A Time of Choices

Over the past couple of years Kathy and I have been looking into changing our life style from living in a condo in a 55+ community into a retirement community where Kathy does not need to cook as much and has more time for social activities.  We did not know when we started this process how different each place can be.  From Independent Living to Assisted Living to Active Retirement communities, each of these differ dramatically from one place to another.

This all started before Kathy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.   About 10 months before her diagnosis she voluntarily stopped driving.  She had had several close calls and felt that in her own best interest she should stop driving.  This meant that I would be taking over all the driving assignments.  It meant that going out on the bike for a long ride would be curtailed, though by how much I did not know, going out and playing 18 holes of golf would not be an option as it once was, now it was 9 holes when I could get out.

Kathy was diagnosed in July 2015 with Parkinson’s disease and it shook both of us.  What does it mean to have Parkinson’s?   Is it a fatal disease?  How does it change your life?   How does it change your relationship?  How do you become a caregiver?  Questions and questions and more questions with very little information coming back.  The internet did not help, it only added to the confusion.  And we were confused to the max.

One of the first obstacles Kathy faced was mobility.  Her walking was more a shuffle than a walk and she had a tendency to fall, the doctor ordered physical therapy, after a couple of months the therapist ordered a walker make especially for people with Parkinson’s.  If this was not enough, her speech was getting softer and softer and the volume was decreasing.  More therapy only this time with a speech therapist.  The speech therapy helped, her voice is stronger and people do not need to strain to hear her.  But when she gets tired her voice starts to soften and slowly it becomes harder to hear her.

In our condo we must navigate a short set of stairs to get from the front door to the entry door of the building.  Since our unit is on the lower level with ground level access in the back, I attempted to get a walkway built around the building connecting to the walkway of the building next door.  The Home Owners Association (HOA) did not like that idea and at first completely denied it.  After doing some research and contacting a disability rights organization, the HOA gave their lukewarm approval along with a list of conditions that had to be meet before construction of the walkway could start.  The conditions added cost to the construction making the cost extreme expensive.

This is when I got the great idea to start looking into a different place to live.  First we looked for a condo that was on ground level.  All we found were old run down units that needed lots of rehab.  Next I looked at Retirement facilities called Continuous Care Retirement Communities (CCRC), these are organizations where you buy into their foundation and if after a number of years you have spent down your assets they take over your care for the rest of your life.  Kathy and I have known several people who have lived or are now living in a CCRC.  Of all the people we have known, none have ever indicated to me during our conversations that they were dissatisfied with their living arrangements.

In the Portland Metro area there are several CCRCs and for the buy in they range in price from about $225,000.00 to well above a million dollars.  So I started with a couple CCRCs that I knew the most about, which was not much and found that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing when looking at any retirement community.  After talking with the sales representative over several months we submitted our preliminary financial paperwork and after a few weeks they said, “Sorry, you are too young”.   Meaning you have more life than money.

I was feeling a little discouraged and while talking to a very good friend he suggested that I contact the governing body of the fraternal organization I belong too and inquire about a program they have that helps seniors stay in their home or other facilities during their later years.  I applied and Kathy and I were accepted into the program.

Again I resubmitted the preliminary financial paperwork along with the other paperwork to the CCRC to determine if the two programs could work together.  After several months of poking and prodding the finance person at the CCRC, writing letters to the CEO, they finally called my organization and said that they could not work together.  He did not give much of an explanation except to say we were too young.

Well, we started over again and rushed into a situation that we should have taken longer to evaluate, and after rushing in we saw problems that with experience and knowledge we would have been able to identify earlier.  With this information in hand we looked at other places for a better picture of what we should expect.

We were offered a nice package to entice us into moving into the place we are presently living.  After only six weeks here in this facility we decided that we had made a major mistake.  We had put our condo up for sale just two weeks prior to this decision, and we decided to withdraw the condo from the market and we will be moving back.

What was the big mistake you ask, first it was not the apartment we chose.  It is a nice 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit with large bedrooms and spacious closets and a great view of the mountains to the East.  What we found over the course of 2 months is that this is a “nursing home”.  We may be in the Independent Living portion of the building but the Assisted Living population are among us with very little assisted care.  Most of them look (and many smell) as if they need a bath, and that they should have their clothes changed far more frequently.

