This past week we have experienced a tragedy in our neighborhood and the Elmhurst community. On August 30th we lost the lives of four beautiful individuals; Frank Stack (82), Joan Stack (82), Mary Stack (57) and Frank Stack Jr. (48). Newspaper story. The true question is not how this tragedy played out, but WHY.
I can find some level of comfort in knowing the Stack family and their absolute unconditional love of and commitment to family, the measures that were taken over the weekend were out of sheer love of their family and desperation as to who would care for their loved ones when they were no longer capable. For those that have family members with special needs and aging parents, I believe we can somewhat empathize as the situation can be completely overwhelming.
Unfortunately, options for care of those with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities are limited. Most care facilities are Not for Profit Organizations which are forced to rely on charitable donations and declining support from State run Medicaid and federally run Medicare Programs. With government budget cuts, especially at the state level, these organizations have to be increasingly thrifty and make tough decisions as to what services they are able to provide. In addition, the demographics of the individuals that require care and services have changed over the past 50 years in that the population has aged. The change has required the care facilities to redirect resources to care for an older population. On a bright note, we are fortunate to reside in the Chicagoland area where the choices for excellent care are available. The Ray Graham Association, for example, provides superior care and services to nearly 2,000 children and adults with primarily intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout DuPage County and the surrounding area.
As a card caring member of the Sandwich generation I am able to empathize with those caring for aging parents. According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. US Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of older Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million. Care for the elderly is limited and costs are escalating. Most in home care is not covered by private insurance or Medicare. Elderly care of a loved one can cause both financial and emotional strain on families. Although there are no perfect solutions, certain care providers can lighten the burden on families. When looking for care and assistance for my mom and dad we discovered a terrific care provider, Handle with Care, www.handlewcare.com. Business partners Julie Kastholm and Debbie Russell started Handle with Care with the mission to provide dignified, trusted care to those who need assistance with daily living and wish to remain safely in the comfort of their own home. Based out of Elmhurst, they are able to provide trustworthy, compassionate, and competent caregivers servicing the West Suburban Chicagoland Area.
Unfortunately, in a situation such as this one I have more thought provoking questions than good answers…
I conclude with the succinct and heartfelt comments made by my daughter Haley Gunst:
These past 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions for my block, but I am so proud and blessed to be a part of this community who can come together in such hard times. These four people were all beautiful in their own way and will be dearly missed. You all brought light, love and life to our families and our block, and I can only pray that God has bigger and better plans for you all up above. May God bless you and keep you.