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Weighing the Financial and Emotional Costs of Parent Mortality

The process of helping a loved one age with grace has often been thought of as “The Long Goodbye.” There is no way around the fact that dealing with our own mortality and that of our loved ones is perhaps life’s most difficult challenge. Few people enjoy thinking about passing on, and even fewer like talking about it. But growing old and slowing down are inherent parts of the human experience. Dealing with these issues, planning for them, and ensuring that one ages as gracefully is possible is important for all local families. Unfortunately, our Chicago nursing home lawyers are all too aware that so many of our seniors are not afforded the opportunity to age with grace and instead spend their golden years struggling to get by.

Earlier this month The Atlantic published a penetrating story on the many financial, mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional costs involved in the long-term care process for seniors and their family members. The story recounts the “long goodbye” of one man and the struggles that it imposed on his family. The senior first began to deteriorate when he was eighty-two years old in 2001. It was then that he was first diagnosed with a deteriorating spine. A few days later the man fell while trying to get the mail. He hit his head on the pavement and scraped the skin off his knees as he was trying to crawl back to the front steps. This began an eleven year downhill slide for the man, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and been released from two hospices.

The man passed away eleven years later, at the age of ninety three. By the end, all of his life savings had vanished, gone to pay for assisted living services. That did not even include his medical bills which, mercifully were paid for mostly by Medicare and insurance policies included in his retirement. He eventually needed to be spoon-fed, and, according to his son, spent most of his days rolling around in his wheelchair like a child until it was time for him to be fed again. His son wrote, “I cannot imagine that this once-dignified Southern gentleman, who clawed his way out of the grit of a Depression-era tobacco farm in North Carolina and bought a snazzy double-breasted suit with one of his first paychecks, would be anything by humiliated by what is happening to him now.”

The heartfelt story is one that should remind all of us of that each senior has a back story-a life full of interesting, provocative, courageous, and love-filled memories. No matter what condition a senior is in at a facility, that story cannot be forgotten. It is the ultimate injustice for these community members to face nursing home neglect or abuse at the end of their days.

Our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers do not believe that there is an easy answer to any of these questions about aging. However, we do know that the law demands that certain basic standards of care be met by those providing long-term care. Those laws are meant to ensure that our elderly community members are not faced with neglect and abuse at the time when they are most dependent on others for basic help. Please do not allow any nursing home abuse or mistreatment to perpetuate without stepping in. The only way to stamp out this problem and bring peace to so many of our family and friends is to demand accountability and improve the standards for all.

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