Aging in Rochester

Pictured above - the author Judy and Jeremy

Pictured above - the author Judy and Jeremy

By Judy

Mindy is an 80 year old retired Rochester school district teacher. "Fair" is a bland word often used to describe teachers.  A better word to describe Mindy's third grade classroom is "exciting." She loved her students and they loved her. It was common for former students to stop her in the grocery store or at the mall and tell her how much they enjoyed her classes.

In the last year, however, her health has deteriorated dramatically, and she requires 24 hour supervision.  Making any decision about health care has been daunting for her because she lacks an advocate. She has no spouse, no siblings, no children.  Her friends are her age or older and often are struggling with their own health issues. Navigating alone through the health care system can seem like following Alice down the rabbit hole.  As of this writing, Mindy has a total of 14 physicians including internist, cardiologist, orthopedist, psychiatrist. If you are sick enough to need 14 doctors, you simply do not have the strength or will to advocate for yourself and navigate the health care system. In her more lucid moments, she has jokingly said she would have more doctors if she had more body parts.

Since her health has declined so precipitously she has lost her car, her house, and much of her retirement savings. Some of the choices were made without her complete understanding of the consequences of the decision.

I can't help but contrast Mindy's situation with my own dear mother's.  When it became apparent that she needed help managing her health care, we mutually agreed that she would move from Florida to Rochester.  I was grateful that she came willingly and that we found a lovely independent senior facility a ten minute walk from my house. I supervised her health care the last 5 years of her life.  I was able to drive her to doctor's appointments and to accompany her on the emergency room visits that she needed. People often say "I don't want to be a burden to my children," but what they forget is that taking care of a parent is an opportunity for the child to show compassion and love.  I know how fortunate I am that I had that special time with my mother at the end of her life.

But what happens to people like Mindy who have no caring family?  Mindy's situation is not unique. In fact, she is probably better off than many in the community who are not as educated or as financially equipped as she is and are having an even more difficult time trying to advocate for themselves.  Mindy devoted her life to educating Rochester's children, yet when she is in need of support, we have no adequate system to offer her that support. Given the wealth and good will in this community, surely we can do better for the Mindy's of Monroe County.

Teale Fox