Here’s a tale from the retirement belt that I hope is a wake-up call for the 55% of us who do not have a will.
It’s about medical advocates and why they have to be a part of our retirement planning…
Jim was a retired Navy captain (that’s a full-bird colonel in the other services). He lived in a great neighborhood in our town and had full-time, live-in help that allowed him to stay in his home despite the limiting effects of his Alzheimer’s.
I didn’t know him personally, but it was obvious he had done quite well.
His medical and mental state had deteriorated to the point that, for his own safety, he had to be relocated to an Alzheimer’s assisted-living facility.
It was there that he fell and broke his hip.
That’s when his situation went from less than desirable to a horror story—all because there was no one to advocate for him about the medical decisions that had to be made.
His only living relative, his daughter, lived on the West Coast, and, as most of us would have done in her situation, she went along with the doctor’s recommendation for a hip replacement to, as the doctor stated, reduce the pain from the fracture.
Of course, after the surgery, Jim was packed off to rehab. It was there that he fell two more times and refractured his hip.
At this point, Jim’s situation doesn’t seem that unusual—but his Alzheimer’s had developed to the point that he was noncommunicative. He couldn’t interact with or follow the directions of the physical therapy staff.
Anyone who has ever been in physical therapy knows how difficult it is, how much interaction is required with the staff… and how ridiculous Jim’s situation had become.
This leads us to the first question that a medical advocate would have asked: If he couldn’t interact with the physical therapy staff, why was he in rehab at all?
The next issue: Jim had been confined to a wheelchair for several years before he was transferred to the assisted-living facility. Was a hip replacement the best course of action?
The geriatric physician who told me this story (who also, at the request of Jim’s daughter, immediately transferred him back to the assisted-living facility), stated that Jim never should have left the facility after his first fall and that he should have had a simple pin put in his hip—not a full replacement. That’s it!
In fact, a hip replacement and physical therapy for a person in his condition never should’ve been a consideration.
Wheelchair-bound, noncommunicative, unnecessary hip surgery, and transferred to a rehab facility where he fell two more times and refractured his hip? Really?
Tragically, Jim passed away two days after being returned to his original facility…
All because there was no one there to speak for him. He had no one who was not emotionally involved and no one who had the background, expertise, and legal right to ask the right questions and say “no.”
According to the doctor I spoke with, this hastened his death.
The saddest part of this story is that this isn’t an isolated incident. My better half, who is a hospice nurse, tells me nightmares like this are quite common.
My hope is that this story convinces you that we all have to have a will that specifies a medical advocate.
Many of us have the attitude of “let my heirs figure it out after I’m gone,” and a full 55% of us do not have even a simple will. However, it’s the time before you go—when you can’t speak for yourself—that you have to consider.
I’ll let you be the judge of the people who ran up Jim’s medical bills on the surgery and two months in rehab. But no matter, to avoid being another Jim, get a will and specify a medical advocate today.
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