Diplomacy challenged.

2A2D9307-20D2-4347-9602-E9D3A0B6C748

I belong to the MyCOPDteam website, which is a support group for people battling COPD and trying to find resources in fighting this crazy disease.

I say COPD is crazy because even the so called “experts” on the disease – the docs, respiratory specialists and patients themselves – can’t all agree on it’s causes, triggers, definitions, etc., etc., etc.; making for a rollercoaster ride of things to consider and try in order to remain healthy on a case-by-case basis.

Into these care and treatment considerations come the various personalities of the patients and their caregivers and loved ones, willy nilly, with very little opportunity to filter in or out anyone who may be unhealthy for your individual state of mind.

There are key issues to be addressed with any chronic health issue, but the most important questions don’t get addressed until much further in the online support community, long after you have emotionally engaged with an internet friend or foe and their health outcomes.

Being a crabby New Englander, I was taught that a friend, no matter how boon a companion in real life, is still an “acquaintenance” until you’ve known them and been friendly for at least five (5) to ten (10) years.  What then are the rules for boundary management in internet life?

The reasons for the 5-10 year minimum getting-to-know-you period or reasonable limit is because people lie.  Or prevaricate.  Or put on one personality in public, but may actually be a whole other soul-sucking personality over time.  Until you’ve been in the trenches with someone, you don’t kniw who they are, but rather have bought a bill of goods they are selling you about their personality.

Into this picture comes the art of real life vs. internet life, and how well one manages the graces and decorum in the troll-filled universe we sometimes inhabit in the internet determines in a big way whether or not one is a fan of spontaneous interaction.  With strangers.  And their relatives.

I’ve done pretty well in the 1:1 world of Better Breather Classes.  I am who I am, and I participate fully.  Take me or leave me, but you won’t say you didn’t “notice me”.  And, we all have an unstated but clearly understood rule about manners and communication and kindness.  When in doubt – don’t say it, don’t do it – keep things running smoothly and ensure everything is non-confrontational and polite.  Everyone handles their chronic illnesses differently, and it’s not my business to police your interactions with others.  There is no “right” way to handle how you deal with your illness aggravations and vulnerability as you age.

I’ve also done pretty well in the world of internet dating, breaking through the safety wall to meet and date (or drop) the object of my potential lust and affections.  Because of the boundaries I created to protect my real world identity, few people got to be facebook-level friends  as my answer was always, “No.  You have my contact info on this (other) site.  Until we meet in the real world and decide that we know what we want from each other in terms of public behavior and manners, we’re fine staying friends on this (other) site and not on facebook.  There is no “right” way to handle how you deal with your love life and carnal desires, but I draw the line at starring in an episode of “Cheaters”, or of having your relationship drama rain all over the people in your life – online or in the real world.

So, with these experiences in mind, as I’m dealing with the bleed-thru of the MyCOPDteam friendly acquaintenances and their connections into facebook, I’m finding more things are getting on my nerves.

First, I’m not religious, so the whole “Prayer Warriors, I need your help” demand as a constant background battle cry is exhausting.

Second, we don’t all deal with the inevitable complications and end of life decisions the same way, so my diplomacy is being stretched thin as I go on facebook at all hours of the day and night, unprepared to deal with what can be endless drama in my otherwise lighthearted facebook experience by people who are chronically ill and showing their chronic illness panties – intentionally or otherwise – for all the world to see and remark upon.

Unless it’s siloed among my own family and extended family members – a place where it’s much easier to identify the landmines and avoid them through years of real-world exposure – I don’t wanna know.

 

Quincineara beat down

In this generation of #MeToo, I’m watching all the quincineara preparations of the young ladies around me (similar to the debutante ball my Nana tried to get me to desire and agree to have, just before I graduated high school), and it’s just exhausting.

40535428-6D54-4420-8350-6DFCF4CE3A62.png

I am well beyond the age of getting married and having kids, but I’m at the other end of the age scale where an unmarried older woman has no one obliged to take care of her thru means or family or birth, so the focus on a woman’s day as a married princess or object of desire is beating me down and exhausting my psyche.

415F37C0-80FA-451E-BC9E-CA3C8F872F6F.png

My decision was made long ago, in terms of hope, my reality, and knowledge of what I would and would NOT tacitly agree to endure, in order to “hope” for security in my old age.

