May 2, 2011

Planning Ahead for Emergencies

By Pam Berenger
Community Liaison at Intouch Adult Day Services

Her husband’s confused questions, the EMT’s questions, frantic calls from her children and calls to close friends, had Shirley’s mind reeling and questioning herself. Until that night, Shirley felt her plans were complete. She was grateful that she had the foresight to have documented her healthcare wishes. Her husband’s fall made her realize there were more plans she needed to make.

Replaying the evening in her mind, Shirley said all the safety precautions were in place, and there was nothing more she could have done to prevent her husband’s fall and injury. The event, however, made her more aware that her plans had “holes.”

“My mind was reeling with questions,” Shirley said. “The words “what if and who would” kept popping up. What if that had been me? What would happen to Bill? Who would know what to do? Who would know what calls to make?”

Shirley and her husband Bill’s story is a common one. Both in their late 70s, they live in the house they have shared for 40 years and want to keep it that way. Both are in good physical health, but Bill has mild to moderate dementia and requires someone with him at all times.

The closest of their three children lives about 250 miles away. While he visits about once a month, it would be difficult for him to come in a moment’s notice, she said. The other two children and their families live several states away.

Shirley believed their legal affairs were in order. They have a will, a power of attorney for healthcare, insurance papers, deed to the house, and other documents in a metal box in their closet. All the children are aware of the documents and know where to find them, she said.

Caring for Bill is Shirley’s responsibility and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Occasionally a friend will stay with Bill, but Shirley said she isn’t always comfortable asking. Recognizing the stress she experiences as a caregiver, Shirley said she utilizes Lighthouse Homecare once a week for light housekeeping and companionship for Bill while she runs errands. Bill also attends Intouch Adult Day Services of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois two days a month while she attends caregiver support groups there.

“When Bill fell I had a revelation that I needed to do more,” she said. “I thought everything was in order, and it was to a degree. I had not thought out all the scenarios. I needed to complete my plan.”

A few days after Bill’s fall, Shirley called Cynthia Bostic, Lighthouse Homecare’s administrator, to talk about her options. Within minutes a plan was being formulated. Cynthia said her goal is to be a safety net for Bill and advocate for Shirley in her absence.

“Every person has their own set of concerns,” Cynthia said. “I start by asking a few questions and the conversation flows from there, eventually getting down to the reality of who would stay with Bill the first few hours if Shirley is hospitalized to where the keys are kept for someone to get into their home for Bill. Shirley also realized having the medical papers and healthcare Power of Attorney locked up is not functional if Bill doesn’t know how to access them. One person can’t have all the knowledge and the medical information has to be available. It’s not taking over; making these plans gives them control over their lives. We help them fill the holes.”

Together Cynthia and Shirley worked out a case management plan, a safety net for Bill that included every detail anyone would need in the event of an emergency. Shirley’s children received copies of the plan and added some ideas of their own. This plan has made her relationship with her children more stable because they know their parents have someone locally to jump into action with one phone call. Lighthouse Homecare has 24-hour on-call services that allow clients and their families access to services, especially in emergencies.

Their discussion also helped Shirley see that she needed more assistance including additional days each month from Lighthouse Homecare and more time for Bill at Intouch Adult Day Services where he enjoys socializing with others. He especially enjoys meeting with other Veterans who attend Intouch and meet weekly on Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

For more than 30 years, Intouch has offered adults 18 and older a social and recreational environment in addition to providing respite to caregivers. Intouch’s Adaptive Services program provides services based on the individual’s interests, care plan and diagnosis.

In addition, Shirley contacted the team at Jamieson Long & Associates Elder Law Firm. Bill and Shirley met with Elder Law Attorney, Jamie Long, and with Care Advocate, Deb Toal. During their meeting, Shirley learned it was necessary for Bill and Shirley to have a strong durable power of attorney for finances. This would allow the couple to have the flexibility they need to access public benefits in the future. It was also recommended their will be updated as the will was originally created 30 years ago. Shirley and Bill also made the determination they should set up an irrevocable trust in helping to preserve their assets.

Jamie asked Bill and Shirley if either of them had served in the military. Bill had indeed served during the Korean War. Upon establishing, Bill had served 24 hours during wartime, had 90 consecutive days of service and had a discharge other than dishonorable, Jamie informed the couple they could potentially qualify for the Veteran’s Administration Aid & Attendance. Aid & Attendance helps veterans and their spouses or their widows/widowers pay for unreimbursed medical expenses. Shirley was relieved to learn they could apply for Aid & Attendance, and it would help them pay for the care Bill receives from Lighthouse Homecare and InTouch Adult Day Services

“Lighthouse, Intouch and Jamieson Long & Associates helped put my fears to rest,” Shirley said. “During our conversations I learned that many of the services I needed, like Intouch, could be paid for through the Veterans Administration.”

To help others learn more about managing their emergency plans, Intouch Daycare, Lighthouse Homecare and Jamieson Long & Associates will host an informational meeting June 7 at Intouch, 4011 Avenue of the Cities, Suite 102, Moline. A light supper will be served at 5:30 p.m. with talks beginning at 6 p.m.

Reservations are encouraged and may be made by calling Intouch, (309) 797-0200 or Lighthouse Homecare, (309)786-9982.