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Archive | July, 2010

Kindness…Something to Think About

This story is a reminder about the power of kindness.  Something to think about in all the business of our daily lives.

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget
by: Kent Nerburn

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice.

I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”

“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.

“Nothing,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she answered.

“There are other passengers.”

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

HHS Launches New Consumer Focused Health Care Website

There are a lot of pieces to the health care puzzle, and you are not alone in wishing that information regarding affordable health care coverage was located in a centralized location.  In fact, enough people seemed to be interested in the same thing, because at the beginning of July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services unveilied an innovative new on-line tool that will help consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to new information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable health care coverage.  Called for by the Affordable Care Act, HealthCare.gov is the first website to provide consumers with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool. 

HealthCare.gov  helps consumers take control of their health care and make the choices that are right for them, by putting the power of information at their fingertips,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “For too long, the insurance market has been confusing and hard to navigate.  HealthCare.gov makes it easy for consumers and small businesses to compare health insurance plans in both the public and the private sector and find other important health care information.”

HealthCare.gov is the first central database of health coverage options, combining information about public programs, from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans.  Consumers can receive information about options specific to their life situation and local community.

In addition, the website will be a one-stop-shop for information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act as well as other health care resources.  The website will connect consumers to quality rankings for local health care providers as well as preventive services.

“This website is unlike any government website you have ever seen or used before,” said HHS Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.  “It was developed with significant consumer input and is remarkably easy to navigate.  This is despite the sheer volume of content it offers consumers: billions of health care choices through the insurance finder and more than 500 pages of new content, all of which is designed to grow with ongoing consumer feedback and as our health care system improves.”

As the health care market transforms, so will HealthCare.gov.  In October, 2010, price estimates for health insurance plans will be available online. In the weeks and months ahead, new information on preventing disease and illness and improving the quality of health care for all Americans will also be posted.  The website also includes a series of opportunities where users can indicate whether pages were helpful to them and we will continue to seek user feedback to grow and strengthen the site. 

“People need to see what choices are offered, what options cost, and how coverage works in practice,” said Karen Pollitz, Deputy Director for Consumer Support, Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “Today HealthCare.gov takes an important first step in that direction.  In the coming months and years, we will add pricing and plan performance information so that consumers can see and understand and make meaningful choices about their health coverage.”

For information on how you can plan ahead to finance long-term care for yourself or your loved one, contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Dutton & Casey, P.C. at www.duttonelderlaw.com or (312)899-0950.

Six Questions to Protect Elderly Patients

A trip to the hospital can leave family members and caregivers feeling more reactive than proactive.  For some of us, the medical jargon can be so over our heads and the stress and worry levels so high, that it seems best to stay on the sidelines when it comes to caring for a patient.  For instance, have you ever found yourself thinking- “this doctor/nurse deals with these situations all the time, so they know how to handle it much better than I do…”  Or how about when a sibling asks why your mom received a certain kind of medication or what the side effects are and you say, “I’m not sure, the doctor told me we should do it.”  There are incredibly caring and knowledgeable health care professionals in the world that are experts at what they do, but as a family member you are an expert in that particular patient, and that counts for something, too!  No matter how great the health care professionals involved with your family may be, advocacy for your patient in the fast-paced health care environment is critical.

But how do you know what to do or what to ask?  This is a start.  Here is a recent blog from the New York Times that poses “Six Questions to Protect Elderly Patients.”  Her blog noted that “About a third of patients over age 70 experience hospital delirium, and the consequences can be serious, delaying a patient’s recovery and even leading to placement in a nursing home.”  So, to play a more proactive role in the care of your family member or loved one, Pam Belluck of the NYT, suggests asking the following 6 questions when it comes to older patients:

1. Do the nurses and doctors routinely screen for delirium or identify high-risk patients?

2. How does the hospital deal with agitation or delirium in patients if it develops?

3. What does the hospital do to keep patients from becoming disoriented?

4. What policies are in place to make sure patients get adequate sleep?

5. If my family member needs a urinary catheter or other bedside interventions, how does the hospital decide when to remove them?

6. Will the physicians and pharmacy staff review my family member’s medications to identify medications that increase delirium risk?

Read the complete blog here

To speak to Dutton & Casey’s Care Advocate, Erin Vogt, and learn about other ways to help provide the best possible care for your loved one, contact Erin at evogt@duttonelderlaw.com or (312)371-0954.

Encouraging Comfort Care: A Guide for Families of People with Dementia Living in Care Facilities

The Alzheimer’s Association-Greater Illinois Chapter is pleased offer a free online resource, Encouraging Comfort Care: A Guide for Families of People with Dementia Living in Care Facilities. This 21-page booklet provides useful information to families and staff of long-term care facilities about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, particularly care issues related to the late and final stages.

For families, this guide will enable them to make informed choices about a variety of medical decisions they may face on behalf of loved ones with dementia living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other types of care facilities. It will also equip families to ask good questions aimed at obtaining the best care for their loved ones, including a handy checklist of comfort care measures to be discussed with staff members of care facilities.

 To view and download the free guide, click here: http://www.alzheimers-illinois.org/pti/comfort_care_guide.asp

For more resources or to read about the elder law firm of Dutton & Casey P.C.’s  areas of concentration, visit www.duttonelderlaw.com or call (312)899-0950.