The dining room starts off with a salad bar, sounds like a great idea except it is not kept clean.  Unless you are one of the early arrivals in the dining room you may or may not find a table that has been bussed after someone has finished their meal and left.  I have watched people push the dirty dishes to the center of the table and scrounge glasses, cups, and silverware so they can have their meal.

Since they do not pay their servers or wait staff a decent wage they are always short of staff.  The delivery of a meal from the time you order to delivery may be anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour.  Many of the wait staff will disappear from the dining room not to be seen again for long periods of time.  If that weren’t enough a couple of the wait staff have attitudes that screams they don’t like being here or being around people who are in their senior years.

In two weeks’ time, Kathy and I will be moving back to our condo.  At least we know what to expect from access to and from our unit and how meals are prepared and served.  We have learned a big lesson with this move along with the tremendous amount of money we have spent to move in both directions.  The biggest thing we learned is to look long and hard before you leap.  Take the facility up on their offer to allow you to stay three or four nights for free to get the feel of the place.  Is it an active retirement community or a waiting room?  Look at the dining room and watch those who frequent the facility and how well the wait staff takes care of the residents they serve.  Look at all the other facilities, i.e. Laundry Room, hall ways, rec rooms and other gathering places.  See how well they are used and the condition of the equipment.  Many things can be learned by just wandering around and talking with people, both residents and staff at different levels.  If you know someone who lives in that facility or a friend or relative of someone who lives there talk with them, they are a great source of information. With all this don’t forget to contact state, local and non-profit organizations they can also give you much more information.

Don’t be intimidated by the size or grandeur of the facilities to take you mind off your main purpose, to learn as much about them as you can, so you can make an informed decision.

What in the Hell is happening to my country?

For almost four years I have watched this country being dragged, kicking and screaming on one side and cheering and vitriol on the other, going to hell in a hand basket at an alarming rate.  Ever since Mr. Trump announced his run for the presidency, he has been tearing this country apart, piece by piece.  It is not only Mr. Trump, but also a number of States who are also destroying the fabric of this great nation.

Whatever happened to one person – one vote?  A number of our states have been in the act of covertly suppressing the vote of their citizens, while others have been overtly, no not only overtly but blatantly, carrying out their plan.  Georgia, Kansas and North Dakota are prime examples of this.  It is not one person – one vote they object to, it is the person on the other end of the voting device they want to change.  If you are brown, black, Asian or native American then you are not qualified.  Only people who are white are qualified to vote and if those in power can maneuver it they will also eliminate those whites who do not own property.

Do you think I am joking?  How do you explain that in Georgia the Secretary of State, who is also running for Governor, has refused to process over 53,000 voter registrations.  It is estimated that of that 53,000 over 70% are African American.  Mr. Kemp, the Secretary of State, has said that they do not qualify under the states exact match law.  How can you tell when you are using amateurs to do the work of professionals.

Kansas, another state where the Secretary of State is also running for Governor, has been purging the rolls because someone has not voted in the last two election cycles, or they did not cancel their registration when they moved from one state to another.  It is not like a drivers license that you exchange the old license for a new one from your new state.

Now in North Dakota if you are Native American and the only address you have ever had is a Post Office Box and now you can not vote because you do not have a physical residential address.

Mr. Trump has, ever since his announcement to run, denigrated anyone of color he thinks is not American enough.  He says that a judge, born in the United States of Hispanic parents, is not American enough to handle a trial that involved Mr. Trump.  Or the black NFL Players who take a knee during the National Anthem to protest the shootings of people of color, by police.

Mr. Trump keeps screaming “Make America Great Again” or “MAGA”.  When did America lose its greatness?  Oh yeah, when white men, mostly it is the men but there are some women included, who found out that the privileges they thought were theirs alone really belonged to everyone.  But as long as you have the leader of a major political party screaming that the Dems are only mobs, who want to open our southern border allowing into our country, drug dealers, rapists, murderers, and freeloaders to further tear it down, you will continue to have a divided country.

Recently, during an interview Mr. Trump was asked about a speech he made in Mississippi and his remarks about a woman who testified at a Senate hearing.  When pressed about his comments his reply was “Who cares, we won”.  Is that what this is all about – who wins and who loses?