I say “hope” for security, because the reality that I’ve experienced is that the woman is sold a bill of goods about her value as an untainted virgin, and her family rushes her into marriage (either approving or disapproving of the male) in the hope that any pregnancies happen within the confines of marriage, so that the grand children are someone else’s responsibility to raise.

For all intents and purposes, they bless the union hoping 2 unfinished but physically mature children  will grow old together, learning to cleave to each other, despite life’s storms.

The family hopes for prosperity and joy for the young couple, and they pile on the pressure (with Mother Nature’s full backing and manipulation of the hormones) to hurry up and add kids into the mix.  All while raising the next generation of girls to desire a fantasy as they mature,

While I have no hands-on experience of the debutante ball or quincineara party, having chosen a solo path for myself, I do have opinions on the outcome.  But, there’s no surprise in that, is there ?!???!

We are programmed at a young age to think of things life and our corner of the village or society “owes” us.  Birthday parties.  Christmas presents.  Weddings.  Showers (bridal, birth, new home, etc.).  We are taught (at least in my culture) that life events are a series of routines and obligations.  That you show up for someone, and they show up for someone, and then a combination of friends and family show up for you, “when it’s your turn”.

50E639D2-6638-4774-9384-51B0F5BE57EB

(See the people peeking out of the shack in the background?  That may be her reality for living conditions once the sweet 16 ceremony announcing her availability for marriage and motherhood is over).

For some of us, the rules have changed or evolved when we weren’t looking, and we never get “our turn”.  In my case, it was embracing Women’s Lib as a way to have it all and be beholden to none.  After all, I reasoned, my Mom did everything right and still ended up working all hours of the day and night (with the help of her wonderful girlfriends) to keep a roof over our heads, and the plumbing working, and the bills paid.  Mom broke the cycle of silence by opting for divorce vs. accepting disrespect and abuse from her spouse,  and it was her choice to walk away from the insanity of her marriage that was the saving of her and all of our lives.

In my case, the passing of my Mom and Brother informed me over time that my choice to move away from my family, to break with tradition, has left me without a home port.  I became an adult orphan when I moved 3,000 miles away from my home port, and I never knew it because I made a conscious choice to build a husband and child-free life, and I moved into a youth-oriented area full of single people who appeared to have made similar choices.  Plus, my ability to hide from my family’s censure or expectations (if ever necessary) was strengthened by weekly or as necessary phone calls between myself and family and friends, so the bonds stood firm.

It is only when the fabric of our support circle is ripped through the passing of another that we realize how truly connected we were to each other, and how important it is to mend the fabric of our bonds to ensure continuity.  It is only when we see who among our family or childhood friends refuse to meet us half way in rebuilding a bond that we realize what we’ve lost with the passing of a matriarch or sibling.

So, we build again and we hope again, and time passes.  Now, we are the older, single person in a space that appears to only value youth and malleability.

Married friends launch their kids into the world, building the next generation, and the topic of Sweet 16’s, Debutante Balls, or Quincinearas become important to the next generation of Grannies and Nanas and Moms, who see the changes in the world and want to pass on “protection” to the next generation of women by ensuring the girls go down a path of set expectations for “princesses” or “queens” about how a ‘real’ woman lives, the matriarchal center of her family through the ages.

As I get ready to welcome a long term guest into my home, a women with an ex husband, grown children, and few places to turn, I wonder at that mythical young woman making her quincineara.

She’s surrounded by family, friends, momentary party excitement, and a “village” trying to direct her choices.  Trying to ensure that she is married young, before she knows who she is and what she wants from life.  Trying to ensure that she gets pregnant quickly to continue her species, as well as plant the seeds with those much hoped for children for anticipating that they, in turn, will be the extra hands of caring and support that her parents and grandparents may need as the circle of life continues and those hoped-for babies grow to adulthood, and pick up the mantle of caregiving aspirations.

I, meanwhile, deal every day with how best to retain my independence, afford to age in place, and stay as healthy as I can despite my medical issues.  Child free, and without anyone emotionally and biologically programmed to care for me as my body continues to age and my birth defects continue to evolve and plague me.

As I visit “F”, who is coping with dementia, and try and share companionship and adventures, I reflect on her 3 marriages, divorces, and childless state.

