Making Care Choices: Be Informed to Be Forearmed
The phone rings. You answer and hear: “your mom or dad fell and broke his/her hip” Your heart sinks. You knew they was less steady on their feet and were afraid that one day you might be getting this phone call. If they live in the vicinity and they’re already in the hospital, you rush to get there. You frantically start making calls to huddle with family or friends to discuss a plan. You may even hop on a plane if they live at a distance.
After the hospital, he/she will most likely have to receive therapy. Where???? Usually a short-term rehabilitation unit in a skilled nursing facility is recommended. How do you decide which one? The social worker or hospital discharge planner comes with glossy marketing brochures and talk of 5 stars. What could be better????
But once your loved one arrives you find that that it wasn’t what it appeared to be. The consequences can be ghastly.
The Office of the Inspector General issued a report indicating that 30% of all Medicare beneficiaries who enter a skilled nursing facility experience some kind of harm in the first 30 days. In almost 60% of the cases, that harm was preventable. Most older adults will spend at least 1 day in a skilled nursing facility; however, most often, the stay ranges from 2 ½ weeks to 2 ½ months for short-term rehabilitation.
How many people have been in, or know someone who has been in, this or a similar situation? It could be with a parent, spouse, close friend or other family member. It could be a fall, a stroke, a heart attack, an episode because of overall weakness, declining cognition or a number of other situations or accidents. You are not prepared for this and it truly is a crisis! NO ONE plans for crises but somehow because of the human condition, they are most likely inevitable; as our loved one’s age, as we age, the probability becomes greater.
Do we want to think of or dwell on these circumstances? Of course, the answer is a resoundingly NO. We couldn’t go about our lives if we were constantly thinking of a crisis that may lie ahead.
The fact is that we do plan for these events. You may be thinking, how so?
Despite the obligation, we carry car insurance. Can’t get it once in an accident.
We know the importance of health insurance, indeed, the national debate on the need for every person to have it is testament in and of itself of its importance.
Many among us purchase life or burial insurance. Are we waiting for or anticipating our passing? Absolutely not. But we recognize the importance of having those expenses covered when the time inevitably arrives.
Here is the question? Why are we not arming ourselves with the crucial information to make decisions for our loved one’s care, or our own care, in advance of a crisis? Is it because it is unpleasant? But as explained, that we are all doing this in one way or another for other circumstances.
Many of us don’t want to think of our parents as vulnerable, yet we are aware that they are becoming increasingly frail as they age. Many are receiving care at home. In other circumstances, adult children or other relatives are participating in, or taking on, caregiving responsibilities. These people are truly unsung heroes.
Yet, despite the circumstances in front of them, they still do not seek out the information they will need when faced with any of the potential crisis situations described above. Indeed, they are busy with their lives; oftentimes sandwiched between job, family responsibilities and their loved one’s care.
It behooves us to seek out the important information we will need for a variety of the inevitable situations with which we will be faced. Lack of planning can cost valuable time and money, and can certainly have adverse consequences on you or your loved one’s care.
You will need valuable information in order to make the best choices and effectively advocate for you or your loved one’s care.
Plan by Choice and Not by Crisis. Indeed, Being Forewarned is Being Forearmed!