Campaigns have always been nasty, bare knuckle brawls, but in the end the competitors shake hands and go about their life until the next campaign.  That was pretty much how it was until the campaign of 2016 and now the campaign of 2018.  The bare knuckle brawls have turned into real hate filled battles.  Is it because there are more women running for office, or more people of color?  Hard to say for sure, but I believe there is something about these two elements that have angered white males and their feelings of lost empowerment.

The Republicans can scream and call Representative Nancy Pelosi all the names in the book, but she is not the all powerful Goddess or Satan that they keep trying to make her out to be and the Democrats are not out to destroy this country.  Our love of country is as strong as ever and the more you try to tear us down, call us names and try to belittle us, that love of country becomes even stronger.  Many of us have served our country with pride and distinction and we do not like being called or held up to be traitors.  We will fight you with everything we have, legally and fairly.  We may not win every battle, but beware we will, sure as hell, win the war.

Do we really want him?


Dr. Blasey Ford testifying before the Senate Judicial Committee hearing

Ever since Thursday, I have felt unsettled about the circus of the Senate Judicial Committee.  When Dr. Blasey Ford testified before the committee she was concise and straight forward while showing emotion she was able to maintain her composure and communicate what had happened to her 36 years ago.  The Republican Senators felt that they should not question her and used a prosecutor from Arizona, this was probably a wise idea.  Even though the prosecutor used questions from the republican senators, I felt she really helped Dr. Blasey Ford rather than hurt her.

Judge Kavanaugh
Judge Kavanaugh testifying before the Senate Judicuary Committee

When Judge Kavanaugh came in and started his opening statement with all the yelling and crying, I felt outrage that anyone, particularly a Judge, would come into a room and treat Senators, Republican or Democrat, in such a manner.  He was out of line and he should have been removed from the hearing until he could compose himself.  Unfortunately, he was not and the American people got to see what his temperament really is.

The Republicans, after getting rid of the prosecutor, threw softball questions at Judge Kavanaugh.  I do not blame them for doing this, after all he is their man and they want him on the bench.  But when he was questioned by the Democrats he was belligerent and combative.  At one point he asked one senator, over and over, if she had ever blacked out after drinking too much and to another senator he admitted that he liked beer and proceeded to question the senator if he liked beer and what kind of beer he liked.

I do not know exactly how many times Judge Kavanaugh said “beer”, “he drank beer”, and “he liked beer” during his testimony, but it seemed excessive. It has been my experience that when a person talks about drinking and how much they like alcohol, that person has a problem with alcohol.

Now the proceedings have stopped and the issue of Judge Kavanaugh’s drinking and sexual exploits have been given over to the FBI.  As we all know, and Senator Grassley made it clear, over and over again, that the FBI does not make recommendations or come to conclusions, but they do gather the facts and give those facts to a higher authority to analyze for use by the committee.

Whether or not the FBI finds more information about Judge Kavanaugh’s drinking and sexual exploits, I feel that he should not be confirmed as an Associate Supreme Court Justice.  By his own actions and temperament, he has deemed himself ineligible to be placed on the Supreme Court.     

Father’s Day 2018

Today is Father’s Day, first I would like to wish all the men who are fathers, or who have accepted the role as a father and have touched the life of someone in need of a fatherly touch, a very happy Father’s Day.

My father died in 1992 at 69 years just three short years after my mother’s death.  I loved my dad, but I did not always like him.  Dad was not always a loving man, he was an authoritarian in many ways and he ruled in that way.  But dad was a dreamer.  He was always going to start his own business or get a pick up with a camper and we would do a lot of traveling and camping.  None of these things ever took place, but we heard about them all the same.

What did I learn from all this?  I learned how to be a realist.  Oh, that does not mean I did not have my own dreams.  Some have come to pass and others have gone to the wayside.  Whatever my dreams were I knew when to drop the pie in the sky dreams and concentrate on the ones that were realistic.  People talk about the optimist and pessimist.  You know the one that goes “The optimist sees the glass as half full and the pessimist sees the glass as half empty.”  No one ever thinks about how the realist sees the glass, he sees it neither half full nor half empty, he just knows that someone must wash and put the glass away after it is finally empty.

