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Caring For Mom and Dad
When mom or dad are in decline, physically or cognitively or both, families are faced with questions and choices on how best to care for them. Although circumstances vary from family to family, there are guidelines to help decision making. The goal is to be in the least restrictive living situation possible, but to be safe.
Home is the starting point and where most want to stay. If dementia advances enough to create safety risks such as leaving the stove on, or letting strangers into the house, or wandering or not doing proper hygiene, a child or other caretaker must be in the house to keep a watchful eye. Once when my grandmother was alive, she was found wandering and lost in a town next to where she lived. Fortunately, the police recognized her, spoke Polish, knew our family and I got the call to come get her. She had no clue what was happening, but from that day on a family member or friend had to be with her to keep her safe in her own house.
When mental faculties decline to the point where 24 hour care is needed to assist with bathing, dressing, toileting or transferring in or out of bed or a chair, then actual physical care is needed, and for some that is impossible due to work schedules or for those who live too far away to provide care.
Although Connecticut has some of the strictest rules in the country for home care
eligibility, it does have good funding for those who can qualify. In some cases, that could mean 24-hour care at home. It behooves families to get early and thorough advice on what programs are available, and how to plan to qualify for them.
With my mother, we started with two wonderful women who alternated hours and days for about 5 hours a day. As her dementia increased that gradually grew to almost 8 hours a day. But she was losing weight and one of my eldercare coordinators said, “She needs more socialization”, so we moved her to an independent living facility that had many people she knew from our hometown. She put on 12 pounds in three weeks because she was socializing at breakfast, lunch and dinner and took part in group activities. To a greater or lesser degree everyone needs socialization and physical health will benefit from it. Her caretakers still came in daily, but her spirits and health brightened. VA benefits paid for part of the care.
After three years in independent living, her dementia took a turn for the worse and she became full care. At that point, a skilled care facility was the practical answer and at that point she qualified for Medicaid.
The point of this personal story is to show there is no one size fits all. Some children live nearby, and others don’t. Some are working or caring for their own children or a spouse and time is limited. If an elderly person has significant physical problems, and requires two people to assist in or out of bed, a chair or the toilet, then it is prohibitively expensive to stay at home and at that point a nursing home may be the only option.
Another option for care short of a nursing home is assisted living. Connecticut has many good facilities, that provide meals, cleaning, supervision, and socialization. In general, those are for people who can pay privately, as Connecticut Medicaid does not pay for the cost of assisted living. The greater central Connecticut area is blessed with many living options, including continuing care retirement communities. Those provide fully independent living to start, then change to assisted living as needed, and full nursing level care if required.
Every family thinking of help for their elderly loved ones needs to understand the full
range of options appropriate to their needs. As needs increase the amount of care and place of residence may change. And that means expense increases and eligibility for government programs becomes critical. With careful planning and government resources for care, from VA Aid and Attendance, to the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders Level II, to full blown Medicaid, caring for mom and dad can be done at whatever level is appropriate for them. It’s not easy, and there is no one size fits all, but with knowledgeable assistance the best path possible and affordable can be found.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.