Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your Parent Needs Cheerleaders, Quarterbacks

No matter how long I work with Boomers and their aging parents, I come up short.

As I speak with an adult child, I may paint a glorious picture of when, how, and why their parent might want to consider a transition. In my business, it's a move to a retirement and assisted living community. More than once, though, I've heard, "What you say makes sense. It really does. But I don't think it will fly with my Mom."

Bingo! As professionals, it's easy to forget that we don't have all the answers.

You know what trips your parent's switch, what tries her patience, what makes him grin or brings her to tears. The professionals in your life, whether doctors, nurses, attorneys, or customer service reps are cheerleaders. If they're worth their salt, they'll applaud your efforts and coach you, offering information and advice which has worked for others. They'll also give kudos to your parent!

When you're firm about your parent's desires, telling them, "No thanks," hopefully they'll back off their agenda and move to the sidelines. You're the quarterback, the one who makes the plays.

Cheerleaders? Quarterback? Your parent needs them both, on Thanksgiving and all year long. Happy Thanksgiving to you, your aging parent and your entire family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meet Your Parent's 'Guardian Angel,' the Long-Term Care Ombudsman

If your parent lives in a care setting--assisted living, adult family home or nursing home, chances are you worry. You can't be with him or her 24-7. You wonder, "Are his or her care needs being met?" and, "How can I be sure he or she isn't being exploited?"

You and your parent need a guardian angel, someone who can right the wrongs and fight for those who can't speak for themselves. Fortunately, there is such a person, called a long-term ombudsman. Assigned to your parent's health care center or assisted living community, he or she will visit, help solve problems and work to make changes at the local, state and national levels.

The National Long-term Ombudsmen Program is active in all 50 states and operates under the authority of the Older Americans Act. Each state has an office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, which oversees the work of the local paid and unpaid staff.

I spoke to a local ombudsman not long ago. A retired nurse, Bonnie, like other ombudsmen, has a heart for older people, especially those in care settings. Much of her job involves visiting with residents in her assigned nursing home. When problems arise, they feel comfortable to go to her.

If you don't know your long-term ombudsman, introduce yourself. He or she is especially trained to investigate complaints of family members, too, with a goal of helping improve the atmosphere for all.

Do you know your long-term care ombudsman?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Your Parent Says, 'Slow Down, You Move Too Fast!'

Does your aging parent say anything like:

"You walk too fast!"
"You work too hard."
"You need to slow down."

I've heard these admonitions again and again from my elderly clients and my aging parents. Why? Their perspective is often worlds away from ours.

We Boomers are on fast forward, juggling jobs, relationships and generations. Our eyes are on the future, as we plan for vacations, dream of retirement or just anticipate the next challenge. Completing to-do lists and achieving goals is what we're wired to do.

Our aging parents, on the other hand, seem to have one speed: slow. If we're the hare, they're the tortoise, pondering each move. Weak legs, winded breath and pain dampers their physical progress. Their thinking is slow, too, deliberate and reflective. Everything takes longer: from doctor's appointments to shopping trips to decisions.

This pacing difference frustrates both generations. Some coping ideas I've picked up over the years:

1. Match your pace to theirs. At the first retirement community where I worked years ago, I kept hearing, "Alice, you walk so fast." That was a shocker! I'm 5'3". No one had ever accused me of speedwalking. But I decided if I wanted to connect, I needed to slow down. Ditto with my parents.

2. Don't overschedule. When planning activities with my aging parents, I had to divide my to-do list in half. One major event in a day was more than enough.

3. Let them ponder. If there's a big decision, like moving to a retirement community or bringing in home care, discuss the pros and cons but don't expect an immediate reaction. Leave literature with them so they can think about ramifications. That way, they can ponder on their own schedule.

Do you have any other ideas on slowing your pace or adjusting your speed for your aging parent?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

'Shopping' for Medicaid? Save Time With These Tips

Perhaps your parent needs a health care setting accepting Medicaid. The bad news is they're not located like Starbucks on virtually every corner. The good news is if you do your homework, on the phone and online, you can cut hours off your search.

Lists of assisted living communities, adult family homes and nursing homes accepting Medicaid are available from local agencies through a national government-funded website, Eldercare Locator. Look first within a half-hour's drive of your best destination--you may have to drive even farther to find current Medicaid availability.

Pick up the phone and ask:

1. Are you currently accepting Medicaid payment? Situations change, and your list may be out of date. If the answer is yes, ask:

2. Do you have any Medicaid openings today or in the near future? If the answer is yes, ask when you can tour. If not, ask:

3. Can we join a waiting list for Medicaid openings? (Ask this only if your parent can wait for placement.) Otherwise ask: Do you know of other communities or health care settings that might have current Medicaid openings?

Many communities give first priority to their existing private paying residents who run out of money. Some communities actually insist that new residents pay privately for a specific time period--often a year or two--before converting to Medicaid.

Once you've narrowed the field by phone, visit communities personally. If it's appropriate for your parent to join you, take her with you to the top two or so. Once you find something suitable, don't delay.

Be patient and flexible. Medicaid openings are few and far between, so don't expect to find a community five minutes from your home. Good luck!

Can you tell us about your journey looking for a Medicaid opening for your aging parent?
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