Grilled Cheese Sandwich Generation
My name is Barbara, and by the age 66 my four children were all launched and living successfully on their own. I was enjoying the freedom of a comfortable “single’s” retirement. I took classes at the local college and taught Creative Writing courses at a Senior Arts Organization. My mom Jean, an active and independent 91-year-old widow, still drove surface streets to visit her friends, to shop, to play pinochle twice a week at the Senior Center and to worship at church services. Life was good!
It was late July, when my youngest daughter Emily had an accident, while kayaking that resulted in a brain aneurism. After two critical surgeries, our lives changed dramatically. I had to assume a Power of Attorney (POA) for her medical and financial affairs. She was 38 and her goal was rehabilitation. My goal was to manage her affairs, while still respecting her lifestyle as an adult. Most of all, I had to keep a record of all my decisions. I can do this – I thought – I will just use the copy key on my printer and empty out a file cabinet drawer, dedicated to her documents.
As I picked up her mail, each week, I was reminded of a Dr. Seuss story I used to read to my kids called: “The Five Hundred Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.” Each time the boy in the story doffed his hat – another grander one with more plumage would appear on his head. That is exactly what I felt happened with the mail. No sooner than eight to ten letters would arrive and be answered, when all of sudden ten to fourteen new pieces of correspondence would appear.
I floundered as her medical team grew from one to four specialists. Each team had its own records, its own treatment plans, and billing schedules in addition to their own follow up procedures. Coordination of care became my new job title when insurance reimbursement came from three different sources plus disability paper work.
In a few short months, before I could catch my breath, my mother fell and broke her hip. Whoa! Red light! Sharp turn! I was fortunate that she was of sound mind and wanted nothing more than to get through it and on to the rehab phase. Her goal, like her granddaughter was to restore her health. She needed her focus and again, I assumed a Power of Attorney for her financial and medical care choices.
This time I thought I knew what was coming, except her paperwork was compounded by the requirements of Medicare-Medical and an HMO instead of a PPO. The stacks of forms, billing statements, reimbursement records, monthly medication records, etc. were endless. The critical difficulty was that no matter where I filed something, it would be needed by two or three other sources. Clearly, the copy machine and filing cabinet were pure drudgery. The paperwork was overwhelming.
I needed a miracle!
One harried morning, I saw an ad for ScanSnap. It had a small footprint; it was reasonably priced and had software that could create PDF files. I was intrigued. I had used flat bed units to scan books/articles in the school library, but I did not think they were user friendly. After doing my due diligence online research, I purchased the S1300 model and began my learning curve which was remarkable short. Within a half hour of setting installing the unit, I was scanning multi-pages successfully. I spent a week setting up folders and learning how to scan to an e-mail, and the joy of the Card Minder, which I love, because I always wind up writing a memo on the back of a doctor‘s card.
Three times a week, I would sit down and open all the mail for my mom Jean and my daughter Emily. Each piece of paper was designated with a three letter prefix representing their initials to which I added the current date of entry, document status, referrals, and any amendments. Think of a lateral medical records filing system. That was the inspiration for my code system. The ScanSnap provided me with the flexibility to access the record I needed from the software filing cabinets and submits it to individual destinations. I was able to rename a file and store copies in different online cabinets. The user friendly software literally broke my log jam of paper.
Fast forward to present time. I still have POA for both of them. My daughter now has global amnesia and my mom is now in a nursing home after two strokes. In the midst of the pressures and stress of caring for my beloved family members, while struggling to nurture myself, my scanner is a true blessing. I automatically know where every record is instantly and am able to print, e-mail or fax it on demand. This effectively takes the weight of the world off my shoulders. My next step is to have copies of all their files moved to cloud storage. Imagine being at a doctor’s office when they need a document and I can access it from my Smartphone and e-mail to them right when they need it.
Pretty good for a Seasoned Senior Sandwiched between two generations!
About the author
At 71, I am enjoying the middle years of middle age. As a wife, mother, grandmother and aunt I was ready to help care for my dad in 1998. He was seriously ill and I signed a Power of Attorney to make decisions for his final months through Hospice Care. That short-term experience while emotional draining was brief compared to the last 5 years. My life is a balancing act and I ask for lots of hugs and emotional support. I am learning how to Skye with my webcam and writing a How To Guide for Elder Parent Care. Life is better!