Elder Care and You: Planning for the  Future Now

Elder Care and You: Planning for the Future Now

At some point, you may be responsible for the care of elderly family members and, eventually, you must plan for your own care in later years. Learn more from a voice teacher balancing the difficulties of both her own career while also caring for her elderly mother.


I’m currently sitting in the ICU trauma center watching my mom sleep as I write this. I am the primary care giver for my 84-year-old mom, and she recently fell, resulting in a proximal humerus fracture (broken shoulder), a broken hip, and a small internal brain bleed. This is her fifth trip to the hospital in 18 months. Her most recent trip could have been avoided if she’d just stayed hydrated. Bottom line, she needs to drink more water. Literally, just more water!

My father had suffered from Alzheimer’s and passed away in 2017 at the age of 92. Since my dad was 13 years older than my mom, we always worried about my dad—Mom was in good health, or so we thought. Like many elderly couples, my mom’s main focus had been caring for her husband of 55 years, at the expense of not taking care of herself. Once the pandemic hit and my mother was isolated for over a year, her health really began to deteriorate. Once my sister and I realized what was really going on, we somehow got her to agree to relocate closer to family. 

My sister lives on the East Coast, and we decided that was way too big of a move. So, on top of my own aging issues, I unexpectedly had to relocate my mom from California to Las Vegas in June 2021 to be near me. In under two months, my sister and I sold her home, decided what was to be donated versus packed, sold Mom’s car, rehomed several of her cats, found her a new place to live, purchased new furniture, and relocated her and her two remaining cats to Las Vegas. We also began to wade through an overwhelming myriad of paperwork. 

My mother insisted that she move into a senior independent living facility. Not knowing the full scope of her medical issues, we found her a two-bedroom apartment. Mom lasted nine days in her new home before falling and hitting her head. She spent the next month in the hospital.

I had to drop everything in order be at the hospital as much as possible. My mother was in no state to make decisions, so I had to be her advocate to ensure the staff was providing her the care she needed and to be present when a doctor unexpectedly popped in to discuss her case. I kept a pad of paper with me at all times so that I could take notes when a doctor came in to check on Mom. Their rapid-fire reports, coupled with a plethora of medical jargon, had my head spinning. Clearly, I was not up to speed with elderly health care issues.

Between Mom’s endless tests and physical and occupational therapy sessions while in the hospital, my sister and I fretted over what would happen next. When we realized that we only had power of attorney (POA) for medical issues, we had to have an attorney come to the hospital in order to have my mom sign paperwork for financial POA to be transferred to my sister and me. 

My mom’s month-long stint in the hospital was a blessing in disguise. Her team of doctors were adamant that she could not live on her own. Thankfully, she consented. Upon her hospital release, we moved her, yet again, into an assisted living facility. Her new place was great, but we had to downsize from a two-bedroom apartment to a one-bedroom place. Once again, we had to very quickly decide on what to keep and what to donate. 

And her poor cats! They were semi-feral to begin with, and uprooting them from their home for over a decade to a small apartment must have been traumatic. Then add to that their mommy being in a hospital for a month, and they were pretty shaken up. Neither one would come near my husband or me, despite our daily visits to feed them and clean out the litter box.

When it came time to move them to assisted living, one of them bit me while trying to get them in a crate. Another surprise was discovering that the cats had no updated vet records. Our family vet had passed away, and my mom was not well enough at the time to think about getting vet records before the vet’s office permanently closed. So that meant I had to immediately get a tetanus shot and go on a round of antibiotics. Unfortunately, my body tends to violently reject antibiotics—so on top of moving Mom and worrying about her precarious health, I spent the next 10 days feeling absolutely miserable.

The third move came a few months later when a two-bedroom apartment opened up at her assisted living facility. I will never forget showing my mom her new apartment. She cried, she was so happy. It also meant that the kitty litter box had its own bathroom and did not have to be in the living room.

