The Power of Potato Pancakes
Old Augie was a tough minded 93 year old with a very frail body. He had been living alone for nearly two decades after the death of his wife, and had no children or close family. His entire life he had been independent and self sufficient. When he fell, went to the hospital, and then spent two months rehabbing in a nursing home, he was determined to get out and never go back to an institution. Like many such people, he wanted to die in his own home.
The problem he faced was that he could barely ambulate, certainly could no longer do housekeeping or cooking, and could not survive at home without help. That meant a 24 hour live-in caretaker, and Augie emphatically said he did not want anyone else living in his house. As he so succinctly put it, “I want to go home, but I want to do it on my terms.”
After explaining to Augie that the only way to get out of the nursing home was to at least start out with care, and then cut it back over time, you could see the wheels turning and he agreed, but added, “I’ll cut out the care right after I get out of here.”
After interviewing potential caregivers, my staff had him hire Sophie. Unbeknownst to us, Sophie was a better than decent cook, and near the end of the first week, made Augie some potato pancakes. He hadn’t had potato pancakes since his wife, who was Polish, had died twenty years earlier. After one bite, all grumblings about having someone in his house disappeared, and for his last few months, life was as good as it could be, and Augie got his wish to die in his own home.
So where is the lesson in this story? Simply, it is that good care providers can make all the difference in spending your last years at home. Finding the right caretaker is especially critical for a live in caretaker, as there is another person in a close living situation. For part time caretakers, reliability is most critical.
A second lesson is that if you cannot afford to pay, there are at least three Connecticut programs, and Veterans Administration benefits that may go toward the cost. In Connecticut, you can own your own house and still get care with $32,868 of countable assets. Medicaid can pay up to $5,680 per month for home care, plus all your medical expenses. That is quite a bit of care, and the VA can pay up to $23,396 per year to a qualified married veteran.
To qualify for these programs is not always easy, so it is advisable to get advice early and develop a care plan with an experienced Elder Law Attorney.
Whether it’s the power of potato pancakes that make the difference, or the government benefits that make it financially possible, there may very well be a solution to keeping your loved ones at home.