As I visit “F”, whose affairs are supposed to be monitored long distance, from Canada, while her mind and personality slowly slips away, I wonder at all the thousands of choices that had to fail to bear fruit for her to be here, at this moment in time, independence gone, and depending on the kindness of strangers as caregivers in her assisted living facility.

I am thankful “F” made good choices that lucked out to her having financial independence until her money runs out (which will hopefully not happen until after her mind is fully gone), and I’m grateful that she has some connections to family in Canada who will handle her affairs to the best of their ability, even though they won’t get on a plane or drive down from Canada to see for themselves that she’s doing ok.

Meanwhile, I’m also opening my home to “CM” who did everything society and her family expected, but..

– who ended up divorced and raising her kids solo

– who had a husband who refused to pay child support

– who now has grown children struggling to build their own lives

– who is now 64, never really worked (beyond raising kids), struggling financially, and

– who has been couch surfing since at least 2009, trying to survive.

3C7839B7-C2B4-459B-A3B1-CA1489FF1A76

”CM”, if the Park managers agree, will move in with me as we try and get her back on her feet, financially, by helping her qualify for subsidized housing so that her broken and no-longer-able-to-work body can have a place to call her own in order to age in place.

At some point, if she cannot get the help she needs any other way, we may have to force her into a woman’s shelter to allow her to jump the line for necessary housing assistance.  “CM” was supposed to get on various waiting lists way back in 2009, but I suspect that pride and hiding from her reality stopped her from following thru on those recommendations to get what she needed.  At any rate, I’ve agreed to give her 6 months or so in my spare room at Old People’s “Camp”, and we’ll see what’s possible for helping her avoid homelessness.

She’s a far cry from the unknown road ahead for that quincineara girl, but in the belief that it truly takes a village to help each other get thru each stage of their lives,    I’ll try my best to help her get on her feet and stay independent for as long as possible.

It what the village is supposed to do, when one of their own needs help.

 

 

Elder Abuse

5ED06B9B-6830-49A2-BBB3-44E7944FC094

Today, I was supposed to go help my friend, F, reorganize her single large closet in her assisted living apartment.

We were going to sort through all the clothes she moved from her home, weeding out the ones she no longer wears or needs, and organizing her travel photo albums so that they would be on bookcases at floor level, instead of higher up on shelves in the closet where she can’t access their contents.

We were going to move the chest taking up space in her bedroom, blocking easy access to the closet, and we were going to find a way to store her granny cart and her vacuum so that they weren’t taking up valuable floor space outside her closet.

Instead, I’m going to be dealing with a panic attack over finances and trying to calm her down.

P, the controlling friend that has made all the decisions regarding F’s finances, is harping on the fact that F is spending “too much”, all while knowing she just sold her fully paid for home for $789k, and that the place F has chosen to live should run her about $70k to $80k per year.

Instead of treating F like an impaired but reasonable adult, P is refusing to answer F’s questions (regardless of how many times the questions are repeated), leaving F to play a tit-for-tat game of hiding her money (and pulling out a lot of cash so that she feels she has control of her money, since she’s no longer seeing monthly statements).

F’s determination to wrest control from the largely silent Canadian relatives who have all her money and power of attorney (now that she’s been declared in need of guardianship / conservatorship) is a drama that didn’t need to be.

But, I blame P as the instigator.

P is a control freak, in my humble opinion, and her unwillingness to answer F’s reasonable questions has lead directly to this crisis.

(Calling me last night about 8:30pm to cancel our get together today, and then calling me at 6:02am in a panic to discuss things, shows what stress F is being put under by receiving mixed messages and different answers from everyone in her life).

So, I’ll go see F later today as originally agreed.  We’ll work out a strategy for her to stay calm and – possibly? – get some answers.  And, I’ll give her some suggestions about how to stay calm and create a workable budget for weekly cash so that she has a negotiation strategy for dealing with the drama that I otherwise consider elder abuse.

Please, if you have an elderly friend whose elevator no longer goes consistently to the top floor…  just be kind.  Be patient.  Answer all their questions even if they’ve asked them 1,000 times.  Don’t bully them.  Don’t boss them.  Try to listen and be supportive without badmouthing anyone else trying to help them.  Just care enough to show up.

We’re all going to be in a vulnerable point at some stage of our life due to age, infirmity or financial vulnerability.  Just be patient.  Try your best to be kind and not make the situation worse.

