July 31, 2014

Your Advocacy Connection: You Have To Give Me CHOICES!

By Kathy Nitz
GolderCare Solutions
We Solve Long Term Care Problems

Recently I asked my 19 year old son what he thought sounded good for dinner. He asked what I had. I explained I had several things in the fridge as I went to the grocery store just the day before. He was getting frustrated with me and said to me, “I don’t know what my options are! You have to give me choices!” Those words reminded me of several situations we have encountered recently in our office and illustrated the cultural differences between generations. Sometimes older adults are reluctant to request options – especially when they feel vulnerable.

At GolderCare we see people dealing with long term care problems of every size and description. You name it, we have seen it! One of the things that we seek to preserve is an individual’s right to make well informed decisions. We are all about choice – choices unique to their situation.

A client took her husband to the emergency room recently. He had been in declining health but took a fall and needed medical attention. After the medical evaluation and treatment, the discharge planner came to the wife asking if she was prepared to take her husband home. She was taken aback by the question and wondered what was going on. She casually made the comment that she was not sure she could handle him at home without help (actually meaning she was going to call her sister for help in getting him home that night). She cited his declining health and the new injury due to the fall. The discharge planner told her she would be right back and disappeared from the room. This left our client very confused. Soon, a different woman came into the room telling her that she was the admissions person for a local nursing home and was there to do the paperwork to get her husband admitted. Our client went along with this because she felt she had no other option. Before our client knew it, her husband was in a nursing home in Moline. When she asked how he happened to be in that nursing home, she was told she had no choice.

You always have a choice. Our client just didn’t know she had the option to ask for choices. In our client’s case, the nursing home admissions person happened to be in the hospital and the discharge planner was looking for the “easy button” to discharge this man. As a result, our client’s husband is now in one of the most expensive nursing homes in the Quad Cities with no Medicare benefits to pay for his care and not near her home or family necessitating her driving an uncomfortable distance to visit her husband.

Another client’s mother went to the hospital and was in the hospital for several days. She had satisfied her 3 day acute care stay for post-acute skilled Medicare coverage. Her mother lived in Iowa and was in an Iowa hospital. Our client and her siblings live in Illinois, out of the immediate Quad Cities area. When her mother was discharged to a nursing home for rehab, she was sent to a nursing home in northwest Davenport. Considering our client felt that it was going to be a short-term stay, she was not terribly concerned about the distance she and her siblings would have to travel to see her mother.

However, her mother’s health took a turn for the worse and it was determined that her mother would have to remain in nursing care. Our client approached the nursing home about moving her mother closer to her family was told she had to stay in Iowa and had to stay where she started her nursing home care. Our client did not question them and assumed that what she was told was true. Her mother’s emotional well-being suffered because her family could not see her as often as she would have wanted. She was not given a choice.

As I write this, we just celebrated our country’s independence. This coupled with my recent conversation with my son prompted me to share these stories and encourage you to ask, “What are my choices?” Our country was founded on several ideals, one of which is freedom of choice. Although there may be times in our lives that our choices are limited, there are always options.

Kathy Nitz is a Benefits Advocate for GolderCare Solutions. She uses her wealth of knowledge and experience in benefits planning to advocate for seniors and those who are disabled.

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