Traumatic Events and Senior Care Decisions

In April-June 2017 issue of Bay Area Health & Wellness I contributed an article.  You can find the magazine at TXHWMagazines.com. The text of the article follows:

Senior Care considerations produce a great deal of stress and anxiety for those involved.  That is because they involve sizeable sums of money, produce significant emotional responses, and often involve several family members.  I strongly suggest that one not complicate or increase that condition by allowing a traumatic event to affect that decision process.  Let’s examine some of the more common events that meet the “trauma” specification.

The most serious event is death itself.  Yes, it will happen to us all.  However, when prior arrangements have not been planned or even discussed, it adds to an already emotionally charged situation. The extent of planning can be overwhelming, and it will definitely cost more if arranged after passing.  Might I suggest that, in the midst of tears, you avoid the family discussion topic, “Did Dad want to be buried or cremated?”   Indeed, that is a great starting question for a dialog with loved ones well before it is eminent.

Another common situation involves those missing elderly alerts posted on the highways, “Silver Alert.”  That is a very serious trauma for those families involved.  The missing elder often is not found alive (see the previous paragraph). Moreover, to be featured on the billboard, someone normally had to be placed in a data-base for those identified as “at risk.”  One could therefore conclude, “They just aren’t that bad.”  Who is regretting that assumption now?  Yes, dementia care is difficult and very expensive, but most families agree that evaluating such after the Silver Alert may not be the ideal time to address those care needs.

Finally, health and mobility issues weigh into the traumatic events category.  Many seniors fall and injure themselves.  After an acute hospital stay, surgical or otherwise, patients transition to in-patient rehabilitation therapy.  This care is subject to Medicare guidelines, since that is the payment source.  Once Medicare determines that a patient has achieved all the therapy impacting recovery, they want to the patient to be discharged.  I have seen families consulting with discharge planners and other rehabilitation community authority figures on a Thursday afternoon with the daunting task presented, “Your mother cannot live alone and requires 24-hour care.  You must decide what to do, and we are discharging her on Monday.”  Time requirements have now compounded the stress level.

These situations are not all of the traumatic pitfalls that exist.  However, they should provide food for thought.  If you are unsure how to get started, I suggest The Road Map to Senior Care.  This is an easy to read book that requires less than an hour and paints the senior care landscape in a clear conversational fashion.  It is a great tool to share among family members to orient everyone with a basic level of the options available.

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