 

 

The Buddy System

 

4C9BB0E5-7F53-4E7E-91DC-64D2C3E160B1

Since I’ve been back from vacation, Herself has taking to cuddling more than ever with me.

While she was grooming me and patting my hair before I left, now she’s cuddling up with me and laying her paws along my neck, which turns out to be a very comforting gesture for both of us.

 

731E35CA-CE3E-4877-BA5A-2E659487AD1A

My very good friend and former boss, F, lost her mind in the 3 weeks or so that we were out of contact.  I came home from vacation to find her phone disconnected, and a variety of packing boxes and kitty litter boxes on the patio when I stopped by to see what was happening.  Very disturbing.

Since then, I’ve found that she was conserved against her will and for her own safety due to increased dementia or Alzheimers issues.

While this is good in many ways, ending the whole, “How do you know?” debate over when to act and when someone is safe to leave alone, I’m really struggling with the fact that F, my former boss and mentor and friend since 1988 is being disrespected as part of being conserved.

Having tried unsuccessfully to get Las Vegas Auntie the help she needs while working through the system, I can’t say what’s being done to aid F is the best way to handle things, but I can also say that she does need assistance (and supervision, when she’s hit a dead zone in her brain and is speaking nonsense), but that I’m frustrated on her behalf because she’s not being included (no matter how frustrating it may be) on things which will impact her quality of life.

In my oh-so-humble opinion.

F picked the Memory Care / Senior Assisted Living Center where she’s been moved.  The problem is that she picked it across the street from her senior center so that she could continue to go to classes and events there, and she is now no longer able to go without company or supervision.  She’s been artificially restrained to the grounds of her care home unless someone signs her out, and that seems too harsh to me.

Don’t get me wrong – her private, 1 bedroom apartment is very spacious, and sunny, and they permitted her to bring her 3 cats, so her personal comfort has been given a great deal of thought:

 

 

So, things are not as dire as they could be, and she seems relatively happy.

F has always been a walker and a biker, and at 82 was still driving well despite her memory issues.

Now, all of that is gone.

So, I stopped by again yesterday to take her to breakfast – we were walking the .08 miles each way – both to give her an outlet, as well as give me some much needed exercise.

The day went well, and she asked me if I’d drive her to Costco to pick up her contact lenses after breakfast (she hasn’t had any in almost 2 weeks, making it hard for her to see in detail), and also asked if I’d stop by her home to see what’s happening since P, the friend who is handling most details, isn’t keeping her informed.

Not a problem, as long as my energy lasts.  NOTE:  I live in the boonies, so every day in life now involves counting my spoons of energy, and making sure that I stop before I’m tired so that I have enough energy left to make the 45 minutes (or longer) drive home.

Second side note:  F was an incredible boss and mentor.  Always polished.  Always organized.  We used to have an ongoing joke among her direct reports that we’d get “frantic-grams” during any involved project that wasn‘t moving fast enough for her sense of necessary timing for accomplishing or completing a task.

F was worried about her stuff – (even though she’d agreed that the stuff left behind was to be sold to help her raise some much needed money) – and she was frustrated about how slowly the workers were moving, dragging out the time involved in getting her home ready for sale.

So, I agreed to take her on both errands, knowing that I had signed her out until Noon and had to have her checked back in by that time, or I’d be getting a call.

Upon arrival, F was concerned her patio gate wasn’t locked.  She was upset that she found a box of Fenton  glass collectible shoes outside.  Ditto her doll chairs, where her teddy bears used to reside.

 

 

[P, the person stepping up to handle F’s affairs, is excluding Fran from progress updates, leading to F’s level of upset from not being kept in the loop].

So, we went through the house and she found all of her dirty laundry had been left behind, along with a few family pictures that would be of interest to no one else.

We also found 12 pair of contact lenses left behind, so that eliminated our need to go to Costco, as my energy was running down.

After packing F, the laundry and the family pictures up, we left her condo and returned to the care home.  No fuss.  No arguing.  Just very matter of fact.

Yes, F was using the wrong words to describe things (I’m in trouble and kept locked up because I “wander”, not because she is a champion “walker”).  Similar words, but with very different impact when used improperly.

Also:  Her doctor is an evil man who ordered her confined to her new care home.

Plus:  The police won’t let her leave her care home.

There is nothing keeping F in her new care home beyond the prison of her own mind, and her law-abiding personality for trusting those in authority.  She has a natural respect of those in charge.

