Monday, June 29, 2015

The Flipside of the Same Year

Yes, it's beautiful and cool and lovely here in our own little corner of the California north coast. The small town ambiance with almost everything we need within walking distance of our little rental house. What's not to love?

Well, there's this.
This is a small screen grab of three of the fifty houses on the market here in Arcata. If you click on the pic you'll see what we have been seeing for the past year. Houses that are more than 50 years old and never upgraded, to houses that are new and big and trendy and very, very expensive. There is literally no in-between. There is no land for sale and no lots worth looking at, and there hasn't been any the entire year we have been here. We met a woman the other day who waited out a thirteen month escrow for a house that needs to be completely gutted and remodeled. She works at the university and has a private therapy practice. She told us that she had been looking for a house to buy for FIVE YEARS! This is rather daunting and unsettling news.

And there's also a health care issue here. Because we live 350 miles north of the closest big city and airport, San Francisco, there is very little incentive for excellent health care professionals to venture up this way. There is one little airport here with one airline. Getting here is not easy from any direction or by any mode of transportation. I have to admit, I always suspect that the medical professionals who are here are not here by choice, but by circumstance. I have been trying to find a dentist here for several weeks. I am facing a possible serious dental situation. I went to an emergency clinic two weeks ago. They are not taking new patients but always see people who need immediate attention. The dentist referred me to his dentist in Eureka. I called that dentist. He was out of town for a week, and not taking new patients until October. He has a waiting list to get in. I'm on it. His office referred me to two other dentists. I called the first one, he's only in the office three times a week, and is not accepting new patients. I called the second one, he is out of town until July 7th, but is taking new patients after July 21st. I asked my neighbor, a long-time social worker in the area, who she sees and she gave me the name of her dentist. I called his office. They are not taking new patients. See the dilemma here?

My nurse practitioner, who is leaving the practice in July and moving out of state, told me to take 3000 units of vitamin D3 per day for my osteoporosis, which I have been diligently taking. When I saw her last week for a follow-up, she asked me if I was taking  the 1000 units, as she had recommended. I reminded her of what she had originally said, and she replied, "Well, I think the literature is now saying 1000 units a day is enough."  Roger's doctor at the same clinic recommended up to 10,000 units of D3 per day. That doc just moved here from a southern state so I think he was overcompensating for lack of sufficient sunlight (and probably losing his mind!). But really, that's not good medical advice at all. Can I just say, "Holy shit."

Roger is five years post colon cancer (YEAH!), but he continues to see an oncologist every six months for blood tests and follow-ups. His new oncologist ordered a CT scan for his recent visit. The scan was completely normal. For his next appointment in six months, the doc ordered another scan. We both read the literature on surveillance of colon cancer and the standard protocols recommended by US Health and Human Services. Two CT scans in a 12 month period is considered excessive after three years post colon cancer. After five years it's crazy. Can I just say, "Holy shit" again.

These are very serious issues for us. We are trying to maintain an upbeat attitude, which is always easier for Roger than it is for me, but the outlook is pretty bleak. Half the time I want to pack it in and go someplace else. But guess what, all the beautiful places we love in California have become highly desirable and therefore crazy expensive. The median home price in Santa Cruz is over $700,000. That's simply insane.

So, that's the flip side of our cute little town. We're in the middle of nowhere on a beautiful coast, with lovely neighbors, a wonderful co-op, a fantastic farmer's market and not a house to be found or a good dentist or doctor either.

22 comments:

  1. I am with you all the way. Health issues make our circles much smaller. But you will find your place, eventually.

    We had this idea of retirement when we would rent out the house for a year or two and travel. It now feels like the silliest idea. But who knows.

    As for the diagnosis issues, it really matters to have at least one health care professional you can trust and discuss these different recommendations. Often, the annual meetings of the various expert groups come up with new recommendations that never make the rounds because local doctors don't have the time/resources to read the respective journals and by the time they may do, another year has passed. But maybe it helps to know that many of these recommendations (not rules!") differ from continent to continent, country to country. And as every person is different, in sickness and in health, strict adherence to whatever is the latest consensus is not the be all and end all.

    Still, you do need to find a way to rest your mind. Worry is not a good healer.

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  2. I feel your pain robin. I live in a delightful small town in Arkansas but all decent medical and dental is at least a 100 mile round trip away and the really good places are 250 miles away.
    I finally found a local doctor to accept new patients but he is only for flu shots and sprains. It helps here to sign up for the local medical air transport system. Even with recent troubles, I still prefer living here.

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  3. Bummer! I hope things turn for the better soon.

