Elder Justice Now!

The Elder Justice Act — part of health reform — will not stop the story below from happening to others, but it will give prosecutors and adult protective services nationwide more support for education, prevention and prosecution of such crimes.

Some years ago, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Like her mother and sister before her, colon cancer attacked her insides and led to debilitating surgery and a painful end.

Both my sister and I lived long distances from her, and long distance caregiving was difficult. Mother did not want hospice care. Having met two nurse assistants at an assisted living facility where she recuperated from surgery, she asked the couple to move in to an extra bedroom rent free.

They were there when she died and we weren’t. They administered pain medicine during her last days — watching and monitoring the drip.  The young man was strong enough to lift mother and carry her to the bathroom for bathing or toileting. The young woman took shifts during the days and nights mother must have suffered with the progressively horrific effects of this disease.

But, after Mother died, a detective informed my sister and me that the couple were forging checks without her knowledge during this period. While the financial damage was not horrendous, they broke the law. Their financial abuse made us question whether they had abused my mother in other ways.

The detective wanted to know if we wished to press charges. We decided not to, mainly because of the care we know they gave and for which they were not paid. Perhaps it was because we both felt a little guilty that we weren’t there and they were — when she died.  At the same time, I have thought many times whether, because of our inaction, they just moved on and abused another elder.

I am sure many families are faced with similar dilemmas, but the fact remains that these two broke the law and took advantage of someone who was frail and dying. It is inexcusable. It is elder abuse.


Long Term Care Too

As you listen to the drum beat of criticism and negative reactions to health reform and hear the loud screams from seniors worried about their Medicare, please note that the health reform law includes an important new benefit covering long term care at home.

Not many years ago, Congress in its wisdom passed what was called the Medicare Catastrophic Act, then rescinded it in lightning speed when certain seniors rebelled and called for its repeal. Sadly, this legislation would have protected millions of American families from the devastating costs of long-term care and was a missed opportunity to solve a vexing issue.

The late Sen. Kennedy sponsored a bill called the “CLASS Act,” which Congress in its wisdom rolled into the final health reform package. This move will mean that over time those who opt to pay a premium to the government will have coverage for long term care at home. It does not include payment for care in a nursing home.

For those like me who purchased long term care insurance, we are waiting to see how insurance companies will react to this. My policy, like so many others, covers home care. It is likely that many companies will develop what is called wraparound policies similar to Medigap, but we will have to wait and see.

For someone who has been involved in more than one national campaign to secure long term care coverage for older Americans, this new benefit is truly incredible. And, like health reform itself, something that I thought I would not live to see.