Over coffee, a friend, Alan, told me he is flying to Baltimore in two days to visit his elderly bachelor uncles. The uncles, Sam (age 85) and George (age 78), have always lived together in the family home. A niece, who looked in on the uncles and lived just 10 minutes away, died last year leaving no one nearby to help. George will be discharged from the hospital next week after back surgery. He wants to go back home. Sam called Alan stating he can’t provide the care George will need and asked Alan to help.
Alan was overwhelmed about what to do. I asked him a few basic questions:
1) Have the uncles signed legal papers that identify the people they want to help?
At a minimum each uncle needs:
• A health power of attorney so someone can talk to the medical people on his behalf;
• A “living will” that conveys his end-of-life preferences for care; and
• A financial power of attorney giving someone the ability to do modest business for the uncle.
Alan does not know what the uncles have for paperwork. He agreed that if his uncles don’t have these papers, they need them to give Alan the legal power to help.
2) What arrangements are being made to provide for a safe transition for George to his home or possibly another location?
Alan had no idea. I suggested he contact a Geriatric Care Manager and arrange for a “Care Management Assessment.” This assessment is a road map created by a professional that lists steps to take to provide a safe and appropriate living arrangement that works for both George and Sam. Geriatric Care Managers are usually Registered Nurses or Social Workers. I referred Alan to the website for the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers (www.caremanager.org) to do a search for “Baltimore.” The Care Manager can provide an “Assessment”, make any arrangements that are needed, be an advocate for George, accompany him to any medical meetings and then report back to Alan.
3) What are the uncles’ finances? What is their income, do they have long term care insurance, what type of health insurance coverage do they have to supplement Medicare, what are their assets and liabilities? Again, Alan did not know. He always felt it rude to ask, and his uncles never volunteered the information. I explained to Alan he needs this information to help his uncles and if needed, figure out how to pay for costs of caregivers coming to the home or the expense of an Assisted Living Facility or Skilled Nursing Home.
Lastly, I referred Alan to an Elder Law attorney to meet with his uncles to discover any other needs. At their meeting, they can explore different techniques to deal with potential problems that can occur as they age. A great resource to locate attorneys who specialize in helping people like his uncles is the website for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (www.naela.org).
Alan told me he felt so much better and relieved, now that he has a plan and the resources to help him.
I don’t suppose this is a problem in your family?