Nursing home neglect and abuse is often difficult to detect, and families should be on the lookout for common warning signs for physical, emotional and financial abuse.
Common warning signs of physical abuse are:
Untreated bedsores, pressure sores, wounds, cuts, bruises, or welts
Abnormally pale complexion
Bruises in a pattern that would suggest restraints
Excessive and sudden weight loss
Fleas, lice, or dirt on or in the room
Poor personal hygiene, unpleasant odors or other unattended health problems
Torn clothing or broken personal items
Bleeding around private parts
Bruises around the breast/genital region
An unexpected look of fear from the elder when aide may be present
Common warning signs of emotional abuse are:
Intimidation through yelling and threats
Ignoring the patient
Isolating the patient from other residents and/or activities
Terrorizing the patient
Mocking the patient
Financial exploitation is another form of abuse. An unscrupulous caregiver may:
Misuse checks, accounts, or credit cards
Steal money, steal checks, or steal belongings
Authorize withdrawals or transfer of monies
Steal the patient’s identity
No family is exempt from any of these possibilities. Abuse affects the rich and poor. Suffering sustained by the elderly ranges from financial, to emotional and physical. Abuse escalating to physical can result in severe infections, amputations, dehydration and, unfortunately, death. A lawsuit should be filed on behalf of your loved one to get the justice your family deserves. Compensation may cover the costs of treatment and recovery, as well as compensation for non-financial hardships such as pain and suffering.
If you suspect elder abuse of any kind speak up and demand answers of those in charge.
Feel free to contact me for more information or inquire about a lawsuit.
Via Donovan Slack, USA TODAY, and Andrea Estes, The Boston Globe
Don Ruch’s family thought round-the-clock care would help him recuperate, but he ended up in intensive care in septic shock, suffering from “severe” malnutrition, bedsores on his pelvis and back, a burn on his right thigh and a trauma wound. USA TODAY
An analysis of internal documents shows residents at more than two-thirds of Department of Veterans Affairs nursing homes last year were more likely to have serious bedsores, as well as suffer serious pain, than their counterparts in private nursing homes across the country.
The analysis suggests large numbers of veterans suffered potential neglect or medication mismanagement and provides a fuller picture of the state of care in the 133 VA nursing homes that serve 46,000 sick and infirm military veterans each year.
More than 100 VA nursing homes scored worse than private nursing homes on a majority of key quality indicators, which include rates of infection and decline in daily living skills, according to the analysis of data withheld by the VA from public view but obtained by USA TODAY and The Boston Globe.
Four VA facilities – nursing homes in Bedford, Massachusetts; Chillicothe, Ohio; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Roseburg, Oregon – lagged private nursing home averages on 10 of 11 indicators. At all four, about a third of residents were given anti-psychotic drugs – almost twice as much as in the private sector. The FDA has said such drugs are associated with an increased risk of death in elderly patients with dementia.
“They should be assessing individuals and doing what they can to manage it,” said Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. “And if it’s not working, they should be trying different things.”
The VA, which has argued that its residents are typically sicker than those in private facilities, has tracked the detailed quality data for more than two years but has kept it secret, depriving veterans of potentially crucial health care information.
VA ‘evaluating’ what information to release
VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour has declined to answer questions about whether or when the agency planned to release the quality information, as well as nursing home staff data the VA has compiled dating to 2004. He also declined to say when the VA would release inspection reports the agency has kept secret for more than a decade.
“We cannot work with this administration or any administration to fix the VA if we don’t have the information,’’ Jones said.
Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke told the CBS affiliate in Dallas last week that VA officials were “evaluating exactly what is the most appropriate for us to put out there and that will support continuous improvement and then also will provide good decision-making information for veterans.”
He called the USA TODAY and Globe reporting on the VA nursing home ratings “fake news.”
Federal regulations require private nursing homes to disclose voluminous data on the care they provide. The federal government uses the data to calculate quality measures and posts them on a federal website, along with inspection results and staffing information. But the rules don’t apply to the VA.
Playing ‘hide the ball’ with nursing home data
The VA has used similar data internally to track quality at its nursing homes as far back as 2011, according to a report in October that year from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. At that point, the agency monitored at least two dozen factors, including how many residents had bedsores or were in serious pain. But none of the information was released.
