The First 48 Hours: Handling Health Crises
For seniors, unexpected health events such as a serious fall or stroke can plunge an unprepared family into turmoil: handling those health events was the topic of Wesbury’s recent presentation “The First 48 Hours: Handling Health Crises.” The hour-long discussion, led by local elder law attorney Tye J. Cressman, covered how to respond to health care emergencies and managing the difficult transitions that they sometimes require.
Families are often inclined to immediately focus on financial issues created by a health crisis, but Attorney Cressman cautioned that the family’s first questions need to be about a loved one’s health:
- What is the diagnosis for the health care emergency?
- What is the prognosis for recovery?
- What is the care plan for recovery?
- What care settings and services are contemplated?
- What public benefits can assist the family in paying for care?
For immediate hospitalizations due to emergency and follow-up rehabilitation services, Medicare can assist in covering various health care costs. “The coverage provided by Medicare can give the family time to contemplate longer-term options, costs and Medicaid and Veterans’ benefits,” explained Attorney Cressman.
He cautioned that Medicare does not always cover skilled nursing services, so families should have at least some awareness of the other public benefits available to pay for different care services.
For example, Veterans’ pension benefits may be available to assist in paying for personal care or assisted living services. Home-based caregivers and skilled nursing/rehab services can be covered by Medicaid services, which are more expansive in their coverage. “While elder law attorneys can assist in achieving asset eligibility for Veterans’ benefits and Medicaid services, the family’s initial focus needs to be on what health care the loved one needs now, and what health care may be required later,” stated Attorney Cressman.
“Seniors and families can put themselves in the best situation by having important documents, such as powers of attorney and advanced directives, prepared in advance of such a health event,” he said. “Also, education on the nature of the Medicaid program can greatly reduce stress for the family when such events do occur.”