and find out what was going on. Then my sister who is a physician assistant would ask me all kinds of questions that I didn’t know the answers to, so I found I’d need to wait for the doctor to arrive to get the answers. This often meant waiting all day to see them, and sometimes I’d miss them altogether.
So I learned that you need to be there early in the morning before surgeries are scheduled, be there at lunch and be there late in the evenings to have a chance of seeing the doctors.
Now you might be thinking I could call….but the issue is HIPPA. The staff is very hesitant to give any information over the phone. When doctors are in their office it’s hard to get them. Easiest way is to be there waiting for them when they make the rounds. For many reasons I hate HIPPA but that’s for another conversation!
So every month I’d spend a week driving to and from the hospital, which was usually over an hours drive, and that’s in non rush hour. I’d make sure my dad was getting the best medical care he could, given the circumstances. And a few times I’d get a call in the middle of the night because he wasn’t behaving and needed supervision. Yes, I’d go then as well.
After a few months of this I began to discover that the doctors weren’t talking to each other. One would prescribe one thing and another would prescribe something else. All of these were causing additional issues which made my job even tougher.
It’s the reason I’m passionate that when someone goes into the hospital, it’s essential that you are there speaking with the doctors and making sure they are getting the care they need. We want to think that everything is being done correctly, but nurses are just following doctors orders and if something gets missed along the way, it gets missed.
If you are there, asking questions, taking notes, the likelihood of something being overlooked is minimal. I’m lucky, I’d have my sister coaching me and most people don’t have a doctor in their back pocket! I’ll elaborate on this in another episode, but take the advice, if someone you love is in the hospital, you need to be there. Early in the morning, during shift changes and whenever the doc is known to make rounds.
After about 9 months of this, I met one of the doctors who specializes in diabetes also known as an endocrinologist. This doctor was young and probably the most compassionate doctor I had met. He was instrumental in coordinating care among all of the doctors and providing me clear direction on how to help my dad. While my sister is a medical professional, she’s out of state and can only do so much from a distance.
With each hospital stay the patients begin to decline and at some point some changes need to be made. The doctor said that at some point, my dad wouldn’t be able to go home and he’d need to go into a rehab facility that had dialysis.
For a long time my dad was driving himself 3 times a week to dialysis. He was missing part of his foot so we weren’t super comfortable having him drive. It was more a safety issue for others. He would say he was fine.
We all always say we are fine!
Fast forward a few months and my brother and I went on a search for a facility. The choices of a rehab facility with dialysis on premises are limiting. If he had the funds, he could have someone transport him to a separate facility for dialysis, but that wasn’t the case.
Most facilities were disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Once we walked into a facility. Before the staff person came out of their office we had left. The odor was too bad to stick around.
Fortunately, we found a decent one near Annapolis. It was also good for my dad because it wasn’t far from his brother and therefore they could visit more frequently.
While I’m an insurance agent, I wasn’t focused on the senior market, but I’d taken enough CE’s to know that there were some issues I needed to be aware of with medicare and rehab facilities.
One of them was at 100 days.
As you approach 100 days, there needs to be a discussion about payment. Depending on the circumstances, if the patient is receiving medicare insurance, they stop paying rehab fees after 100 days. It means that the patient now has to pay out of pocket or with long term care insurance.
Do you have any idea what the daily rate of a rehab facility with dialysis is? Expensive. That’s all I need to say.
My dad was fast approaching 100 days. I’d had a few meetings with the facility about his progress and it looked like he wasn’t getting well enough to be released. Most likely he would be there after 100 days and we as a family needed to start talking about payment options.
You’d think I was the devil when I brought this up.
We were fast approaching day 90. Ten days until we need to make some serious decisions. My dad was furious with me. He didn’t want to hear any of this.
I was pushing that we needed to sell his house. He had no long term care insurance or any savings to speak of. Only his monthly pension which barely covered half of the monthly costs at the rehab facility.
He was adamant that selling his houses was not going to happen.
To him, it was a home full of memories and he wasn’t ready to give them up. I’m sure there’s a lot tied to this and one day I’ll bring a professional on the show to discuss this aspect from a senior perspective, because I’m not the trained professional in this area.
For my dad, selling his home wasn’t an option. I was trying to be compassionate while also trying to be financially savvy. How were we going to pay for rehab if he didn’t have any money.
It was a Monday around day 90 and I had a meeting scheduled with the facility. The first part of the meeting was an update on his health, the second part of the meeting was to discuss the financial situation and begin to make some decisions about how to pay for his care and his stay in rehab.
I remember how angry my dad was at me for mentioning that we might have to sell the house. I was just thinking through the options.
When I left that day, it wasn’t good. Me, talking logically, him upset that I was having the conversation. We clashed.
Unfortunately he passed on Saturday. I don’t know if he did something to end his life because of the finances or if mother nature said it was time. From a financial perspective, the timing was interesting.
Losing someone is never easy. While I wasn’t really close with my dad, I did feel it was my responsibility to do the right thing, which I did.
Now he is happy with his wife.
If you could learn something from what I went through with my dad it would be to have conversations with your parents, or if you are a parent listening to this, have conversations with your children about what happens when the money runs out.
Statistically, it will most likely happen to one of the parents.
From a medicaid perspective, that planning needs to be done long before you enter the rehab facility. There are things that can be done that can make it so you don’t loose your house and all your assets, but can still get medicaid. It’s something that has to happen several years ahead of time though, which is why you must plan.
None of us want to think that we will ever get sick or that we will end up in rehab. But we are living longer today and the medical technology is there to keep us around. Therefore you must plan.
Hopefully, some of the ideas I’ve shared here can help you
If I can be of help or refer you to someone that can help you, please contact me. My number is 301-996-2328. Think of me as a resource.
Also, check out our website, lynnmichel.com for a list of resources that you can help guide you to making some of the hard decisions.
Unfortunately, the path my father took with his health in the later years is not uncommon. It’s not something that is easy to talk about. Trust me, I’ve been in this situation more than once with other family members and when the decisions are made ahead of time, life is much easier.
And the time will come for all of us.