The VA launched another tracking system in May 2016. It now measures 11 indicators – the same as those used for private nursing homes – and assigns star ratings based on the indicators, which can be clues to larger problems with overall quality. For example, high rates of falls or bedsores may indicate neglect.
WHEN IT COMES TO BEDSORES, PRESSURE SORES, DECUBITUS ULCERS IT’S OFTEN HELPFUL TO READ WHAT OTHERS HAVE ASKED. YOU MAY BE ABLE TO BENEFIT FROM SOME OF OUR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS BELOW.
If the patient was at a hospital first and then a nursing home which do we sue?
It always depends on individual and medical circumstances but the possibility exists that both are liable. Often an injury begins in a hospital, may not be reported and/or is overlooked or neglected on intake at the second facility where it may get worse or lead to infection and other medical issues.
What if the patient is too ill to appear in court?
This is not an issue and often the case with bedsore victims. For bedsore and pressure sore lawsuits there’s a legal team that includes experienced bedsore litigators, and medical professionals that can testify based on patient medical records and treatment or lack of and improper treatment. As well as other expert witnesses that look into hospital procedures, policy and practices and determine if any federal violations were evident or standards of procedure were not met. Medical records and pictures of wounds are used.
How much does it cost to sue?
There is no fee to you unless we win. When we accept a case we put in the resources and hours of our bedsores legal team because we are confident of a successful outcome based on the facts of the case. If we take on your case it’s because we see huge upside financial potential for the victim or family of the victim. We work on contingency–no upfront fee or time billed to you. When you win we get an agreed upon portion of the award. NOTE: Most firms generally work this way for these lawsuits as it is usually cost prohibitive for client on hourly or other fee basis as expenses get incurred for expert witnesses, medical experts, trial prep, trial, review etc.
Will beginning a lawsuit get better care for the victim?
Once a hospital or nursing home knows a bedsore lawsuit is possible, often the care and treatment of the patient improves. This is because now they know they are under scrutiny and may be even further liable legally if not giving the proper care and medical attention after the sores have been documented by family and bedsore lawyers. Additionally, our law firm will let you know the standards of care that is necessary for you or your loved one. We can even help guide you on the best way to discuss issues with the doctor or staff and get the desired results.
I want to sue – does it take long? Does my dad have to appear in court?
Timing of a case varies. With expertise and experience and a hands-on approach we move swiftly. The size of our firm allows us to focus on cases so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Unlike some other law firms, our legal team of attorneys, paralegals, research assistants, medical experts and more, have the experience and knowledge to avoid time lags. Many times cases are seattled before even going to court. Of course, the plaintiff has a say in this decision and we do what is best for our client.
Do I need money to sue-what does contingency mean?
You will not need to lay out any money. We handle all of our bedsore and pressure sore negligence or malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis. That means that we only charge a legal fee if we are successful and recover money for you. Our fee is typically 33 1/3% of the net recovery after the costs and disbursements that we advance are deducted. The contingency fee may be even lower depending on the facts of the case and the reason the sores happened. With a free consultation, a bedsore law firm that advances all of the necessary costs, and a contingency fee arrangement, you get our reputable law firm with no out of pocket expenses.
How do I know if I have a good bedsore lawsuit? The nurse said the sores were caused by my father.
Don’t put much credence in the opinion of anyone that isn’t a legal expert. Even a medical professional or doctor doesn’t have the legal knowledge and they or facility administrator may even try to persuade you against a bedsore or pressure sore lawsuit. Such tactics aren’t new. Don’t be a victim twice. Consult with legal professionals when medical ones let you down. Then you can use your best judgement on how to proceed with your lawsuit.
Pressure Ulcers and Bedsores can progress quickly and can be deadly. The first thing you should do is remove pressure from the area and speak to a nurse on duty to begin to remedy the situation. Be aware that the nurse may not have a full understanding of these injuries and you will need the attention of a wound care specialist and medical doctor.
Yes, you can sue! Pressure Ulcers are often a sign of neglect and sometimes a sign of abuse or malpractice. They occur when someone is immobile and there is not adequate blood flow. Then the affected tissue dies and an ulcerated sore develops.