I had dreamed at one time, that after I retired, Kathy and I would go back to Europe traveling around and finally renting a small villa in an Italian village, where we could shop in the local market, learn some Italian and relax, using the villa as a home base traveling the country, enjoying the good life.  After I finally retired Kathy said that she really did not want to do all that traveling.  Then she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease that caused me to realize that this was not a dream I would realize.

One dream that did come to pass, was when my daughter asked me to go with her to Hawaii after she had graduated from College.  Kathy and I had promised that when she finished school we would send her to Hawaii as our present for graduation.  She did not want to go alone and she did not have any close friends to ask.  I had longed to go back to Hawaii, after a brief stop in 1970, as part of the long journey to Vietnam.  My dream came true and Lara and I had time that many fathers wished they had had with their daughter(s).

Now I temper my dreams with a stiff shot of realism.  It does not stop the dreaming or the desire to do something.  It just reminds me that there are dreams and there are realities and my realities must take priority over the dreams.

Today I received two beautiful cards, one from my wife with a very special message that only a wife and mother can give to a father and husband, the other from my daughter, her card is very special to me, it is one of those cards that is placed in a very special place in the heart and displayed for a very long time.

Finally, I want to thank Dad for giving me the gift of dreaming, but also the greater gift of realizing when dreams must end.  It is not easy to make that decision when a dream ends, but it is worth every moment of dreaming and finally setting them aside.

Gains and Tribulations

Recently I wrote about losses.  Losses are hard on the spirit and relationships, but we need the losses to learn how to appreciate the gains we also experience in our lives.

About 11 months ago we lost a family member who had only been with us for a year.  Chloe was a sweet little girl, but as the cancer started to take hold she was becoming more aggressive towards people other than Kathy and I.  It was a big loss for us because it was a loss of two dogs in two years.  We said that was the end of it we were not going to get another dog.

Well you know how decisions such as these go.  During the last year I would go on the local websites and look at the dogs, getting my puppy fix I would say.  Then some weeks ago when I clicked on the Oregon Humane Societies (OHS) website there waIMG_0487s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, not one but two.  They came from the same family but they were not siblings.  I showed the pictures to Kathy and she fell for the female, we decided that we would try for one of them. I was up early the next morning and found myself fifth in line.  When I got to the desk I learned that someone had already put a hold on the male and I was the first to put a hold on the female named Kiki.

After visiting with her I went back to the desk and placed a formal hold on Kiki.  Kathy had an appointment at noon, after which we proceeded to OHS for Kathy to visit and evaluate Kiki.  As soon as Kiki walked into the room she engaged with Kathy immediately.  The longer we were in the visiting room the closer they were getting.  We decided that we would adopt this little girl. First thing was to change the name from Kiki to Katie, she has responded to the change like a champ.

The first night we were taken a back, we were told in the information given to us that she was house broken.  We took them at their word, big mistake.  She peed and pooped in several places in the living room and hallway.  We know that she was kenneled a great amount of time and to have that much freedom all at once was probably too much.  The next day we got a kennel which she loves and utilizes a lot, we keep the door open during the day and closed at night.

Each day Katie’s bond with us is stronger and stronger.  She wants to be with us as much as possible.  Being only 22 months she is fully grown, but she still has quite a bit of puppy left.  It is a joy for us to see her playing with her toys.  Cavalier King Charles are known for their character, boy can she be a character.  With her presence and playfulness Kathy has perked up and is more of her old self.

Kathy’s nurse practitioner is writing a letter for Katie to be an emotional companion dog.  I’m hoping that we get it soon.

When I take Katie out for her walk and we pass the garage door she stops and waits for me to open it, or if she sees the car parked in the lot she heads straight for it ready to get in.  Somehow she has become a great enthusiast to riding in the car.  She would ride all day if we gave her the chance.

Something I had never considered before was, do dogs have a preference to which side they prefer?  In other words which hand or paw are they?  All of our other dogs we think were right-handed.  Before we give them their meal we have them do some tricks, one is to turn in circles, all our dogs have always turned clockwise but not Katie she turns counter-clockwise.  When we come in from a walk she will run in circles, always to the left, while I am getting the door open.

We encourage her to run in our apartment, wearing herself out and making us laugh.  After all this running she is ready to settle down with Kathy on the couch.  Most of the time she lays down on the pillows above Kathy’s head, on top of her or at her feet.

