by RJ Blum
In reading and now reviewing this book by Ms. Blum, I could not get out of my head Johnny Fogerty’s lyrics from Déjà Vu, his haunting song about the second Bush Iraqi war: “…that voice inside me saying I’ve heard [and seen] it ALL before….” And so it is with this sad story by Ms. Blum about Grandma Elena who, like so many of our elders, outlived her ability to control how she would live and die in her final years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. Ms. Blum’s book, along with this review, are two more clarion calls from people with first-hand experience fighting a losing battle for elderly loved ones-- all adults who have their faculties, please right now begin to make plans for your later years.
What Ms. Blum writes about so achingly is all too common—a wonderful senior who deserves better loses control over every aspect of her life to an unwelcome son, lawyers who really don’t care, a system oblivious to her wishes and well-intentioned friends who have little if any ability to end the injustice no matter how long and hard they fight. Ms. Blum spent an incredible amount of time and money to right things for Grandma Elena—to no avail. And it is obvious from the book’s title that Ms. Blum’s experiences, which lasted well beyond Granma Elena’s death, have left as many if not more scars from betrayals than the blessings of having known, loved, cared and fought for Elena. A sad thing experienced far too often in this country---Ms. Blum and I share those scars with thousands of others for sure. And misery does NOT like company I can assure you.
Grandma Elena’s life is a testament to what happens when we cede control in our later years through inaction in our earlier, more cognitive years to unwelcome relatives and friends and an uncaring system with all of its players from court appointed lawyers and conservators to the “hired guns” who have one goal—to win for their client, not to see that the right things are done for the senior who deserves and always thought she would have better. As a person who advocates for the elderly and those who lovingly serve them in whatever capacity. I have written in my mind’s eye dozens of stories from personal experience of an elderly person’s loss of control and rights, dignity, choice, freedom and basic human rights in their later years. No word fits this too-oft played out scenario but tragedy—betrayal. And while Ms. Blum can lovingly write of the blessings along the way, I fail in that capacity. The injustice of it all just makes me angry!
What is done to too many of our nation’s seniors is a national disgrace. And. As, Ms. Blum chronicles, things can be done by us to counter this tragedy of our elders—US one day if not today—who are betrayed by “loved ones,” care givers, elder care lawyers, conservators, judges and a system that is not only broken but doesn’t even care about what is in the best interests of the senior caught in its web. And make no mistake, this web leads its “victim” into a hellish oblivion of rules and regulations, which leads to too many unfit days, weeks, months and even years preceding the saddest of deaths, which only exacerbates the lives of those who dared to care and to try to do something about it and who live on with the betrayals.
SO, PLEASE BEGIN TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIVES RIGHT NOW WHILE YOU HAVE YOUR FACULTIES AND CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR YOU AND THOSE WHO REALLY LOVE YOU AS YOU BEGIN TO FACE THE CHALLENGES OF OLD AGE. Make it clear what you want and don’t want. Review and change your documents as circumstances dictate. Address living and dying arrangements, financial matters (money, personal and real property as well as “keepsakes”,) health decisions, friends and family rights right alongside YOUR rights. Pick the right surrogate(s.)—judiciously and with care and thought, not pure emotion Please do NOT leave this in the hands of others who may only feign (if they even have the “dignity” to do that) to have your best interests in mind. Please read and heed Ms. Blum’s and Grandma Elena’s story and take control now so that you can make your later years as good as you and those who love you deserve. Good luck!