Like many young adults, I couldn’t remember ever being in a nursing home. I couldn’t even name one in my area. But there I was standing over my father as he lay in a hospital bed, trying to make a decision about who could best take care of him.
An elderly parent’s health problems can be as predictable as aging itself, but sometimes health emergencies take us by surprise and we’re forced to make hard decisions about a loved one’s care quickly and without much information.
Three years ago, my father had a benign brain tumor. Two weeks after a biopsy—a simple procedure that required a one-night hospital stay—he got an infection from the surgery, which caused his brain to swell to the point where doctors had to remove part of his skull. He spent months in the hospital, rehab, and a skilled-nursing facility before he was ready to go home.
But he wasn’t able to live completely on his own. He had temporary brain damage and had to relearn how to walk, drive, and do other routine tasks. My parents are divorced, and my dad lived in western Massachusetts while I was in Washington and my little sister was in college in Boston.
I was 23. None of my friends had ever battled insurance companies or hired nurses, and they were in no position to give me advice. My father was only 63, but his condition was similar to that of an elderly person except that he was improving every month. Doctors said his recovery could take up to five years.
Because his problem arose so quickly, I didn’t have time to do careful research to find the best care. But I hired a geriatric-care manager to help me sort through our options. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.>> Next: What does a care manager do?