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Archive | February, 2012

Fraud Alert

Published weekly, The Fraud Alert is published by Age Options and the Illinois Empowering Seniors to Prevent Healthcare Fraud project, contains very helpful information, for all of us.

click here to read the current issue and register to receive this weekly email.

Fraud Alert

Published weekly, The Fraud Alert is published by Age Options and the Illinois Empowering Seniors to Prevent Healthcare Fraud project, contains very helpful information, for all of us.

Click here to read the current issue and register to obtain the newsletter for yourself.

 

Helping your parents stay out of the nursing home

Aging parents and their children sometimes disagree over the issues of safety versus independent living. Here are steps you can take to make your parents’ home safer.

By Karen Ravn, Special to the Los Angeles Times

February 6, 2012

 

 

Your parents say they couldn’t bear to lose their independence. Their hearts are set on staying in their own home for the rest of their days. And you understand. It’s what you’d like for them too. But they’re not as young as they used to be. Not as strong and on top of things. And you can’t help wondering if their plan is really wise, or even feasible. So you worry.

The question of what’s best for mom and/or dad is one that bedevils many children with aging parents, says Dr. David Reuben, chief of the geriatrics division in UCLA’s Department of Medicine. “One of the things older people want most is to stay in their own homes. But there’s always a tension between autonomy and safety. Children may want to err on the side of safety, but parents may want to err on the side of autonomy.”

Of course, the time may come when physical or cognitive limitations make independent living impossible. But until then, there are steps you can take to make your parents’ home safer, their lives in it easier — and your concerns about them a little less daunting.

To make a home more elder-friendly, a safety assessment is a good place to start, says Myra Hyatt, a specialist clinical social worker at the Landon Center on Aging at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. That means having an occupational therapist inspect your parents’ home for safety concerns and suggest ways to deal with them. These are some of the main issues that often come up in such assessments.

Stuff happens, so be prepared. If they have a personal emergency response system, your parents can call for help, 24/7, with only a push of a button. Newer systems can detect when a person has fallen down, so even if they’re too injured to push the button, the system will automatically alert an operator, Hyatt says.

Being prepared can prevent stuff from happening. An emergency response system is a very fine thing, but in the long run it’s more important to create an environment where such a system is needed as rarely as possible, says Linda Ercoli, director of geriatric psychology at UCLA. “If you fall and break your hip, you might be able to push a button and get help, but the fact remains that you’ll have broken your hip.”

Indeed, your parents’ home may be booby-trapped with all sorts of falls waiting to happen — including slippery showers or tubs (add grab bars), slide-prone throw rugs (get rid of them or tape them down) and fate-tempting steps and stairs (consider installing ramps or even chairlifts). Poor lighting is another open invitation for your parents to take a tumble or bang their heads or stub their toes. With brighter, better-positioned lights, you’ll be sure they can see what they’re doing and where they’re going.

Be an alarmist. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be standard in every home. But your parents might also benefit from other, more specialized alarms, Hyatt says — for example, an alarm that goes off if a pot has been left unattended on the stove for too long, or one that reminds them to take their medications (and alerts someone else if they don’t).

Life-simplifying devices. Clothing that fastens with Velcro — instead of buttons or zippers — can make a welcome difference for fingers stiff with arthritis. And for backs no longer terribly keen on bending, an extra-long shoehorn can be a real blessing. Speaking of recalcitrant backs, a handy-dandy reacher/grabber allows for bend-free retrieval of items that fall on the floor as well as stretch-free retrieval of objects from high shelves.

Staying connected. Isolation can be a problem for seniors, especially as they become less mobile. If their hearing has also gone downhill, talking on the phone may be difficult. But a phone with amplified speakers can help, Hyatt says. And if their eyes aren’t so sharp anymore, big buttons can help too. So can email with big fonts.

Senior centers and adult day care are other good options for those who can get to them — as are pets, at least in the right circumstances. “They make great companions,” Reuben says. “People relate to them exceptionally well.” On the other hand, he warns, “if your parents can’t walk very well themselves, they obviously won’t be able to walk a dog. And pets can get underfoot.” Tripping over a leg-rubbing cat or toy-chasing dog can cause falls. Think goldfish?

Food. Nutrition can be problematic for seniors, Ercoli cautions. “Will they eat right — or even at all?” Perhaps your parents are eligible for Meals on Wheels services. Also, senior centers often offer no- or low-cost lunches. You might even hire someone to shop for groceries and prepare meals.

Professional services. Staying in their own home can be a lot easier for your parents if they don’t need to worry about keeping it clean or keeping the yard looking good. You can hire professionals to do those and almost any other chores your parents might no longer feel up to.

