SENIORS SHOULD NEVER SUFFER . . . BUT THEY DO

This is an editorial to the Miami Herald written by H. Frances Reaves, Esq., President of Parent Your Parents,  in October of 2017.  This was written after Hurricane Harvey and Irma and the mirror placed on Senior Services. As we suffer through a very cold winter these words are still prophetic.

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN the video of the residents of a nursing home in Houston, Texas sitting in waist high water simply search “video of seniors in waist high water” in your browser – the You Tube video comes right up.   School children were evacuated, families were evacuated and who was left behind  . . . seniors.  Two weeks later, in the aftermath of Irma, 14 seniors die from overheating in a Broward County Nursing Home.

If these seniors had been children the outcry would have been much louder and punishment swifter.  An excellent example is the most recent earthquake in Mexico.  The school caved in on top of 24 children and four adults.  The volunteer rescuers were there within minutes and the TV crews transmitted  the entire search and rescue for more than three days.  That would not be the case if this had been a senior citizens facility.

Fariola Santiago wrote in her September 24th column that “the elderly are like children, frail, unable to care for themselves, and vulnerable to abuse and negligence.  Those who don’t have money or advocates and require round-the-clock care end up in places with deplorable conditions  . . .”  I agree with Ms. Santiago regarding the elderly but disagree that all nursing homes have deplorable conditions.  We also need to remember that, with the exception of one “lonely soul,” everyone had a family  . . . and the family did not take them from the ‘deplorable home’ even after they knew about the power failure.

Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials beware — you, too will be a senior!  Seniors, are an older version of who we are today. We espouse the sentiment that, “I only want to live a long life if I have a quality of life” but legally we don’t have a choice once our mind collapses.

What we don’t discuss is that dementia does not take away your intellect, mental pain or physical pain.  Dementia takes away the ability to communicate effectively.  It also absconds with your memory – which allows we the children to believe that with memory loss there is a loss of all senses.  That is not the case.  The 14 elders who died felt pain and the first to die truly suffered because they did not have the benefit of hospice care.

No doubt, the staff at this nefarious nursing home was negligent, incompetent and uncaring and they were allowed to function as “caretakers” for years.  It took a hurricane and power outage to bring it to light. Had this been a daycare center the negligence would not have been allowed to continue.

As the President of a company who advocates for seniors, finds resources, counsels families and assists in medicaid preparations, my experience shows that most of us face living in a medicaid facility.  Unless you have a healthy pension or half a million dollars you will not have the money for dementia care in a private facility.  Today that runs between six to seven thousand dollars a month.  If you qualify for medicaid, nursing homes run about $700.00 and  medicaid picking up the balance.

We must look in the mirror!  let’s begin the process of treating our elderly loved ones as our children.  Treat them as you treat those around you.  Hold the Assisted Living Centers and Medicaid Facilities accountable and — START SAVING!!

 

NOT ALL HOSPICE IS CREATED EQUAL

What is Hospice?  First, it is a type of care and philosophy that focuses on the palliation of a chronically ill, terminally ill or seriously ill patient’s pain and symptoms, as well as attending to their emotional and spiritual needs.   OK – so what is palliation?  Palliation is a service that makes you feel better even though it can’t cure you.

Hospice is a positive addition to our medicare system because the focus is the patient.  The goal is to keep each patient as comfortable as possible.  This means additional care over what your loved one is already receiving. Between nurses, social workers and priests, there is someone there two to three times a week to make certain there is no pain or discomfort.

The other side of this service is that it is run by medicare.  That means that Hospice is free if you’re in Medicare as most of our seniors are.   This also means not all Hospice providers are the same.  There are thousands of Hospice providers and you have to be certain that they are doing their job (much like those Medicare doctors I’ve described in earlier articles).

I’ve had two different patients in different facilities with different providers and the difference was night and day.  One provider is in a nursing home that accepts medicaid patients, we’ll call it A for purposes of this article. The other provider was for a client who lived in an assisted living facility – one that cost $4500/month.  This Provider is called F.

A little background – once a patient has been admitted to Hospice, its doctors, nurses and aides “rule” the care.  If the patient is a diabetic he or she will still stay on diabetes medicine but perhaps be taken off non-essential medication depending on the comfort level. Yes, the facility still feeds and provides a clean environment  but Hospice is in charge of the patients comfort.

In most nursing homes the patients are in full blown dementia but not necessarily at the end of their life physically.  Therefore, it is much more difficult to qualify for Hospice in a nursing home.  However, once the patient is accepted the care for my nursing home client was beyond great.  Her nurse was Mark and I could call anytime to check on her (once the children had given their permission)

The other client was in an Assisted Living Facility and qualified for Hospice before the children asked.  They had no indication he was in his last days, weeks or months.  Once their loved one  become uncomfortable and disoriented they started receiving a “run around.”  Parent Your Parents was asked to intervene.  Here’s what we found, the Assisted Living Center blamed it on Hospice and Hospice blamed it on the Assisted Living Center.  We started calling the Hospice office daily to ask for more help. Hospice told the children that babysitters were needed (at $20/hour).  That is when we went into advocate mode.  I reminded the Hospice company that their job was comfort and they had to start providing real comfort, not advice to the children and Assisted Living Center’s employees!  Remember these companies make money and paying people to babysit takes away from their bottom line.  The end result, this Hospice company did what they advertised and found a bed in an extremely lovely location where the client passed away comfortably and peacefully.

Bottom line – not all Hospice is created equal.

FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY

As I’ve discussed in several articles the discussion of money is a must but can also be a monster rearing its ugly head.   We’ve discussed having  Powers of Attorney in place for our elderly loved ones.  Most states require  one for finance and one for medical — two different trusted representatives should be chosen.  This allows for shared responsibility and shared communication.

Although the trusted loved one is normally fine and nothing happens, it can be a slippery slope which is why I recommend any financial moves to be as transparent as possible and shared among the siblings or trusted loved ones. The vast majority of family members rarely swindle or take advantage of their parents or elderly loved ones but it does happen and the idea of unrestricted funds can be a temptation.  This is why we recommend that there be an “informal transparency” to protect your elderly loved one and you.

Following is one system to implement – one trusted representative is a signatory on the elderly loved one’s checking accounts and a second trusted representative has access to it (i.e. – given the user name and ID).  When a separate account is created to pay for care, we suggest two trusted representatives on the account.

The other pitfall are the family members, friends and care takers who will try to manipulate your elderly loved one into private gifts, be it through money, credit card purchases, a car for their grandchild (we’ve seen this) or simply write them into the will.  Again, this is why financial transparency is a must.  If the monitoring is spread among many it is much more difficult for one to have undue influence.

The elderly community is rife with stories of hired “trusted” caretakers who steal little things — trinkets, jewelry, food and petty cash.  (See my column on hiring and monitoring Caretakers).  Again, anything valuable should be removed from the house and gifted to the different loved ones and/or trusted representatives.  If the family doesn’t agree we suggest outside assistance in the form of attorneys and psychiatrists.  I always hesitate to use either because  . . . they cost money!