Jackson, 90, wanted a consultation due to confusion about some bills he was supposed to pay for his wife Myra’s care. I met him and saw the bills for many thousands of dollars. Alarms sounded in my head immediately. He was being charged outrageous sums from a “care management” company that indicated it had been “overseeing” his wife’s care after a hip fracture. Here at AgingParents.com , we see a lot, but this was a new one! Ripoffs from care managers? What’s next? Myra had recovered after a fracture and had been cared for at home by a care agency supplying workers 24/7. She also had a Medicare-paid health care agency with an RN case manager and physical therapist on top of that. It was immediately questionable why a care management company involving six people also got involved. Myra was alert and able to get into a wheelchair with help. This was not intensive care. The charge of $850 just for “management” every single day for an extended period looked completely unjustified. They were charging $200 an hour just to drive to her home at a cost of $400 per visit for nothing more than drive time. Jackson is in fragile health himself. He felt helpless in the face of pressure to pay the bill. He is used to running things, but it is much harder now to assert himself. He is quite worried about 86 year old Myra, now dependent on caregiving 24/7. He is wealthy but paying out of pocket the extremely high prices from two different agencies along with another agency helping is deeply distressing.
He knows that he was pushed into engaging this “care management” company to oversee things that two other agencies providing help were already providing. He didn’t know how to stop them once he understood what they were doing. He had gotten rude enough to get them to quit but they then pressured him for thousand of dollars of unpaid bills.
What I saw as Jackson sat in my office was a stressed-out elder, hard of
hearing, struggling, anxious and sad, his own health at risk, feeling financially abused and in dire need of direction. My job as a consultant is to help folks straighten out the messes they find themselves in and this was definitely a mess. Did he have family?
Fortunately, Jackson has a son in the same state, willing to help. I called and he readily stepped in. His job is going to be a big one.
I saw that Jackson’s son waited far too long to get involved in helping and watching over his parents. This is not uncommon. The patriarch, always in
charge, is usually reluctant to ask for or accept help. But at age 90, isn’t it
starting to be obvious to the family that Dad may not be fully capable any
longer? Jackson was willing to accept help but someone had to suggest it to
him. His son became the agent on his parents’ Durable Power of Attorney and that gave him the authority to fix the many problems he sees with his parents.
That point where change of authority is needed is where families of elders
are hesitating too long. Jackson’s son will take on the “management” people
and put a stop to the pressure on his dad.
No one wants to face the unpleasant reality that a parent is not able to be in charge anymore. It is a reminder of their decline and their mortality. But when families are not paying attention to the signs of an aging parent losing ability, serious trouble for the parent can easily follow. In this case I counted at least six people taking blatant financial advantage of Jackson’s vulnerability and that of his wife. His son now has the legal power to stop predators from any further evil. I expect that many families need this transfer of authority when a parent is in declining health. Families need not wait for a crisis. Abuse can sometimes be prevented.
- If your aging loved ones are age 80 and up, stay in more
frequent contact than before. Ask questions. A weekly call can
tell you a lot. Jackson’s son wasn’t doing that.
- Recognize that Mom and Dad will probably need help at some
point as most people over age 80 do. It may be handling finances,
managing medical care, or just overseeing running a household.
- If you sense trouble, visit in person. Take the time to do this as
it is a preventive strategy that can stop any problem from
- Ask your aging parents who is the agent on their Durable
Power of Attorney document. (This assumes they did estate
planning and that they have a DPOA.) Often the parents appointed
each other in a younger day. If they are both age-impaired at once,
that isn’t going to work. Adult children can be appointed and step
At AgingParents.com we offer advice, guidance on how to approach aging parents and how to get past stubborn refusal to accept help. Relieve your stress in dealing with them by contacting us!
By Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, AgingParents.com