In a nursing home or hospital it is the responsibility of the nursing staff to check and turn the patient regularly. There are laws in place that protect patients and you should know that these injuries are not the fault of the patient. The patient is the victim. If a loved one you know is suffering they may have a valuable, financially rewarding lawsuit. In the New York area, millions of dollars have been awarded to pressure sore victims and their families.
The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) defines a pressure ulcer as a “localized injury to the skin and/or underlying tissue, usually over a bony prominence, as a result of pressure, or pressure in combination with shear.” Illustrations of common locations of pressure ulcers are shown below:
These injuries can lead to further medical problems, infections, sepsis, amputation and even death. Whether malpractice, abuse or neglect it is simply unjust and unnecessary for it to happen to an innocent patient.
Call today for a free consultation to find out the value of a lawsuit or for more information: 212-268-8200, or 800-278-2960
Some states make it harder for those caring for an aging parent, according to a new survey.
Caring.com conducted a national survey to determine which states offer the best overall cost of living, and accessibility to senior support programs and resources for caregivers.
While some states were praised for providing an affordable and helpful environment for caregivers, other states inevitable ended up at the bottom of the list.
“It hasn’t always been so expensive, but the cost of caring for our parents is so out of control now that it has the capacity to actually bankrupt families,” Jim Miller, a senior advocate and author of SavvySenior.org, said in the report. “I think that’s why it’s so important to consider these costs far in advance of needing to provide care so you’re prepared instead of panicked.”
These 10 states, in descending order, were deemed the most expensive for caregivers by Caring.com:
While the state is expensive for seniors, the availability of senior care support and services ranked 13th overall. The median cost for a home health aide was $4,500 more than the national average. Nursing home expenses were $24,00 more than the national average, according to caring.com.
9. New Hampshire
The state ranked 44th for cost of living. Costs for a nursing home stay for a year were over $100,000, well above the national average. The state did rank well for offering accessible senior programs and caregiver resources.
For your aging parent to live in a nursing home in Delaware, expect to pay the median price of $127,750. The state ranked 28th in the survey for senior and caregiver programs and support.
7. New York
Earning a good rank for senior support and services, the state offers numerous resources for caregivers and seniors. While the costs for a home health aide and assisted living are competitive, the median for a nursing home is well above the national average by over $40,000.
Having a conversation about moving — whether it’s with a relative, even a spouse — brings up lots of anxiety. Here’s how to go about it.
By PETER FINCH
Dawn and John Strumsky agree about most things, a tendency that has served them well in 45 years of marriage. But there was one subject where they did not see eye to eye for the longest time: their retirement future.
Ms. Strumsky wanted desperately to move into a retirement community, to live as “a princess” unburdened by the cooking, cleaning or yardwork required at their Maryland home. Mr. Strumsky didn’t just resist the idea, he detested it. During one argument with his wife, he shouted, “By God, I’ll sit in the burned-out, firebombed ruins of this home before anybody pulls me out!”
Mr. Strumsky, 78, tells that story with a laugh. Because, as he puts it, “I’ve done a 180 on this.” He finally gave in to his wife’s wishes, and in 2011 they moved to Charlestown, a retirement community outside Baltimore. Today, it might have no bigger fan than John Strumsky. One measure of his devotion: He’s the author of an exhaustive, 364-page history of Charlestown that management hands out to prospective residents.
His reluctance to move into a retirement community was not unusual. People often vow they’ll never do it, for any number of reasons. They fear giving up their independence. They can’t bear leaving their home. They don’t like confronting their own mortality. This can lead to bitter squabbles with members of their family and other loved ones who want them to move.
“I’ve heard more than one adult child say, half-jokingly, ‘If Mom doesn’t check in to a retirement home, I’m going to need to,’” said Katherine Pearson, a specialist in elder law and a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson Law School.
So how do you persuade an unwilling senior to at least consider it? The key is to be patient, said Tom Neubauer, executive vice president at Erickson Living, which operates 19 retirement communities. “Inherently there’s a sense of denial, particularly as it relates to aging, and you’re trying to defeat that.”
He likened the process to helping a high school student choose a college: “You can’t just hand them a brochure and say, ‘This is where you’re going.’ It’s a journey.”
