Backroads: Local angels step up

By From page A5 | February 01, 2012

In the third and final episode of Village Life reporter Mike Roberts’ reflection on gratitude, he recaps local friends and professionals who were instrumental in getting his 87-year-old mother Martha, who suffers advanced COPD, moved across country and settled in Placerville.

Anyone within earshot of me from August through December of 2011 heard about my mother’s failing health. Many of them rolled up their sleeves and helped out.

Mom’s low-mileage Chevy Impala represented a significant chunk of her modest nest egg. While I was in Placerville hand-wringing over what to do with the car, cousin Jim drove it to a CarMax dealer in Chicago and called to inform me that it was worth $12,000 cash — much more than I imagined — and suggested that I scuttle my plan to spend nearly a week driving it cross-country towing a trailer full of Mom’s 50-year-old furniture (which it turned out she wasn’t that attached to) or, dumber still, pay someone else thousands of dollars to do so for me.

That someone was loyal friend and professional mover Ricki of Best Way Moving in Placerville. He spent hours working out logistics options to get Mom and her stuff to Placerville, only to have me realize that a formal move was unneccessary.

In hindsight, the realization that Mom’s keepsakes could be winnowed down and either shipped or carried as checked luggage seems obvious now. Ricki wished us well and never complained.

Marshall Medical Center administrator T Abraham, a friend and dedicated El Dorado Hills activist, learned of my situation and helped me understand that we needed to upgrade Mom’s supplemental insurance policy to be covered in California.

He also offered to help get us an appointment with Placerville Pulmonologist Dr. Massey, who’s now with Marshall Medical. He’s a popular and very busy guy. We’d soon find out why.

A mere 48 hours after our plane touched down in Sacramento, Mom was in Massey’s office for an hour-and-a-half inspection.

You heard right. This doctor spent an hour-and-a-half with my mother, during which time he delivered the most thorough and honest explanation of her condition she or I had ever heard, including a detailed recap of the gigabytes of medical records I brought from Illinois.

He told her she could live a limited but rich life with her COPD, describing her condition as “advanced,” which sounds far more optimistic than her prior doctor’s whispered depiction: “late stage.”

Massey also spent time talking about Gold Country Retirement Community, where Mom would be moving, with some trepidation, in just a few days. “My mother-in-law lives there and loves it,” he said. We’ve since met her and he wasn’t lying.

He described the various care levels provided at Gold Country, explaining the independent and assisted living offerings, and addressing her “nursing home” fears head-on.

“Nobody wants to be in a nursing home,” he said. “But by that point, you need to be taken care of. All you can hope for is to find a place that cares, and that’s what Gold Country is.”

The staff at Gold Country followed through on his promise, treating Mom with respect during the evaluation and admission process, and eventually granting her wish for an “independent living” apartment.

To Tricia, who administers the apartments, and Glenda, the assisted living boss, Tom who makes the flowers grow, all the smiling faces at the front desk, the friendly servers in the dining room and all the other residents who’ve reached out a friendly hand to Martha, thanks for easing an inherently difficult transition. You matter.

To my wife Michele, who pays the bills while I take part in this late-life journalism indulgence, thanks for opening our home my mother. You treated her like a VIP that first difficult week and became her friend.

And to the publisher and editors at the Mountain Democrat and Village Life, Richard Esposito, Mike Raffety and Noel Stack, who put up with an erratic and often absent reporter in late 2011, thanks for your patience. Many organizations claim to be family friendly, but don’t deliver the goods when the chips are down.

Early in the planning process, Carole Heape of Elder Options in Placerville, educated me on elder care options and costs, what MediCare and Medi-Cal will and won’t cover.

Carole does this for a living and she’s good at it, but she never asked for a dime. In the heat of battle, with Mom in a hospital room and me in Illinois wondering what to do next, Carole spent a Friday night with me on the phone helping me decide that it was not only possible, but best, to move mom to Placerville, where Michele and I could oversee her care.

But that didn’t mean Mom would do it. So I’ll save my loudest shout-out for the star of this story, my mother, Martha Roberts, who had the courage to leave her home, friends and family, abandoning a network of doctors and hospitals she trusted, people and institutions that nursed her back to health repeatedly over the last few years.

I see her most days and, truth be told, I enjoy her company.

Her physical strength is waning at this stage of her life, but she faces the challenges of each day with a determination and optimism that bespeak an underlying strength of character. The smile on her face trivializes my problems and inspires me to be a better man. Thanks Mom.

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Mike Roberts


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