Katie is fitting in just nicely.  We look forward to many years of fun ahead.

More than I will ever know

This last Sunday was Pentecost, while the choir was singing, two little girls started dancing in the center aisle.  They were certainly in the groove, these girls could not have been more that three years old, but they sure liked the feel of the music.  Those little girls were not alone, many of the adults were feeling the rhythm of the music and was allowing it to carry them along with the spirit.

While watching the girls dance I was reminded of a song I sang a few years ago in the church we were then attending.  It was a song made popular by Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World”.  The third verse in the song came to mind as I watched those girls dance.  The verse goes like this – “I see babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know, and I think to myself what a wonderful world”.

Remembering that verse caused me to start thinking about all the things that I have learned or more importantly seen developed during the past 69 years.  I remember when television first came to Portland, it broadcast on channel 27 with the call letters of KPTV, it was the first commercial station in the US to broadcast in the UHF band, later they changed over to the VHF band and channel 12.  I also remember when KWG – 8, KOIN – 6, KATU – 2 and the educational channel that would later become KOPB – 10  signed on in Portland.

I remember the US testing atomic and later hydrogen and plutonium bombs just to stay ahead of the Soviets.  Testing was first out in the middle the Pacific Ocean but later moved inland to the Nevada Proving Ground test site 65 miles north of Las Vegas.  I have seen pictures and movies of people who lived in Las Vegas sitting in their living rooms or in hotel rooms watching the mushroom cloud develop those many miles away.

How many remember the big 2, 3 and four prop engine airliners before the advent of jet airliners.  Four big, bulky jet engines propelled the planes though the sky, then smaller planes with two or three jet engines were developed.  Then came the giant of the passenger planes, the 747 with four massive engines, double decker, this behemoth could fly nonstop from New York to Tokyo Japan, now smaller planes can fly the same distances.

The Soviets beat us into outer space, they placed Sputnik 1, the first manmade satellite into space, causing many in our government great embarrassment.  The US then put our own satellite into space Explorer 1.  I recall we would lay in the grass on warm summer nights and watch for the satellites to pass overhead as they reflected the sun. We were the first put man into orbit and on the moon, Later we teamed up with the Soviet Union and build and maintained the International Space Station.

Talking about space and satellites, we now have satellites that beam to us radio and  television programs, and internet data.  The military uses satellites for many missions that save the lives of our service personnel.  Drones also are used to deliver munitions to areas not accessible to regular aircraft, and to gather and disseminate information on the battlefield.

The Century 21 Exposition (also known as the Seattle World’s Fair) in 1962 showed us new things that would be coming in the next century.  Many of those things became available during the remaining years of the 20th century, and many more that were not imagined also came to life.  A prime example is the computer, in 1962 a computer took up large rooms requiring vast amounts of air conditioning.  Now they are on our desks, on our laps and hips in the form of laptops and cell phones. They have even tried to put them in our eyeglasses.  Computers may be on our desks and in our phones, but they have not moved out the of air conditioned rooms, now they are called servers, small computers chained together and serve as the cloud to store vast amounts of information that can be retrieved anytime.  Computers are networked together to share information, can you imagine getting along without email, the World Wide Web or social media?

Computers are not only in businesses and our homes, but also in our cars and trucks, they track where we go, how far we have gone, how long it took to get there, the speed, braking time, fuel mileage and a host of other information unbeknown to us.   After an accident the police and insurance companies can download the information to help in the reconstruction of the accident.  Cars are now being developed to drive themselves.

Medicine has come a long, long way.  Remember when the only imaging machine was the X-Ray?  Now we have the CT (Computed tomography) the MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging), and the PET (Position emission tomography).  All of these machines new in the past 69 years.  Cancer is more treatable now, and heart disease, according to NIH (National Institute of Health),  has decreased 75% since early 1960’s.

Now imagine all the things these little girls and all the boys and girls will be seeing and learning about that have not been imagined.  We can only guess at what these youngsters will see in their life time.  Maybe it will be colonizing the moon, or Mars, or even further.  How about going to the store or work in self flying cars like in the cartoon of the 60’s the Jetson’s.  The future is in their hands, they will be the ones, both boys and girls, to forge ahead and make the unimaginable. 