Mr. Neubauer’s mother, Betty, moved into a retirement home three years ago. He had started encouraging her about three years before that. The discussion, he said, was less about “You need to do this” and more about “How do we maximize your years in retirement?”
Ms. Strumsky desperately wanted to move to a retirement community. One of her goals: Eliminate the work of maintaining their home.CreditAndrew Mangum for The New York Times
He focused on “really getting her to reflect on her life as she knew it,” he said. “I got her to recognize that the stairs in her house were pretty steep, that the weather had more of an impact on her ability to get out and do things, that she wasn’t pursuing all her hobbies as much anymore because people weren’t driving at night. It ended up being very easy.”
It’s best to start the retirement-home conversation with broad, open-ended questions, said Brad Breeding, founder of myLifeSite.net, a website that helps consumers research retirement communities. “What does peace of mind mean to you in this stage of your life?” he suggested. “What kinds of concerns do you have for your future?”
Let’s say a senior’s No. 1 goal is staying in her home. “O.K., in the next conversation I’ll start to talk about ‘What would we do if you had a fall in your home?’ Or ‘What would happen if you had a stroke?’” Mr. Breeding said.
One way to make retirement communities more attractive is to frame the move as a gift to their children. “It’s really removing the responsibility of caring for the parents, of not having to make frantic, last-minute arrangements if something changes in their health,” said Lesley Sargent, a residency counselor at the Sagewood retirement community in Phoenix.
Part of the problem is that many people hear “retirement community” and think “nursing home.” Today’s typical continuing care retirement community, or C.C.R.C., is a far cry from the sterile nursing-home environment of previous generations. While the communities usually have some hospital-like rooms for people who need more advanced care, most of their residences look and feel like ordinary apartments.
The best way around that objection is to let someone see firsthand. “You can always go for a meal just to experience what it’s like,” said Lindsay Hutter, chief strategy and marketing officer at Goodwin House, a senior living and care organization in Virginia.
The ideal approach: Create a social occasion where the senior you’re trying to convince can dine with friends, or friends of friends. With seniors, Ms. Hutter said, “our observation is that peers have a much greater influence than their children do.”
Some retirement communities let potential residents spend a few nights to see how they like it. Others offer rental programs that let seniors stay longer. Like a lot of C.C.R.C.s, Goodwin House will let nonresidents join a waiting list — known as its “priority club” — that allows them to use its restaurants and participate in activities. If they decide the community is not for them, the $1,000 waiting list fee is refundable.
A new federal law is designed to address the growing problem of elder abuse. The law supports efforts to better understand, prevent, and combat both financial and physical elder abuse.
The prevalence of elder abuse is hard to calculate because it is underreported, but according to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or older have experienced some form of elder abuse. In 2011, a MetLife study estimated that older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse.
The bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act of 2017 authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take steps to combat elder abuse. Under the new law, the federal government must do the following:
Create an elder justice coordinator position in federal judicial districts, at the DOJ, and at the Federal Trade Commission
Implement comprehensive training on elder abuse for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents
Operate a resource group to assist prosecutors in pursuing elder abuse cases
The law requires the DOJ to collect data on elder abuse and investigations as well as provide training and support to states to fight elder abuse. The law specifically targets email fraud by expanding the definition of telemarketing fraud to include email fraud. Prohibited actions include email solicitations for investment for financial profit, participation in a business opportunity, or commitment to a loan.
The law also addresses flaws in the guardianship system that have led to elder abuse. The law enables the government to provide demonstration grants to states’ highest courts to assess adult guardianship and conservatorship proceedings and implement changes.
“Exploiting and defrauding seniors is cowardly, and these crimes should be addressed as the reprehensible acts they are,” said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a co-sponsor of the legislation, adding that the legislation “sends a clear signal from Congress that combating elder abuse and exploitation should be top priority for law enforcement.”
Straddled across Ausberto Maldonado’s backyard in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, a suburb of San Juan, is a nagging reminder of Hurricane Maria’s destructive power.
“See, that tree broke off that branch, which is as thick as a tree — and now it’s in my yard,” says Maldonado, a 65-year-old retiree.
Rats scurry from under the downed tree, preventing Maldonado from hanging his laundry. To get the tree removed, he must show up in person at a local government office. But the diabetic ulcers on his feet make it painful to walk.