Now, ironically, my mom didn’t have enough furniture after all the downsizing. It was back to the furniture store to replace what we had donated less than two months before. Tricky trying to buy a couch in the midst of pandemic shortages. I quickly learned to purchase floor samples. How were we paying for all this? Fortunately, my mom has long-term healthcare insurance. Between her basic rent, medical assistance fees, and monthly charges for medication management, her monthly rent is upwards of $9,500. Long-term healthcare pays for two-thirds, and those funds will be depleted in four years. She also has Medicare and an AARP Supplemental. Medicare covers roughly 80% of her medical bills, with AARP covering the other 20%. 

One of the best decisions I have made regarding my mom’s care was to invest in concierge care with Dr. Rama Harouni. I am unequivocally convinced that one of the primary reasons my mom is alive today is because of this choice. Concierge doctors charge an annual fee that is not covered by insurance, with the understanding that the doctor limits the amount of patients they have in their practice. By limiting patient load, clients receive much more personal attention and “unparalleled access to high-quality, compassionate care” (harounicare.com). Doctor visits do not have a co-pay, and all outside tests are covered through insurance.

For my mom’s first hospital stint, Dr. Harouni was in contact with the hospital doctors and made suggestions for specific tests. These tests ultimately gave us a diagnosis. I can text Dr. Harouni on the weekend when mom falls and can get her in to see the doctor with little to no notice. Dr. Harouni calls me to go over test results. She is worth every single penny.

Since my mom’s first hospital visit, it has been a stiff learning curve in elder care. I am reevaluating my life as I grapple with this huge responsibility that was thrust into my lap. It is an enormous shift in my priorities. So far, I have unsuccessfully tried to figure out how to have time for myself. It is sometimes skipping my morning workouts or trading that healthy salad for something fast and convenient so I can squeeze in one more phone call with a doctor before teaching.

There are good days and bad days, both for my mother and myself. Her overall health is decent, but there are a host of issues. She has eight different doctors, so I occasionally have to cancel my own doctor appointments so that her immediate medical needs are met. They always say to take care of yourself first, but how can I do that when she unexpectedly falls, and assisted living calls me and I have to immediately take action? She has had countless slips, trips, and falls. She’s had back surgery. One of her cats has early heart disease.

I take her to all her doctor appointments. I pay her bills. I file her taxes. I make sure her two senior cats are healthy. I am the sole contact person for everything from assisted living to her accountant to her physical therapist. I make sure she does not run out of anything, from toilet paper to sugar-free chocolate pudding. I am her advocate.

Once I realized that I now had two full-time jobs—caring for my mother and teaching voice lessons—something had to give. Prior to “Project Mom,” I had over 40 students. This was unmanageable, unrealistic, and unsustainable, so I raised my rates and transitioned to a Studio Membership with a limit of 25 students. It was not an easy transition, but now I can pour all my love, expertise, and energy into fewer clients. And thank goodness I have incredibly patient students who understand my occasional need for last-minute cancelations.


It can be overwhelming, but I do have a support system. My sister lives 2,200 miles away, but she helps out however she can—making phone calls; helping with and negotiating the complexities of Medicare, Social Security, and long-term healthcare; ordering mom’s grocery items online; and coming to visit twice a year. My husband is also wonderful and never complains about the weekly Saturday visits to see my mom. He is “tech support” and “kitty litter patrol.”

Caring for my mom is challenging. I do have help, but I am ultimately the decision maker. It is a huge and sometimes scary responsibility to be in charge of another human. It can be sad and lonely, and it is definitely stressful. But it is worth it knowing that I am doing everything I can to help my mom stay safe and healthy.

Dr. Michelle Latour

Dr. Michelle Latour is a Las Vegas-based voice teacher, repertoire consultant, and writer. She is the creator of The LATOUR voice studios, LLC, and maintains a busy studio, teaching both classical and musical theatre genres. She has been on the full-time voice faculties of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Bluffton University. Latour earned a DMA from the University of Southern California and an MM from Boston University, both in Voice performance. To find out more and get in touch, visit www.drmichellelatour.com.