By Tom Blake

In writing this newspaper column, and my weekly eNewsletter blog, I am fortunate to hear from many seniors who are willing to share their questions and experiences.

Some readers have contacted me multiple times over the years. For example, Helen, who lives near Phoenix, has contacted me 19 times in the past 12 years.

On June 6, Helen emailed: “Phil, my significant other, is in the hospital. I have taken care of him physically since we met in 2003. I am trying to get an Arizona long-term care program and VA benefits in place for him. Today, I hired a company that does that. I feel guilty, but at 80 ½, I no longer have the physical mobility to take care of him.”

I asked Helen about the company she hired to help her get benefits for Phil.

Helen responded: “I looked online for senior living and was contacted by some company that I signed up with for assistance. To begin, they required a $3,000 deposit.”

In mid-August, Helen emailed sad news. “I lost Phil on June 27. He had been in the hospital for over a month, on hospice the last five days. I miss him terribly. I was stressed out, as he wanted to come home until near the last, and I was physically unable to take care of him.

“Phil is no longer enduring all the problems he had. He would have detested having to live in a nursing home or adult-care center. 

“With my lack of decent mobility, everything I do takes so long, but I am very blessed when I look around at what the world is going through. 

“Regarding the company that has kept my $3,000, I suppose they are within their rights, but I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t blindly sign any ‘docu-sign’ things that are sent to one’s email without asking for and waiting to fully examine their contents.

“I asked for half the money back and made numerous phone calls and emails. It was only when I wrote them private messages on their (Facebook) page that I got a response. I may write to the (Better Business Bureau), but doubt it will do any good, and I do not wish to create a problem. Some things are better put aside.”

Before sending my condolences to Helen, I checked the email archives. Her first email to me was on Oct. 24, 2008. In that email, she wrote, “Phil and I had been to some of the same places while in the military, and both were born in obscure little towns in northern CA and grew up in Oregon about 150 miles apart.”

I shared those first-email memories with her.  

She responded: “I no longer feel the need for male companionship. Maybe it’s due to my age, but, also, Phil and I just clicked. 

“Life is OK. The most difficult part is when a person has no close relatives or really good friends; it can make one feel insecure.

“I worry about our cat, even if that sounds silly. I can’t catch him to take him to the vet for routine appointments and to get his claws trimmed. He is so bored and wants out and misses Phil a lot. So Petey and I are now holding down the fort.”

I responded: “Even with your pain, you have a great attitude. I know you miss Phil terribly—I can only imagine the emptiness you feel after 17 years. But stand tall; you took care of him and were the strong one. Be proud of what you did.”

A lesson for seniors. Be careful when engaging a company online to help find a senior living place. It can be expensive and a waste of money. Three weeks after Helen signed up, her Phil passed away. Thanks to Helen for sharing her story.

Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and Dana Point resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment, email tompblake@gmail.com.

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