After a lifetime of work on the U.S. mainland picking corn and asparagus and processing chickens in poultry plants, Maldonado returned to Puerto Rico a decade ago to help care for his ailing mother, who has since died. Today the retiree finds himself living day-to-day on the island. He receives $280 a month in Social Security and $89 a month in food stamps — or about $3 a day for food.
Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and its economy, the daily indignities are piling up, especially for people who are frail or elderly. Many are finding their current economic straits nearly as threatening as the storm.
The emergency government support that helped pay for some health care and medically related transportation needs of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria is running out. Private donations of water and food have slowed. And it’s not clear who, if anyone, will carry on with that work.
Maldonado opens the cupboards in his tidy kitchen. There are a few cans of corned beef, SpaghettiOs and beans. When I ask him what he usually makes for himself, he sounds wistful.
“When I have enough food, when I do my groceries,” he says, “I have eggs and bread and coffee and juice for breakfast. I would make spaghettis or some sort of salad and maybe a little dessert.”
But, in truth, the oven is unplugged, there is no juice or eggs or lettuce. It has been months since Maldonado has had fresh vegetables in the house.
“When there’s very little, then I kind of go on a diet,” he says.
It was hard enough for the retiree to fill his cupboards before the storm, but now, as many aid groups are winding down their donations, Maldonado needs to find money to buy clean, bottled water and to replace his refrigerator, which was ruined during the hurricane.
To buy groceries, he must wait two weeks for his next Social Security check.
“I’m waiting until the 10th so I can go do my grocery shopping again — if I can find a way to get there,” Maldonado says. “That’s when I would have food again, enough to make three meals — lunch, breakfast and dinner.”
Maintaining a decent diet isn’t simply about staving off hunger; diabetes is consuming Maldonado’s foot, and unless he eats healthy food and takes his insulin, doctors have warned him, his foot will need to be amputated.
Maldonado opens the door to his broken refrigerator and points to a vial that holds a few drops of insulin — the last of his supplies until he can afford the $3 copay for his refills and find a ride to the pharmacy.
“The pharmacist said it could be stored in a dark place [without refrigeration] for a couple of weeks,” he says.
Ideally, insulin should be kept cool, but broken refrigerators and a lack of power in many homes in Puerto Rico pose grim hazards for the island’s expanding population of people with diabetes.
A visiting nurse, Leslie Robles, shows up for her monthly visit to Maldonado’s home. She examines the 3-inch gaping wound on his foot. They sit at the kitchen table under a painting of The Last Supper and sift through piles of paperwork for Maldonado’s upcoming cataract surgery.
Robles tells him that the free medical transportation service that the government made available to large numbers of people after the storm is expiring soon, and he’ll no longer qualify for free rides.
What Robles does not say is that the visiting nurse program she works for, operated by VarMed, a health care management company whose services had been paid for by the government, is shutting down too.
VarMed has been helping to coordinate medical care, social services and housing for thousands of Puerto Ricans for four years. But, already, in recent weeks, the company has laid off more than 100 nurses and social workers across the island as the local government seeks to overhaul its Medicaid contract with insurance companies.
It is unclear how much longer Robles will be able help Maldonado and other patients like him who are on Medicaid and have complex medical needs — the so-called “high cost, high need” patients on the island.
The government wants Medicaid-contracted insurers to develop their own programs for these patients, but the earliest that would happen is this fall.
In the meantime, Maldonado says he has no one to help him grocery shop, fill prescriptions and get to doctor’s appointments; the volunteers who helped him survive Hurricane Maria are returning to their own lives. In many ways, he, too, is returning to the same spartan life he had before the storm. But with a weakened island safety net that continues to unravel, and with his own health increasingly tenuous, Maldonado feels alone.
Sarah Varney is a senior national correspondent at Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom that is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Have bedsores reached epidemic proportions yet? To many it seems so — especially in elders that are in hospitals and nursing homes — and they do not have to be incapacitated or totally immobile to be at risk.
Whether or not you or an elder in your family has unfortunately become a victim of a bedsore, pressure ulcer, or decubitus ulcer keep this handy reference guide available. Download it to you computer, cell phone or bookmark it. Because bedsores can happen extremely fast and catch you off guard. They can progress rapidly, even within hours if proper care and medical attention are not given.