F is confused, which is normal for people with dementia, but she’s also cowed (not her original personality), and not at all combative.

IMHO, F should be involved more in having her questions answered and her mind put at ease, but P does not appear to feel that’s reasonable to do.  P does not see the disrespect with which she’s treating F, making her frustration with the process worse.

I have no answers, as I know what happens when one can barely function (like Las Vegas Auntie), and is left alone to play in traffic without consistent adult supervision.

For now, I’m just concentrating on the buddy system for ensuring F gets out and about to enjoy life while leaving the heavier burdens in others hands to address.

Hopefully, things will level out given time.

 

 

Adventures

vs. Reality.

243E57DE-D0D3-42DF-A5DD-B9B45D9DE4DF

This is my cousin T in Harvest Caye, Belize.  She’s one of the strongest, most determined women I know.

When I arranged for T to participate in the cruise with other cousins, a spouse and friends, I knew she was a tough cookie, dealing with a bum leg that she’d refused to amputate, despite the fact that the broken ankle had led to bone failure as it deteriorated, and the fact that T is in incredible pain each day.

When I found her in baggage claim in New Orleans, she was very much as you see her now, with a bad leg due to a hip replacement on her left, and a failing leg on her right, with the bonus addition of 3 broken toes !

But, like the rest of the stubborn cusses in our family, T is nothing if not resilient.

054F2A8D-511C-421C-99C8-A112AA5F7E2E

So, I thought I’d arranged a handicapped-suitable reef tour boat, with a swim-up dive platform and easy access on and off the boat when swimming from the shore off which we’d be moored.

You know, something like this:

 

No such luck !

Instead, I’d chosen a tour that changes its itinerary based on the whims of the winds and current, and we ended up going out to the reef on a speed boat with a rickety ladder for climbing on and off the boat.

DA6B291E-DDF1-4FB8-9575-299FED7B5436.png

It wasn’t until AFTER we got on the boat that we’d found the itinerary had changed, and that we’d be climbing on and off the side of the boat from the moveable (and rickety) ladder, and that we’d be traveling about 30-45 minutes at high rates of speed to get to the snorkeling sites chosen for that day.

Roh-oh…

So, I took off my baseball cap and used it to cover my nose and mouth, ensuring that the speed of the boat didn’t cause the breeze generated to steal my wind.

I also tucked my body as far forward as possible, under the covered part of the boat, to stay out of the breeze.  No way did I want my choice to snorkel causing breathing problems or even a risk of a cold or pneumonia.

The bouncing of the boat was hard on my body, but our captain was good and kept the bouncing to a minimum.

Once we arrived at our drop off point for the guided reef swim (NOT what I’d agreed to)  to begin, T and I stayed behind on the boat while the Roomie swam off with the tour.

62F7855F-009B-4561-94A4-E3FAD9184E71

The captain and his crew could not have been nicer or more considerate to the two of us remaining on the boat.

He rigged up a life preserver and a rope for both me and T to hang on to the boat while snorkeling, and I’m glad he did as I did not have the strength to fight the waves and stay near the boat without assistance.  Just too much energy was needed, and the waves were too strong.

AF21956B-78D0-40E1-99CB-EB26D0053373

When it came time to get back on the boat, the three (3) crew members assisted us both on and off the boat so that we didn’t hurt any of our existing handicaps worse than they already were.

We swam at two stops, where the boat went ahead of the stronger reef swimmers to be able to meet at specific points for anyone ready to climb back onto the boat, and then we went off to a third location where the boat stopped to allow everyone to swim with the manta rays and nurse sharks.  (Being tired out and a big chicken, I stayed on the boat during that stop), although my for er Roomie loved it.

 

At the end of the day, I love snorkeling, BUT…  I’m still afraid of deep water and big fish (thank you Steven Spielberg and JAWS), but it was a great day where we all got sunburned, at least a bit.

Heading back to our cruise ship, I retired to a cabana in the Vibe beach club area, to hide from the sun while warming up and taking a nap.

It doesn’t matter how much or how little energy I have to do any of the planned excursions – any day at sea is the best kind of day for me.

972439F2-3F17-497D-B60D-DCEF3AA7FD2E

 

Bette

C6CC7BDB-48E1-4871-8979-8065C9F2ED3C

I’ve been going to game night the last few Friday nights, and with every blessing, I truly feel one also receives a few slaps.

