September 2, 2021

Your Advocacy

By Gail Glockhoff-Long
GolderCare Solutions

Are You In Over Your Head?

Fred was recently widowed. His wife of 50 years did all the cooking, cleaning and bill paying. As a deacon in his church, you started bringing him casseroles a couple times a week. He asks if you could drive him to a doctor appointment and you notice he has lost weight. You bring food more frequently and you notice all the bills sitting unpaid on the table. You start helping him write checks and clean the house. You are now there every day if not several times a day.

Wilma’s husband is in nursing care. As a good neighbor, you just mow her grass and snow blow her walk when you do your own. She so appreciates the help. She calls because her purse was stolen – you helped her find it right where she put it down on the chair. You notice she is getting more forgetful than normal. You started helping her load her pill box and checking if she had taken them when you brought over dinner. One cold day she is not home. You find her walking blocks from home – lost – and without a coat.

Uncle Barney never married and spent lots of time with you when you were growing up. His eyesight deteriorated to the point he had to quit driving. Uncle Barney gave you his car and wants to give you his house when he moves into assisted living in the future. You check in on him daily. You went out of town for the weekend. On Monday he does not answer the door. You find him on the floor and the food on the table is what you brought on Friday.

You started helping as a good friend/neighbor/nephew because they just needed a little help to successfully stay at home alone. Over time, the help needed kept creeping up. Now Fred has become a full-time job. You can’t sleep because Wilma might wander off again or turn on the gas stove. You know people will blame you for not checking more often on Uncle Barney.

Are you in one of these scenarios? What have you gotten yourself into? Is the situation spiraling out of control? Will Adult Protective Services accuse you of neglect or financial abuse or something else? Possibly. You may not have intended to, but you have taken on the role of caregiver – without a plan. Potential compliance issues that could be lurking never crossed your mind.

Taking on the role of caregiver, either formally or informally, requires thought and guidance to keep both you and your charge safe – physically and legally. Do you have contact information for family members? Are there Power of Attorney documents? If yes, who is named? Are you the only person helping or are other neighbors doing parts? How long are you willing to continue your caregiver role as needs continue to escalate because Fred wants to stay in his house?

You can’t just walk away when the going gets tough. It is time to work with a professional to sort things out. A professional care advocacy organization that is well versed in care options, payment sources, and the plethora of compliance hazards would:

  • start by assessing Fred/Wilma/Barney’s actual care needs
  • determine who has legal authority to make decisions (Powers of Attorney)
  • refer you and Fred to an attorney for life planning documents or guardianship if needed
  • assess Wilma’s financial situation to determine how to pay for her care
  • develop a plan of action being mindful of care needs / finances / compliance
  • make recommendations on home care or specific senior living facilities to best meet the individual situation
  • assess the financial situation to determine the best way to pay for that care
  • guide you through the next steps of care placement, how to use the existing assets, how to apply for public benefits if appropriate, and how to stay protected from busy body onlookers who think they know better even though they have none of the facts and do not know the rules.

We are all in this together. Continue to help your aging neighbors but know that when you are in over your head – it is time to reach for the lifeline and call the professionals.

“What Happens When Adult Protective Services is Involved?” is the topic of our September educational Aging Empowerment Webinar. We discuss in practical terms the compliance issues to consider when taking on the task of care giver to keep both you and your loved one safe. Call 309-764-2273 or email: info@goldercare.com for more information.

GolderCare Solutions Unlimited, LLC is an independent care advocacy group for seniors, the disabled and those that care for them. You can reach GolderCare at (309) 764-2273 and learn more at www.goldercare.com.