Anyone with an elder family member entering a hospital, nursing home or even a skilled nursing facility for a short term stay should read and help prevent these potential life treating wounds from happening to a loved one. They can occur at even the best hospitals with the best doctors. You may not expect malpractice, but it happens. You may not expect neglect but it happens. It happens to tens of thousands of innocent patients.
Lawsuits can yield millions of dollars to the victim and their family.
Understaffing, inadequate training, changes in shifts, or simply a scenario where your loved one in a nursing home may need care but that care is given to others with a more acute immediate need. It’s at these times that the elder is at extreme risk.
You can read more about risk factors, treatment, and lawsuits to be compensated for pain, suffering or loss of life here. Reference Guide>
Below are 19 Free Services that can come in handy. Via AgingCare.com
BY TONY ROVERE
Most seniors these days are living on limited incomes from sources that may include Social Security, a small pension or maybe some other form of government assistance. With few resources at their disposal, finding services for free or discounted prices is vital.
There are likely many of these types of services available through your local Office for the Aging (the name of this government agency may be different in your local area, i.e. Division of Senior Services) or local charities such as Lions Club or Meals-on-Wheels, or on the Internet through sites like ElderCare.gov.
However, in my opinion, the most rewarding of these freebies for seniors and their caregivers – things like free hearing aids and free dentures – will be more difficult to come by. From my experiences as a caregiver, I have compiled a list of these types of services and provided a roadmap and examples for how to find them.
Free or Discounted Services for Seniors and Their Caregivers
Benefits Counseling How many times have you, either as a senior or as a caregiver, wrestled with trying to figure out what type of help was available to you? There is free counseling available through your local Office for the Aging that can provide this type of assistance and point you in the right direction to receiving the help you need.
You can get answers regarding health insurance, food stamps and other services through these counselors.
Adult Day Care Adult day care centers can be run by a government entity, or through a local charity or house of worship. The purpose of these senior centers is to provide a safe place to socialize and have a hot meal in a protected setting. These adult day care centers are ideal for seniors who cannot remain alone, but are not in need of the care that a nursing home provides.
If you go through your local Office for the Aging, they will probably be able to direct you to such a day care center, let you know if there is a charge for the facility and what the eligibility requirements are.
As for the fees associated with these facilities, if the facility does in fact charge a fee they are normally quite nominal and are just there to help the center cover its own costs for meals and operating costs like utilities.
As for the eligibility requirements, that will depend upon the capabilities of the staff at each individual facility. As an example, some adult day care centers will only accept those who are continent because they will not have the supplies to change adult diapers. Other facilities may require a certain amount of mobility for those attending (i.e. they are able to get out of a wheelchair on their own or with minor assistance). It is really ‘hit or miss’ because each facility will have their own requirements.
When initially contacting the Office for the Aging or the local charity, give them as much information upfront regarding both the fees (if you are only looking for a free facility) and the physical condition of the applicant. This way they can act as a filter to point you in the right direction.
Dentists That Accept Medicaid Due to the problems of billing and getting paid by the government, there aren’t many dentists that accept Medicaid, but a few do. This means that a senior with no dental insurance may still be able to get the dental care needed…you just might have to travel to get it.
To find a dentist in your state that accepts Medicaid, contact your state Department of Health, but keep in mind that you may have to travel out of your way to get these services. For example, in my home state of New York, the state Department of Health website lists about 40 dentists that accept Medicaid. That’s not a great number for a state with a population of 19,500,000. On Long Island, where I live, there are only two.
Free Dentures As incredible as it may seem, it is possible for low-income seniors to receive a free set of dentures. In addition to calling your Office for the Aging to see if they know of a source, here are two additional places to look into:
Your State Dental Association: here you will be able to access free or low-cost dental programs. As an example, one of my customers contacted the Ohio Dental Association and was then directed to Dental Options (in Ohio). She discovered her mother was eligible and will soon be getting the help she needs. While these services will vary based on your location, the place to start is with your state dental association.
Dental Colleges: while not free, if there is a local dental college in your area you could get a substantial discount on dental care.