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  4. Because we have a large population of retirees, our little town has very good health providers. Some specialists are from large practices that maintain a branch office in our town. Can't say the same for our hospital. We've had two bad personal experiences there. So we selected our next living arrangement in a retirement community near a large medical center.

    Hard to believe the housing market there. Ouch.

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  5. Thanks for sharing the downside of your "idyll," too, Robin. Kali and I chose to live outside Fort Collins, CO for at least the first stage of our retirement. Though we're 33 miles outside of town, we should be able to find decent healthcare in town.

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  6. "These are very serious issues for us." You nailed an issue that is consuming thousands of we seniors in California. When Trace died 60% of our income went. We pooled our Social Security and I had a part time IHSS job. We just managed a simple, frugal life here in wine country where the industry has terraformed the rural countryside, destroying redwoods and old Oaks at an alarming rate. Sonoma has become now a wealthy uber posh stopping off for the faux Tuscan villa crowd, who just pop in and pay a million in cash for a tear down. Five minutes from us in Forestville is The Farmhouse Inn, which charges upwards of a $1000 a night--two night minimum. All this is devastating for we renting seniors trying to live out our lives here. My rent went up $300.00 when Trace died and that small amount is becoming insurmountable as my tiny savings covering it dwindles. I am nearly 70, my health collapsed and I am for all purposes disabled. Finding work has been fruitless for all the above reasons. But, I am inventive and replace hope with the idea that action is better than nothing. Our County vacancy rate is 1%, there absolutely no rentals for low income seniors. One room shared bathroom/kitchen rentals are now renting for upwards of $1000. Weekly motel dumps filled with the usual meth hustlers are also expensive. So, for many of us it's a gloomy future, particularly because the medical situation is also untenable. Those of us with Medicare must go to busy, crowded clinics who do not attend very competently with complex medical histories and more professional help does not accept Medicare or Medical. Pretty grim situation here. So, I live day to day with my past in this exquisite sanctuary we created and understand that I will not leave here come what may.

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  7. Living in a beautiful, remote area has it's challenges. And unfortunately as we get older, the access to heath professionals becomes more important for our peace of mind as well as our well-being. Hope you find the answers and treatment you want soon.

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  8. sabine-- I hope you get to travel when you retire. It would be a lovely thing to do. It's all true what you say about health care. We would like to find at least one professional that we absolutely trust. I'll keep you posted!

    Arkansas Patti-- I love knowing that with all the hassles of getting to good health care, you still love living where you are. I'm hoping to find a similar peace.

    Dave-- So do we. Interestingly, we think we may have found a house today. Our agent is writing an offer as I type this!

    NCmountainwoman-- My mom has finally found good health care, after years of really crummy doctors. She's actually with a group of docs who are part of UCLA. It really doesn't get much better than that. Here, we really have to work hard to find someone who is reliably smart. Where would you move to next? And, we may have found a house today!!!!

    Scott-- Health care is interesting thing to consider when retiring. When we were still in Grass Valley, Roger's oncologist was looking for a partner in his practice and couldn't find someone willing to come out that far (60 miles) from Sacramento.

    mandt-- Why would your landlords raise your rent after Trace died? That makes no sense, and it totally makes me mad. I wish I could buy the land of my dreams where all of my loved ones could come and build the houses of their dreams. I am still a "commune" girl at heart. You need your sanctuary. I hope you get to have.

    lindaj-- I wouldn't have considered how important it really is until getting to this age and having osteoporosis and a recent diagnosis of pre-diabetes. That, and Roger's bout with cancer in 2010 has really opened our eyes to health care.

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    1. We are on a waiting list for an all-inclusive retirement community in Asheville, NC. (Wait list is currently 5 years) Start out in a 2 bedroom house and then move to more assistance and ultimately a skilled nursing facility as health may dictate.

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    2. That sounds like a wonderful and smart plan.

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  9. My guess is that it may be worth the wait to find a home and a doctor and a dentist in Humboldt County. In so many ways, living where you live is one of the best things you can do for your health.

    After my parents retired, they lived for 25 years in Gualala where there is only a rural medical clinic. It's a good one, although they did have to drive 2 hours to Santa Rosa to see any specialists.