Taking care of business. Maybe it’s time for you to take charge of your parents’ finances — pay their bills, balance their checkbook. And it’s important for them to consult an elder law specialist, Hyatt says. How they handle their assets can have big-bucks repercussions down the road, affecting their eligibility for programs like Medicaid, to name just one example.

Take care of yourself too. Worrying about and caring for your parents can wear you down, Hyatt says. “You can become isolated yourself and find yourself thinking, ‘I want my life back.’ Part of the challenge is the guilt you feel.” That’s where caregiver support groups come in, she says. You can be open and frank there, even about the feelings you’re least proud of. “Everyone there will get it,” she says. “They won’t think you’re a monster.”

Resources. Countless agencies and organizations are dedicated to providing invaluable — but often free or low-cost — senior services. Information about many of these is available from your local Area Agency on Aging, which in Los Angeles County can be reached at (800) 510-2020 or css.lacounty.gov (click on the “Programs” tab). There you can find help with many of these issues, as well as others. Also, for a thorough “Housing Safety Checklist for Older People,” visit and click on the “Housing” tab.

“Find help,” Hyatt says, “because it’s out there. And it can mean you stay the course and keep your parents at home as long as you can.”

health@latimes.com

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For information on how the law firm of Dutton & Casey can assist you assist you, or someone who you care about, plan for today…and tommorrow, please click here.

Medicaid, Spousal Impoverishment and Same-Sex Couples

SAGE, the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults has published a booklet on  Medicaid, Spousal Impoverishment and Same-Sex Couples.

Click here to go to the SAGE website for the guide and other helpful information.

One of the Practice Areas of  the law firm of Dutton & Casey is Medicaid planning. For information on we can assist you, or someone who you love, please click here.

Illinois Department of Transporation’s Life-Saving Yellow Dot Program

IDOT Unveils Life-Saving Yellow Dot Program

Program Provides Emergency Responders with Crucial Medical Information to Help Crash Victims

The Illinois Yellow Dot program, a life-saving, traffic safety initiative that provides first responders with critical information to improve emergency care for persons involved in vehicle crashes. IDOT along with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Illinois Department of Aging (IDOA) and county health departments across the state are working together to increase awareness of the voluntary, federally funded program, and provide distribution centers and information for interested residents.

“Roadway safety is always a top priority at IDOT, and the Yellow Dot program can help improve roadway safety by providing first responders the crucial medical information they need to treat injuries and save lives, beginning at the scene of a crash,” said Acting Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. “This important program gives IDOT and our partners another important way to improve our exceptional record on traffic safety. I encourage all motorists to participate in this unique and effective program, which could make the difference between life and death for individuals involved in crashes.”

Because the first hour following an injury is the most crucial, the Yellow Dot program provides essential personal health information to emergency responders in order to promptly care for a crash victim. This ‘Golden Hour’ is critical in the treatment of crash victims, and the medical information provided through the program could be a lifesaver.

When a crash occurs, emergency medical first responders such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians are immediately dispatched to the scene. These responders usually have basic information such as the location of the crash and the number of victims. Frequently, minimal personal information is available during this early, most critical time period.

“This is a great opportunity for older drivers to update their medical information and have a voice in their emergency treatment in the event of an accident,” said John K. Holton, Ph.D., director of the Illinois Department on Aging. “The Yellow Dot program will serve as a lifeline to alert first responders of crucial medical information which can help the victims who may be unable to communicate at the crash site or may have forgotten to share the information.” Yellow Dot participants are supplied with a simple, bright yellow decal for their car and a corresponding yellow folder. The decal is placed in a conspicuous and consistent place – in the lower left-hand corner of the rear window, driver’s side. The yellow dot signifies there is a folder in the glove compartment containing the following medical information about the motorists: participant’s name, close-up photo, emergency contact information, patient’s physician information, medical conditions, recent surgeries, allergies and a list of current medications. Having access to this information allows first responders to make important decisions regarding emergency treatment and can better prepare emergency hospital staff in the receiving room.

“Time is critical in an emergency situation. If paramedics and emergency medical workers know what medications a person is taking, if the person has allergies or a chronic condition, they can make better decisions about treatment,” said Acting IDPH Director Dr. Craig Conover. “Delaying treatment can mean the difference between life and death in some cases. Something as simple as having your medical information on a yellow card in your glove compartment can potentially make a big difference in the emergency care you receive.”

The Yellow Dot program, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was originally introduced in Connecticut in 2002. For more information on the program and to find a distribution center near you, visit www.yellowdotillinois.org.