Gabriel García Márquez states it beautifully, “It is not true that people stop pursuing their dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams.” When Dad turned 90 I realized 60 was young (and I wasn’t quite there yet). Think about it, the first 30 years, you’re finding your way, the next 30 years you’re working your way and I say, use the last 30+ years to do it your way!
The mindset of the Greatest Generation was to work until you’re 65, retire, receive medicare and social security. I remember, Dad did that and within a year he was bored out of his mind and partnered with a good friend in a small exploration business. That kept him busy until he was about 80. Then he started volunteering at a church-run thrift shop weekly — he quit that when Mom got sick and she became his full time job.
As I enter my 60s I’m launching a company, working my consulting job and writing articles. I love the deadlines and the intellectual stimulation. I think we all do. That makes me think it really is up to us to stimulate our minds in ways that make sense for each of us individually. At the age of 77 Donna Shalala is running for Congress, at the age of 81 Madeline Albright is on tour for her latest book and at 93 Jimmy Carter is still relevant! Yes, they’ve chosen a national platform but being relevant in a smaller community is no less satisfying.
With today’s technology and car-ride services there is no excuse to stay at home if you want to get out. And, if you get out, you’re more relevant. I know an octogenarian amateur playwright (soon we’ll be seeing one of his summer shorts!), and several septegenerian Starbucks employees. All are happy and “pursuing their dreams.” Let’s join them!
From March 6 to April 8 of this year, I experienced five deaths of people I consider part of my life. Two were wonderful with whom who I had the pleasure of sharing some time and three were dear friends. All were under the age of 75. Only one of these deaths was from cancer — the other four were unexpected and left families and friends reeling.
There is, in my humble opinion, only one way to conquer death — live a good life. Perhaps my previous columns have been too obtuse . . . so let me make it clear — you must preplan to age gracefully and comfortably. We all have different needs and it is YOUR needs that must be met. It seems that as we age we view ourselves as less relevant but are we really?
When people talk about living a good life they discuss “paying it forward”, or being kind to your neighbors, or creating world peace in your environment. I’m pragmatic, therefore I view living a good life as being relevant and keeping my and body healthy. How do we do that? Easily, we plan. Once we begin using medicare I suggest we begin to plan for our last years — which in today’s world is 80 to 100. The longer you live, the longer you will live. But, and its a big but, we want to live it well . . . and that means having to deal with the senior care/elder care bureaucracy.
I have a plethora of columns discussing how ‘institutions’ are obstacles not cheerleaders — why – because “seniors” are not valued and easy targets. The exact opposite is the real truth – we vote, we pay taxes, our children are the current workforce and we have experience.
To that end, how do we stay relevant? It’s easy, preplan! Whether you have parents or a partner who is older you have to discuss how to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. Some of the mental health is dependent on financial health. What insurance policies are available? How many financial accounts are there? Does the home and financial accounts transfer without going through probate? These are DIFFICULT! conversations but once done provide true peace of mind.
So, I urge you to look at the non-medical side of your life and begin to ask yourself, your partner or your parents the tough questions then find the solutions so that we can all “Vive La Vida Loca.”
- Are the financial instruments in order
- Are the legal documents in order
- Is your house “too much”, does it need de-cluttering or should you move
- Are you, your partner/spouse or parents healthy
ARE YOU HAVING FUN?!?
LET’S DO THIS!
As we all now know, after Hurricane Irma fourteen elderly souls died because the nursing home in which they resided did not have a electricity after the storm. As a consequence, they “overheated” and died. Well, there is good news – the Florida Legislature and Governor have placed $37.1 billion dollars in this year’s fiscal budget to be used across six health care and social service agencies.
Florida’s medicaid program is the largest recipient at $29.2 billion and Children & Family Services receive $1.7 billion. Those living in nursing homes will receive a 25% raise, from $105/m to $130/m. Nursing homes are now required to have generators with enough fuel to cool buildings during elongated power outages. The above monies are all coming from Florida taxpayers but my favorite part of the legislation is not tax based.