    Out of curiosity, I checked the website for the Redwood Coast Medical Services, which is where my parents had their doctor in Gualala. They are taking patients, and there is dental care connected with the Redwood Coast Medical Services. I wonder if there is anything in Gualala that you could afford to buy. My parents loved living there, but it is too small a town to have a co-op or farmer's market.

    http://www.kennedyrealestate.com/listings/

    http://www.rcms-healthcare.org/services.html#Providers

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  10. You have a real dilemma that doesn't have any good resolution, unfortunately. Do you remember James Kilpatrick, the conservative columnist? He lived on a farm in a community called Scrabble, Va., and it sounded really idyllic as he described it. And then one day he wrote about leaving his farm and moving to Charleston, SC, in order to have better access to good medical care. It's unfortunate that we have to think about things like that as we age. Although I would love to move from Rome, Leah is not eager to do that (and, of course, we're pretty much committed at this point), but at least Rome is a regional medical center with two reasonably large hospitals and lots of specialists. And we're only an hour from even more specialists in Atlanta.

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  11. am-- Interesting that you mention Santa Rosa, we've met neighbors who have traveled there fore health care. It's 225 miles away. I'm not so sure we're up for such a journey to get health care. We found a house today that we may actually BUY! That will change everything and make us willing to search even more diligently for our healthcare, if anything good is to be found here. Sigh.

    Mark-- I absolutely remember James Kilpatrick, and that's an interesting story about why he felt compelled to move. Where would you go, if you could? Atlanta is a real city and probably attracts very fine medical staff. An hour's drive isn't so bad. We would have to drive many hours to get someplace that medical professionals would find desirable.

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  12. oh my...writing an offer! That is serious! Can't wait to hear about it. But yes, the medical care issue isn't going to go away. It's one reason I could not live in a remote area, what with all my health 'issues.' But you've always been good at research and knowing what options you have when it comes to your health. You're not completely at the mercy of idiots. Keeping my fingers crossed for the house.

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  13. That's great news that there is a house that you might buy! Good timing! It is occurring to me that Redding is closer than Santa Rosa, but maybe it takes longer to get there because of the winding roads. I wonder if anyone drives the 3 hours from Arcata to Redding in order to see a doctor or dentist.

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  14. What was I thinking? It takes 3 hours to get to Redding and 4 hours to get to Santa Rosa.

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  15. Tara-- We'll definitely keep you posted about the house. It's a real house, and has been owner-occupied by the same family since it was built in 1990. It is in a tract-house kind of neighborhood, but completely full of families and kids playing in the streets. The house has a lovely ambiance from the minute you walk in. Nice.

    am-- Not only is Redding far, it's a winding mountain highway ride for many hours. We're pretty much stuck with the medical care here. Although we can get down to Santa Cruz to the beach house, if necessary to see reliable specialists.

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  16. There are some decent physicians in Mendocino, though they fall prey to similar issues like all tiny places. Here as well. Good luck with the house! xo

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  17. Fingers crossed about the possible house!

    Hope you can locate a dentist; going without is a bad idea. Also hope you can break in that new doctor -- although, something like "how much vit D" is something that you can check out on ze internets, at least. Are there maybe more options in Eureka?

    xoxo

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  18. Annie-- I think we just need to wait it out and see if we can find the really smart and best docs around. Hope you have found good choices there.

    kathy-- We're waiting to hear if our offer has been accepted. The info on the internets is all over the map about Vitamin D, so it's hard to find the really right stuff. But it is a bit disconcerting to have two health care practitioners in the same practice say wildly different things to their patients. We do see docs and dentists in Eureka. There's just isn't much choice around here. Sigh.

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  19. Looking forward to hearing more about the house. Good luck with it!

    We have some odd things going on here in Nova Scotia. Property prices are stagnant or even drifting downward as so many young people have left to find better paying work in western Canada. Oddly enough, when I've spoken to bright young workers around here, many have moved from Ontario (where I am from) and think the local people who left must have been nuts to leave paradise for the oil fields of Alberta!

    Medical care actually seems to be good here, but we do not have a full service hospital in our town. Instead, if you have anything very serious, you're sent by ambulance up the valley to a larger hospital. One thing I do know -- this being from experience of caring for my very ill and very elderly neighbours after I arrived here this spring -- we have *absolutely amazing* paramedic teams here with well-equipped vehicles. They are the frontline of rural medicine and they are really damned good. The small local hospital seems pretty competent too. I look at the age of so many people around here -- in their 90s -- and I have to think something is being done well. That said, what we are terribly lacking right now is in-home care, or more spaces in extended care facilities. It's a big problem that is predicted to get even bigger - especially as so many retirees from the rest of Canada are attracted to this area by the climate and way of life. Trouble in paradise!

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    1. Bev-- it is so interesting to read about life there in your small community in Nova Scotia. I understand why retirees want to move there, and in some ways why young people want to head west. Lately I've been wondering about the role over-population is playing in all the difficulties we are confronting with medical care and house hunting. Yes, we did get the house (so far), but two other offers were made the same day. It's like a crazy lottery.

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