Emergency planning at Mom’s nursing home

NYC Mayor Bloomberg ordered evacuation of all hospitals and nursing homes in low-lying areas as of 8AM yesterday due to the oncoming hurricane. It’s a good opportunity to consider whether you’ve asked the director of the nursing home or assisted living facility where your parent is about the facility’s plans in case of an emergency. Emergency planning is critical because most frail elders are not going to be able to get very far on their own.

Is the facility located in a flood zone? Are there back-up generators in place? How many hours can they run? who is identified as essential personnel? When was the last time an evacuation drill happened? Has another one been scheduled? If residents need to be evacuated, where do they go? Can you get a copy of the written plan? These and other questions are essential to making sure your elders get the best care.

There’s frugal, and then there’s self-neglect

Fiscal prudence is all well and good for elders — but how do you deal with a parent who simply will not spend money on themselves, even where an objective observer would see that funds are available and the expenditure is needed for the elder’s health and safety. It’s a common discussion I have with the children of clients — Mom has the money in the bank, she needs repairs made on the house or to hire a home health aide for a few hours of help a day, but she weighs spending every penny and is depriving herself. However, she doesn’t hesitate to assume that you’ll take care of things, even though you work full-time and have a family of your own.

This is an undoubtedly difficult conversation. As long as your parents are legally competent, they have the right to exercise poor judgment. You have to decide whether you want to allow them to “crash and burn” or to help when you know that your parents are more than capable of hiring the help they need and you don’t have the time or energy to take care of everything.

Where do you draw the line?

Medicare Open Enrollment Period Starts October 15!

Medicare has announced that its annual Open Enrollment Period will begin October 15, and run through December 7. This is the time to review your Medicare health and drug benefits and make any changes which may be needed.

If you’re a Massachusetts resident, you can get free help reviewing your coverage from trained counselors through the SHINE (Serving the Health Information Needs of Elders) Program. Contact your local Council on Aging or 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636, press 3) for information about when the SHINE counselor will be on site or to leave a message for a SHINE counselor to call you.