Elderly Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (EPIC) EPIC is the name of the State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program in New York. New York is one of the 23 states that have such a program (the other 27 canceled their programs after the Federal government instituted Medicare Part D). If you live in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, Vermont, Washington State or Wisconsin, you have access to another means of assistance to obtain your prescription medications.
Income requirements vary from state to state, so you will have to check with your state administrators to determine your level of eligibility, but this can be a great way for seniors to save on their prescription drug costs.
Low Cost Prescription Drugs Despite the advent of Medicare Part D, and certain state run assistance programs such as EPIC (outlined above), there are still many seniors that cannot afford their medications.
This is why most manufacturers of prescription drugs provide assistance for those who cannot afford their medications. A comprehensive list of these programs is provide by the Partnership for Prescription Assistance as well as the steps to follow to apply for assistance.
Another cost saving strategy is to make the switch to generic drugs. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “Generic drugs are important options that allow greater access to health care for all Americans. They are copies of brand-name drugs and are the same as those brand name drugs in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use.” Generic drugs cost about 50 to 80 percent less than their brand name equivalents, so it makes all the sense in the world to speak with your doctor about making the switch.
Family Caregiver Support Programs These programs are often offered through the government, or volunteer organizations. Either way, as a caregiver, you can be provided with respite care by volunteers, as well as counseling and Support Groups to ensure your physical and emotional wellbeing. These services are designed to supplement, not replace, the efforts of the family in caring for a loved one.
Free Cell Phones or Discounted Phone Service LifeLineis a federal government program for qualifying low-income consumers designed “to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services.”
LifeLine assistance provides one free or discounted phone (either landline or wireless cell phone) per household. To qualify, seniors will likely have to be on some form of government assistance, such as Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Visit LifelineSupport.org to see if you qualify and to find participating companies in your state.
I was able to get my mother a free cell phone within five days of her being approved for Medicaid, after providing a picture of my mother’s Medicaid award letter (yes, I know it is shocking for the government to move that quickly). The only drawback to the program is the type of phone that you are sent. My mother can use it but it has smaller buttons that can make it confusing. I would prefer for her to have a larger handset with larger buttons, but this is working for the moment.
Free Phone for Hearing Impaired A new service that is (at least temporarily) being funded by the FCC, called CaptionCall, provides free phones to those with medically recognized hearing loss.
The way that this phone works is simple. A screen on the phone instantly takes the words being spoken and puts them onto a screen on the phone so that hearing impaired individuals can read what is being said. You can learn more at CaptionCall.com/Caregiver (and click on Promotions) for more information.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) This used to be called Food Stamps, but is now known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). You can apply through your state Office for the Aging, or Elder Affairs Department.
Each state has slightly different requirements based upon income, but what I have found is that most states have a website (www.mybenefits.ny.gov in my home state of New York) where you can set up an online account and, based upon your age, zip code, income and residence status, you are then directed to all of the benefits that you are eligible for.
Once you are approved, the maximum monthly benefit depends upon the size of your family, from $200 all the way up to $1,500.
Other Free Food Services In addition to programs such as SNAP, there are many nutrition programs, offered either by local charities or local governments that can provide seniors with a nutritious meal (typically lunch) and the opportunity to socialize.
Check with your local Office for the Aging to see what programs are available in your area. In my county, there are 33 such nutrition sites that seniors can attend and, in some cases, transportation is provided.
There are also websites that have listings of local food banks where qualifying individuals can receive free food. The best food bank search engine is at Feedingamerica.org. Simply plug in your state and a listing of locations and the types of services offered at each food bank will pop up.
Free Hearing Aids Buying a new hearing aid can run into the thousands of dollars, so it’s no wonder that seniors are hard pressed to pay for these devices. But I have found that there are a few ways to obtain free hearing aids. Some will be new, and others may be used, but they will all be free.
First, try your local Lion’s Club. Most chapters either operate or know of a local hearing aid bank that can match needy seniors with recycled hearing aids.
Another approach is to seek out clinical trials of new hearing aids. Contact hearing aid manufacturers and see if you can volunteer for a trial. When the trial is over, you typically get to keep the hearing aid. I recently saw a commercial from one hearing aid manufacturer that was advertising for people to participate in trials, so they are open to this idea.