Mine is a very trying woman I’ve written about before, who has decided she likes me, but who drives me up the wall due to her narcissistic tendencies.

Let’s call her “Bette” in recognition of my particular favorite crazy, Bette Davis, in “Who’s Afraid of Baby Jane?”

9EAA0B61-D5EA-44FE-AD43-71B5F4D973E2

Bette is the 82 year old mother of 9 who has the will to be friendly, but has an overtly narcissistic personality which makes any attempt at friendship reciprocation challenging if not exhausting.

I get it.  Making friends is hard.  She’s trying.  We’re all trying.  But Bette is an emotional succubus that leaves you feeling exhausted and running for the hills.  Then, she gets her feelings hurt because she’s truly clueless about how to interact with people.

(Been there.  Done that.  I think I feel her pain).

Anyway, we have a Saint in our park who looks just like Katheryn Grayson, the 1950’s songstress in some of my favorite musicals.  Kathryn is Bette’s chief enabler.

7F8DFE11-0192-42FE-A138-4BACB7BAF2E7

I say “enabler” because Bette wasn’t leaving her house without help and prodding, and Kathryn has now decided that she’s bringing Bette to Game Night on Fridays.

Now, I have nothing against anyone coming to game night, if they are going to GAME !

My manifesto:  I’m not here to be your personal servant (more about that later), I’m not here to look at 102 pictures of your life when we’re supposed to be playing, and I’m not here to wait on you while you wander off in the middle of a game.

In particular (my pet peeve), I don’t want you putting tiles down on the word game board unless you’re ready to play.

None of this putting various tiles in various spots, deciding you need popcorn refilled, wandering off to find your rosewood cane (that you don’t need right that minute!), and leaving the other 3 players in the game waiting for you to finish taking your turn and clueless about where you left off.

No !

One of our newer Park residents wanted to play “upwords”, which is a variation on Scrabble, and which I’d agreed to play the week before.

CA3E456A-0BAE-4F8D-BEB8-8AB9983FF713.png

I’d managed to avoid Bette and her killer perfume by changing tables the prior week, so our Kathryn kept her busy at the Yahtzee table while I slid away from her clouds of scent by moving to the Ski-Bo card table.

This time, I wasn’t so lucky.  I had to hear (again) about the husband who has been dead two (2) years as of Valentines Day.  (I swear, Bette can turn any topic into a reason why you should feel pity for Bette or feel you must rescue her).  I had to hear about yet another bipolar episode which left her stuck in the house for the last 3 months.  I had to hear how her kids never visit.  And, did I know she’s a mother of 9???  Her manipulative, self-centered focus is truly an art form.

I had to listen to Bette yelling for Kathryn Grayson to wait on her (Kathryn, by the way, has her own walker and mobility issues and was sitting 2 tables away), I had to switch seats with Bette as she claimed to have hearing only in her right ear, I had to jump up and get her food (anything to stop the yelling), and then I had to listen to muttered accusations against Kathryn for stealing her husbands “very valuable” 100 year old rosewood cane. The cane which was later found resting on a table top.

Drama, drama, drama !

I know we’re supposed to be kind to each other and help everyone from feeling ignored, but I’m putting my foot down over “upwards” or any slow-moving game at these kinds of evenings when I’m there.

The Bette’s of the world have no mute switch, and can’t tolerate a slow-moving game.  I’m trying to be reasonable, but I have my limits, too.  We’ve got to make sure that Bette sticks to fast moving games, or make sure that she sits at other tables where such games are being played as it’s just too frustrating for the rest of us to be stuck waiting on her.

Yes, my living situation is just like high school or Summer camp.  Games night is about all of us finding fun and friendship, and no one person derailing the intent of the gathering.  I do feel a private speech coming on, aimed squarely at Bette, again, and am glad I could control myself for this round.

Getting old isn’t for sissies !

 

Burning Bridges

burning-bridges-pic-3

Medicare as a whole is supposed to be something I paid into during my 42 years of working.

First, they whittled back the benefits to “parts”, then then began limiting what “parts” Medicare would cover.  Currently, Medicare only covers Parts A (hospital) and B (medical services and supplies deemed medically necessary to treat a health condition) insurance.