Losses

 

Elephant costume jewelry
Elephant costume jewelry

Have you ever had a loss?  Losses come in many shapes and sizes, also

Grandmother's wedding ring
Grandma’s wedding ring

emotional and unemotional.  Take for example the loss of a piece of costume jewelry, it is not something that has any great intrinsic value and probably little emotional value. But if it were your grandmothers wedding ring and it were lost or stolen then the value increases greatly both intrinsically and emotionally.  Everything has its own worth, large or small.

 

2008-08-24 12.20.07
Scamp

Almost three years ago, Scamp my miniature Schnauzer, died after a

IMG_E0392
Chloe

severe stroke, and last year we lost Chloe, another schnauzer, to cancer.  We had Scamp for almost 13 years and Chloe for only one.  We were devastated over the loss of both dogs even though we only had Chloe a year, she had become part of the family and burrowed herself deep into our hearts.

'57 Chevy
’57 Chevrolet

Cars are sometimes as big a loss just like the loss of a pet.  According to one insurance company ad on TV we are so close to our cars that we name them and if we have an accident and it is totaled, we are depressed beyond measure, then when the insurance company pays for a car that is newer you break out into your happy dance.  Really, you must kidding.  I have had cars I really liked but never to the point that it was a love affair.

Some people are that way about their houses or the possessions in them.  When we sold our house 11.5 years ago there were some nostalgic feels I had when we left, it is only normal, it is not like losing a pet or a loved one.  Within just a few months we were settled into our new home and had pretty much forgotten about the old house.  but if that loss is the result of a fire or a violent storm would that change how I woud feel? More than likely I would be devastated, the loss of everything that Kathy and I have worked for over these many years and the memories they represent.

But these losses are trivial compared to the loss of someone you love. The physical death of someone is devastating at the monent and the feeling of hurt will last a short time and turn into a mild ache coupled with the memories that will last a lifetime.  What about the loss of a loved one, not by death or divorce, but by an illness.  It is a toughter loss than can be imagined.

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Enjoying a trip to Crater Lake.

My wife, Kathy, has Parkinson’s disease, it is hard to feel the loss when she is right here.  Her walking has slowed, balance is an issue we can overcome with a walker.  Sometines cognitive issues have come up and has caused friction between us, it is not like losing someone to dementia or Alzheimer Disease.  We get irritated with each other, but that is because we are around each other a lot more now that we have entered in that part of life call retirement.  Because of the changes that my wife has gone througth I now do more things around the house, such as grocery shopping, doing laundry, making beds, doing the dishes after meals.  And then there are the doctor’s appointments and since she no longer drives I take her to all of her appointments.  Someone told me not long ago, they having recently lost their loved one, that it was like losing your loved one twice, once to the disease and again when the loved one passes on their rewards.

I had hoped that the two of us would be able to do some traveling and visit places that

New Year Celebration Anywhere
Illumination by fireworks

we had never seen or do again things that we had done in the past, but that is not going to happen.  If I want to see or do something, I have to plan it for the times that I take for respite care.  This does not mean that my wife and I can not go places and take some time to enjoy ourselves, it is just not very often. For example, this July we are going to the Oregon Gardens in Silverton to see the 4th of July celebration. Can you imagine seeing the Gardens lit by the exploding rockets?  It should be spectactular.

Ainsworth UCCLosses like these are what you make of them.  They can be devastating and overwhelming or with a lot of love and support it can be rewarding.  Support comes in many varities, your church (if you have one) can be a great resource, disease related support groups, your city/county may have programs to help with care while you are taking respite time, organizations that you belong to (Masons, Elks, Eagles) might also be able to help.  While on respite ensure that your loved one has plenty of stimulation, lonelyness can turn into depression which can lead into much tougher issues.  Some places, like here in Oregon, have organizations that support particualar diseases or illnesses, ours is Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon

Masonic Square and Compass
The Masons
BPOE_logo
Elks Lodge

And for goodness sake take care of yourself, be involved with activities that will help you relieve the pressures that build up.  If necessary get yourself a therapist, this a great way of blowing off steam without judgment.  Many therapist have tools to help you cope with loved ones suffering from diseases or illnesses that may or may not linger on for years.