Let’s get one thing straight, right upfront. I HATE the show Grey’s Anatomy. I’m using the word HATE here. As in loathe. AS IN DETEST.
But my wife Jill and my daughter Gabby LOVE it. They watch it together and then bond over it (In the same way that my son Mikey and I bond over Star Wars or the Walking Dead – which by the way is still a more realistic show than Grey’s Anatomy).
Whenever the women in my life insist on watching this show, I retreat to reading a book or writing posts like this for the blog. I don’t care who is dating who, or who Amelia’s Baby-Daddy is, who is sleeping together in the janitor’s closet, or which person has gotten fired this week. I mean, what other bad things can happen at this hospital? Car crashes, plane crashes, terrorists, hand grenades, power outages, and on and on. Name something bad, and it’s happened on that show, no matter how crazy. I’ll bet that some form of Covid-19 has already happened on that show, in some form, numerous times. I’m waiting patiently for when zombies invade the place. Why would anyone ever set foot in there? If you’re not a major character and you go there for treatment, chances are you’re never coming out.
So when one of my favorite employees (kidding, they are ALL my favorite!) suggested I write a post about the show, I was ready to immediately shut down the idea, because, well, did I mention that I loathe the show?
But see, I hire the best people for my team. And when one of them makes a suggestion, I listen to it. The show is popular, despite my personal feelings, and that means lots of people will have seen this particular episode and caught a glimpse of an estate planning issue that we see at my office every day.
In this episode, a character named Noelle was in the hospital because she fell off a ladder while painting a house. Not too crazy, right? How does that relate to estate planning? I’m getting to it, I swear.
Turns out, she fell off the ladder because she’s a diabetic and wasn’t taking enough insulin. Why not, you ask? Because she was rationing it. And she was rationing it because she couldn’t afford it. Noelle was a business owner and was paying for her parents to live in an assisted living facility. Ask anyone in Massachusetts how expensive that can be, and we will all nod our heads with understanding (see my article, about Mass being the MOST expensive state in the whole country to grow old in). Noelle was using her money to pay for her parents’ care, which is certainly a just and noble cause, but at the expense of her own health. And while we see adult children risking their own health by taking care of parents, in the form of caretaker burnout, this situation was even direr. Noelle was rationing her insulin because she couldn’t afford it anymore, because she was using all her money to pay for mom and dad.
In the show episode, Noelle ended up passing away. Such a needless death (I know, it’s a TV show) that didn’t need to happen.
Immediately I thought of two things:
- Caretaker Burnout and Caretaker Health. It’s not easy taking care of an aging parent or grandparent. And you CAN’T do so at the expense of your own health. Caretaker burnout is very real, as is the importance of medication and diet. When taking care of a parent, you have to put your health first. Why? Well, look at Noelle. She’s dead, so now who’s going to take care of mom and dad? Probably no one, and they will have to move into a Medicaid nursing home. Read my blog about a son and his mom that I wrote about last month, that describes caretaker burnout. Here in Wilmington, there are numerous support groups for caretakers, including one that meets at the Senior Center here in town. If you are taking care of an aging loved one, consider joining one of these groups – they are a huge help.
- Better Planning. Bottom line, with a little bit of planning, things never would have gotten so bad for Noelle and her parents. Maybe her parents were eligible for some form of Medicare or Medicaid benefit. Maybe they could have protected their home with a trust, and then had plenty of money for their own care if the place was sold. There are lots of opportunities to plan and preserve your assets. No parent wants to be a burden on their kids! If I was taking care of my mom, to the point where I wasn’t buying my own medicine, she’d murder me herself! A little planning goes a long way and can make a world of difference.
Don’t be like Noelle. Or her parents. Be smart, and plan ahead. The best way to do that is to sit down with an Estate Planning and Elder Law attorney and learn about the options. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
As much as it pains me to say it, at least Grey’s brought up an important subject, worthy of conversation. Everything else in the show just makes me hate it more. I’ll stick to spaceships and zombies.
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Amelia’s baby-daddy is Link! I knew it all along!