You will have to medically qualify for the trial and you may have to contact several manufacturers until you find one that works for you. You may also get put on a waiting list. Regardless, this can be a powerful way for very low income seniors to receive a free hearing aid.
Free Legal Help When my mother had her heart attack and I started the Medicaid application process, I quickly realized that there would not be any money to pay our mounting bills. So I called my local Office for the Aging and they put me in touch with a local law school that operated a Senior Law Center for low income seniors like Mom.
They wrote a letter to the creditors on my behalf asking for the debts to be forgiven. With this letter I attached a letter from the nursing home detailing Mom’s prognosis. That was 14 months ago, and I haven’t heard from the creditors since, so I guess that ‘no news is good news.’ I did receive one confirmation letter, from Wal-Mart, that the debts were forgiven. The others have not contacted me yet, so I am hopeful that they’ve written the debts off as bad debt.
These types of law centers won’t represent you in a large scale, but they can be invaluable in drafting a simple will, certifying a POA or health care proxy, or drafting a letter to creditors.
If your Office for the Aging is unaware of a local resource for such help, another place to look would be the Lion’s Club. Many of the members of the Lion’s are attorneys and local business leaders who may be able to help you find a pro bono attorney to handle something like this.
Free Medical Alert System We have all seen the television commercial with the elderly woman in the bathroom saying, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” That’s what a medic alert system is for. It is a waterproof pendant that is worn around the neck or wrist, that works in conjunction with a wireless phone attachment. In an emergency, the wearer presses the button to be connected with the monitoring service and speaks into the pendant.
The actual system is totally free, even the shipping. The monitoring service does have to be paid for, but that is normally around $30 a month.
One thing I would advise you to consider when choosing a medic alert company. Make sure that the company you choose does NOT outsource its central station monitoring service. When your loved one hits that button, you want a trained, competent professional who can calmly contact emergency services and stay on the line with your parent until help arrives.
There are many medical alert products out there, such as, LifeStation and Rescue Alert, that offer this type of service.\
Free Walkers or Rollators A walker will run you around $40 (rollators are a little more expensive). That can be a lot of money for a cash-strapped senior. If you are looking for a discounted or free walker, try thrift stores such as Goodwill, which operates stores throughout the country and has very reasonable prices. Hospitals and nursing homes may periodically dispose of reliable, used equipment that may be ideal for you.
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) Through your local or state Office for the Aging, you can apply for assistance either in the form of weather upgrades to your residence – such as added insulation in the attic to improve the energy efficiency of your home (this is known as the Weatherization Assistance Program) – as well as direct cash assistance based upon your income level.
One not widely known fact about HEAP is that it is available to both homeowners and renters, making it more widely accessible for low-income seniors.
Ombudsman Services For caregivers of nursing home patients, the state ombudsman’s office is there to address issues with the care of their loved ones. You can think of the ombudsman as similar to a union rep. They will investigate complaints on your behalf to insure that nursing home residents are being treated fairly.
If you feel there is an issue of neglect or abuse of a nursing home resident, getting the contact information is easy. This information must be prominently displayed in the lobby of all nursing homes, along with the website and phone number to call for help.
Residential Repair Services Need some minor work done around the house, but can’t afford the labor? Many Offices of the Aging run a residential repair service where seniors can have minor work done to their home or rental at no labor cost.
NOTE: You will have to pay for supplies, but the labor is free from the volunteers.
Silver Alert Program Caregivers of seniors with dementia are often concerned about a loved one wandering or getting lost, especially if they are driving with dementia. There are many ways to combat this. One way is through a Silver Alert program, which is a public notification system in the United States to broadcast information about missing persons – especially seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, or other mental disabilities – in order to aid in their return.
Silver Alert and similar programs vary greatly by state. The way the Silver Alert program works in my local area is as follows:
The caregiver will preemptively enroll their loved one by contacting the local police department and filling out a form identifying the senior and giving a physical description, as well as any medical information you wish to disclose.
Your parent will then be issued a Silver Alert bracelet that will have a unique ID number and instructions for anyone who locates them to call a non-emergency police number. This way they can be safely returned home without compromising any personal information on the part of the senior or caregiver.