Because they next spent time limiting what Medicare would cover (only 80% of any approved bill), and how long it would cover you (limiting your days of treatment, regardless of what your medical practitioner says), one then needed to figure out a whole alphabet soup of coverage for things that they won’t cover.

They scare you to death that you’re not going to get your necessary medical care if you don’t have a medi-gap or some sort of secondary to medicare “supplemental” policy.

C – covers at least the same health care services as Original Medicare, but they may also pay for services that are not covered by original medicare such as vision and dental care.  These are called “Medicare Advantage” plans – but, nowhere in the coverage do they inform you that if you have an “Advantage” plan you give up access to your original medicare coverages, AND that the new policy “manages” your care and can say “no” to provision of services even though the Original Medicare allowed full access to the coverage.  Maddening.

D – Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit which is an optional benefit to help you pay for self-administered prescription drugs.  But, fine print! – the cost of most drugs are already supposed to be covered by Original Medicare part B.  Confused yet?

E – To quote the government, “There is no official part E of Medicare, but there is an additional piece that deserves consideration.  The missing link is called Medi-gap insurance or may be referred to as a Medicare Supplement.  This type of insurance is used to provide coverage for some of the things that Original Medicare doesn’t cover such as:  coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles.”  (A pretty good support blanket for a part of Medicare that doesn’t really exist).

F – A Medi-gap plan, or Medicare Supplement, pays after Medicare to help cover your deductibles, copays and coinsurance that you would otherwise be responsible for.  When you add a Medicare Supplement Plan F or E to your Original Medicare benefits, your coverage will be quite comprehensive.  Wait… wasn’t that supposed to be E?  Why do we need an E and an F?

Clear as mud, right?

G – Medicare Supplement (Medi-gap) Plan G may help cover the full cost of out-of-pocket Medicare expenses such as co-payments, coinsurance, and excess charges.

Wait…  I thought E and F took care of all of that.  Are you telling me that F only covers parts of the otherwise not covered expenses?  Seriously?  Why doesn’t F say that clearly?  Why do I need E or F or G or all ????

H – Medicare Supplement Plan H is a lot like plan C.  It covers the basic benefits that include hospital co-insurance, generally the 20%  of outpatient expenses, 365 additional days of hospitalization coverage, and additional blood coverage, but it will NOT cover Medicare Part B deductible.  WTF ?

I – there is no “I” plan or part.

J – it’s a special plan for certain states only to ensure that the excess when you see a provider that does not accept Medicare is paid, after you have been billed $155 of Medicare-approved amounts for covered services.

K – Medi-gap Plan K offers partial coverage for a variety of Original Medicare costs that you’d normally have to pay out of pocket.  This plan covers 50% of the cost for Medicare Part B copayments or coinsurance.  (Thus, reducing your out of pocket from 20% down to 10%.  Got it?).

L – includes a percentage of Medicare Part B expenses as listed, plus supplements Medicare Part A for hospice coinsurance or copayment (generally 20% of the otherwise not covered amounts).

M – generally is a middle of the road medi-gap policy for covering some of the costs that Medicare A and B don’t cover to help you with your out of pocket costs.  But… it’s very unclear as to what percentage of the 20% of uncovered costs or services it will cover.  Surprised?

N – Medicare Supplement Insurance plan which covers 100% of the Medicare Part B coinsurance costs, with the exception being that it requires a $20 co-payment for office visits and $50 for emergency room visits.

************

So, knowing how confusing all this is, and now being informed that my primary care breathing Doc is UNABLE to see me because it’s now ILLEGAL for him to do so when Medicare is my main insurance, I tried to get help from various medicare insurance policies for most of this month to change my supplemental policy (now that I am informed that EVERYONE can change their policy in the first 3 months of any calendar year if they are unhappy with their coverage).

Lots of phone tag, but no real progress.

So, today I bit the bullet and cancelled the Supplement outright knowing that I will be responsible for my medications and 20% of uncovered services.

Yes, I was burning bridges.  But, at a certain point I have zero willingness to figure this mess out.  It’s needlessly confusing, and it’s easier to figure out what drugs I will or will not take based on my out of pocket expenses than it is to figure out how to sign up for the appropriate coverage that won’t limit my choices and won’t make me feel like I’m trying to figure out something as complicated as my taxes (which we already know I procrastinate for completing) every time I have to deal with the coverage allowances.

burning-bridge-light

So, it may be foolish, but the problem is solved for today.