Starting this fiscal year, nursing homes (that receive medicaid dollars) will be paid on a set formula. These providers must meet certain “direct patient-care” requirements as well as “quality of care” requirements. In other words, if a nursing home only meets a minimum standard, they will be paid a minimum amount and given a set amount of time in which to bring the ‘home’ up to the formulaic standard. As the homes hire more qualified staff and add amenities to its building and programs – they will receive larger payments. As one law maker put it, they have to spend money, to make money.
As a senior’s advocate I’m thrilled that our state government realized how badly these “homes” were treating their patients. Yet, it took senseless deaths to have a focus placed on how our greatest generation and aging or ailing baby boomers are treated when they can no longer treat themselves. That is where we must be more vigilant.
As I write this, I cannot help but remember the 17 people who died very prematurely at Parkland High School. And, yes, because of the deaths and the student’s activism we’ve put in some stricter state gun regulations. Also many large gun sellers are now refusing to sell to anyone under 21. Still, much like our senior citizens, why must it takes death to examine our mores and ethics.
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!!
I am confident most of you heard the news about the eight seniors who died from overheating. They were all in a licensed “nursing home” in Hollywood Hills. ‘Nursing Home’ is a euphemism for a home for seniors who are at the poverty level and qualify for medicaid.
Nursing homes are like every other industry — they have to make money to survive. In the case of nursing homes they’re paid by the state medicaid fund and it’s per pa
tient. This fund is made up of state and federal dollars. Obama Care expanded medicaid in the states who took the federal dollars but Florida is not one of them.
Bottom line, these are not the luxurious environments for either staff or residents. In my parents case, Mom had been in a lovely residential facility where she was one of three or four people. Her Long Term Care Insurance paid for it. She outlived her two year policy and we had to place her in a Nursing Home. It was our only realistic option as Mom’s care in an Alzheimer’s facility would be close to $7000,00 a month. Mom and Dad couldn’t afford it and neither could the children.
In pursuit of the best we could find, I went to several nursing homes and learned more than I needed to know. All these homes are very austere and it’s a shock! Bare floors, usually
formica, and waiting rooms with plastic chairs. Almost all the receptionists were behind a barrier — some better designed than others.
The patient population is made up of mostly Alzheimers and Dementia sufferers. All the residents are in a wheel chair, a portable bed or never moved from their beds.
Another surprise, the aides often use pulleys attached to patients to change their clothes, move them to the shower or simply change their diapers. Depending on the home, these medical aides must change and clean about 19 patients each. Some work in tandem others work solo — it all depends on the chore.
Further, most patients are only bathed twice a week, maximum three times a week. During one of these showers their hair is washed. Bottom line, it’s not how we envision our last days, weeks, months or years of life.
On the good side, the ‘better nursing homes’ have excellent care. They hire a team of Geriatric Doctors that include Psychiatrists. These Geriatric groups come to the Nursing Home through a PPO and the doctors physically visit once a month. There is usually a Podiatrist group that also visits once a month (Medicare pays for podiatry services) and a dentist who comes once a quarter. The day to day care is with the Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Professional Nurses (LPNs), physical therapists and medical technicians. They also have a contracted Hospice service.
Here are some tips when you need to look for a nursing home:
What is the turn-over rate of its employees
Needless to say, the less turnover the better the place. If the staff is not leaving then something is going well — usually their paid above average wages
Is there a hair salon
If there is a hair salon then there’s a market for it. This means the residents take pride in how they look. People who take pride in themselves care about their environment.
Is it clean
As we all know, cleanliness is godliness
Is there a smell
Again, if it smells that means it’s really not clean – no matter how good it looks
Is there a smile on the faces of the staff
A smiling staff means a happy staff
Again, hopefully it doesn’t come to this but if it does, know how to choose the best one.