By Larry Teren
Most of us who get involved with the running of a business understand what an aging report is. An aging report is a good barometer of a business’ health and ability to stand on its own two feet. This story, however, is not about business but a report on the aging of a couple of humans.
Last week I was standing at the deli counter at a supermarket waiting for my number to be shouted out when I turned and noticed an older fellow slowly making his way to the deli counter in my direction. He was also staring at me. As he got within a foot or so, he said to me that he knew that my brother’s name was Gary but could not remember my name but remembered me from years earlier. I told him my name and he said, “that’s right!” – like it was a test?
I asked him his name and he told me. Immediately I made the connection but kept a poker face to avoid showing surprise. The fellow stood at 5’5” or possibly 5’6”. He was thin and totally bald. His lack of weight was a matter of deciding to eat less because of changing taste habits and health issues rather than economic conditions. I said that I remembered him from when we lived in Austin on Chicago’s West Side more than forty years ago. I wasn’t about to remind him that he had a full head of hair in those days, walked with a spirited gait and was definitely taller than me. When we both left Austin I was a high school nerd and he was a recently married twenty something. This was his aging report. He had a natural total makeover and didn’t get a chance to put in his request on how it was to end up for others to see.
The other aging report is Ma’s. Hers has more detail line items. Her makeover is slower but more drastic. About twenty years ago she acquired a condition which causes her to monitor her health and eating habits. Seven years ago she fell and broke a hip and tore up a shoulder. Both were reconstructed. Because she was keen on a matching set, she fell a couple of years ago and broke the other hip and now has a couple of rods in it to hold the pieces that mended together in place.
To keep things interesting, last April she came up with a mysterious virus that knocked out her system like a power failure. After spending a week in a couple of hospitals, she went to a rehab place and got used to walking again. The end result is that in the house she walks without any support. Outdoors, she uses a cane.
Last week, she got another mysterious knockout that caused her to finally spend several days in the hospital while the medical experts poked and probe and finally decided that there was nothing chemically wrong with her other than a bout of dehydration. Because this made her a bit wobbly, she will spend a few days in the same rehab place.
I don’t know what the average is for senior citizens, but Ma takes at least seven different type of pills every day. I know what I am talking about because yours truly is the guy who goes to the pharmacy to pick it up on a regular basis. And now a doctor at the hospital says Ma needs to sleep with oxygen pinched in her nose because she doesn’t get enough when she is dormant.
It’s ironic, funny and sad that when Ma went to the hospital, my sister, Ma and I sweated it out for three days hoping that the hospital would not toss her before then. That’s when the Medicare eligibility kicked in for rehab. If she went to the emergency room and they decided she had the flu, they would have given her medicine and told her to go home.
But, where? When she is sick, she cannot take care of herself. A much younger person also has trouble doing that when he or she has the flu- imagine how much worse for a wobbly senior citizen. An older person getting sick needs constant attention and possible post-recovery assistance. With the Medicare eligibility in tow, all systems are go and Ma gets up to 21 days at a rehab place as long as she shows she is getting better.
Figure out the totals for a hospital stay of six days and factor in Ma’s share of her deductible obligation and you can understand how this type of aging report is just as nerve-wracking as the business one.