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Off Topic…. Real World Issues.

Cutter Hall Karlock, LLC Jan. 29, 2015

It’s off topic, folks. I know it.

But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that lawyers are real people too. Dealing with many of the same difficult issues that everyone else is dealing with.

So how do we, as real people, deal with disabilities and end of life issues with our elderly and ailing parents, with a healthcare system that doesn’t seem to make sense?

One of us here at CHK has recently experienced a demented parent in the “protective” care of an Alzheimer’s facility who fell and broke a hip. This poor soul then quickly developed pneumonia in the hospital before hip replacement surgery could be performed. Many excruciating days passed in ICU, finally with surgical clearance, although little hope was given for his survival.

Our elderly family member did survive his hip replacement, truly a miracle. Only to then lose his ability to swallow food and water. Now he’s got a surgically implanted feeding tube. And is too weak for the aggressive physical therapy he needs in order to ever walk again.

A week ago he was discharged from ICU to an in-patient rehab hospital. But a few days later, and Medicare will no longer pay for his rehab hospital placement because he is too weak to make medical progress. The rehab hospital, which has been paid by Medicare, insists on discharging him immediately.

So he can’t go back to the hospital because he’s medically “stable.” He can’t stay at the rehab hospital because he is too weak to make progress in physical therapy. A private care facility for this bedridden family member won’t be covered by Medicare and will cost close to six figures per month, which will quickly bankrupt his spouse. Not to mention how miserable he is, and how rarely he is lucid. He doesn’t understand why he can’t drink, eat, walk, or go home.

All of us will eventually deal with elderly parents, and these medical and practical issues will haunt many of us. If you are young enough that you don’t yet have to worry about such things, enjoy and bide your time. Talk to your family about your own end of life wishes. Consider insurance options to protect your family if you should need extended assisted living for yourself some day. Draft a living will. Draft a medical power of attorney.

Solutions for Medicare deficiencies? I haven’t a clue. Heartbreaking? Absolutely. I don’t have answers, only the hope that opening up the dialogue will help to engage our readers and their families in a valuable, timely discussion that might be helpful down the road.

Hug your loved ones, all.