“OK Mom, talk to you soon. Love you.” Kelly hung up the phone and walked out of the kitchen into the family room where her husband, John, was watching the game.
“Did you overhear any of my conversation with Mom?” she asked, “I’m starting to worry”.
“You know me better than that, the Hokies are on”, he replied. If John was watching his beloved football team, the house could be burning down around him and he wouldn’t notice until the TV melted. If he was only that passionate about her, Kelly thought. No, this was not the time to start that again. There was a more important topic to discuss.
“She was in another fender bender. That’s the 3rd one in the past year. She also just told me that she’s having more trouble getting up and down the stairs. Ever since Dad died a few years ago, I’ve been getting more and more concerned about her. At 200 miles away, I’m the closest child. All the relatives back home are as old as she is or older.”
John paused the TV. “It does seem like she’s starting to slip a little. Maybe now’s the time to talk to her about moving closer to us so we can keep an eye on her.”
“I’m not sure that’s a solution.” Kelly said with a sigh. “Yes, the kids are finally out of the house, hopefully for good. But we’ve got our own lives, what with us both working full-time, not to mention my volunteer work and your golf addiction.”
John let that last remark go and tried again. “There’s also that new continuing care facility opening up a few miles from here. From the commercials I’ve seen it looks pretty nice. A lot better than the nursing home my grandmother wound up in during her last few years.”
Kelly replied, “She’s not that old, is she? My friend Janet looked at that place for her mother; told me it’s not cheap. Even with her pension, I’m not sure Mom could afford it. Besides, she’s been in that house since before I was born. She’s still got a lot of friends back there. Take her away from home? I don’t want to do that to her.”
“Well, I don’t want you to get a phone call one day and find out she’s been in a serious car accident or fallen down the steps and hurt herself. I’m out of ideas. Maybe you should talk to your brother and sister about it” With that, John unpaused the TV and was gone.
Kelly walked back into the kitchen. “If only there were an expert I could talk to”, she thought. “There’s got to be someone who could help us. And what about John and I? I don’t want the kids having this same conversation in 30 years. Is there any planning we can do right now?”
A Valuable (and Free!) Resource
Sound familiar? Although the story above is fictional, with 18.6 million Americans over the age of 75, someone you know probably can relate to Kelly’s situation. The good news is that there are experts available who will listen to your concerns and help come up with solutions.
While ElderCare Attorneys and Financial Planners can be valuable sources of information, one resource that should be at the top of your list is your local Long Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman. Here in the New River Valley, we are lucky to have Janet Brennend in that role.
In addition to her professional expertise, Janet has personally been a caregiver and advocate for a close family member. If you are outside of this area, there is likely an Ombudsman, Agency on Aging, or a Citizen Advocacy Group near you. They have experienced people that you may consult with at no charge.
So what does an LTC Ombudsman do? One of their primary roles is to advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. They will also investigate complaints brought by residents or loved ones. In addition, they consult with people who are looking into the options available to them or their loved ones. They are knowledgeable about:
- The various facilities in the area, services they provide and the level of care provided
- Home care service options
- General cost information of the various options and what is covered under Medicare, Medicaid and private pay or private insurance. They will also be familiar with other LTC benefits provided by your state and U.S. Government, such as benefits for veterans and spouses.
- How to conduct further research on facilities or services, their track record and complaint history.
Janet works out of the NRV Agency on Aging office and her contact information is here. In addition to her knowledge of the available resources in the area, she can give tips on how to have the potentially difficult conversations that come not only with the loved one(s) in question, but also with other involved friends and family members.
And LTC doesn’t only affect the elderly. An Ombudsman’s expertise may be helpful for special needs children and other adults regardless of whether their LTC needs are due to physical or mental limitations.
I can’t stress enough how valuable this resource is.