While Help Me Help Momma is all about you and your struggle to discover what is best for your spouse or parent, it is only natural for you to want to know something about us as the originators of this community. We have walked in your shoes while caring for our mothers, and we want to share our stories.
Also please note that although this community is not law-related, we are elder law attorneys. Elder law is part of our background and experience, and we may refer to our professional lives across this site and in our available resources.
We are Douglas R. Jones (Doug) and Cynthia Orlicek Jones (Cindy), Arkansas attorneys with more than 25 years experience. Our practice focuses on elder law and estate planning. Most people know about estate planning, but few people do anything about it until it’s too late.
When a person loses capacity to reason and understand, they also lose the capacity to execute estate planning documents. If you have not done your estate planning, call your local estate planning or elder law attorney today and get it done.
Elder law is not as well-known as many other branches of practice, but is just as important. This area of the law generally focuses on issues encountered by seniors and the family members who help with a senior loved one’s care.
Obviously estate planning is an important part of this equation, but is not the only part. Additional concerns include determining the best care for any given stage of life, planning for that care, and knowing how to pay for it. This guide will help you get started.
We have met and counseled with hundreds of families about estate planning and elder law. Every day we counsel families who are looking for the solutions that will best help their parents right now.
Some are searching for the best type of care for their parent or their spouse. Some are looking for a way to pay for that care (i.e. Medicare? Medicaid? VA benefits? Long-term care insurance? Private pay?). Some seek ways to protect assets from the “spend down” that is often required before one can qualify for Medicaid assistance and coverage toward long-term care expenses in a skilled care nursing home.
Base on our consultations with hundreds of clients, and through personal experience, we see the need for an online community that helps those struggling with the same issues. The legal issues are vitally important, but they are a small part of the picture.
Families need education, community support and encouragement if they are going to successfully navigate the elder care journey with a declining spouse or parent. That is the reason behind and purpose of Help Me Help Momma.
NOTE: This guide is not intended to serve as legal advice. Laws vary greatly from state to state, personal situations vary from person to person, and no two cases are the same. Please contact your estate planning or elder law attorney for advice and direction as to the best course of action for you and your family.
Cindy’s Personal Journey
Cindy’s caregiver journey started around 2012 when her Mother moved to our town from her home in a remote part of Arkansas. Here is her story:
Step #1: Cindy’s mom Tillie moved into a house next door to our office. It was downtown with easy access to the grocery store. She lived there a year.
Step #2: Tillie moved into our home, living with our family for just over a year.
Step #3: Wanting a little more independence, Tillie moved into a house about a half-mile from our office. At first, Cindy just stopped by to check on her mom on the way to and from work. Tillie was a widow but was able to function with just a little help and encouragement.
Step #4: Tillie had a mild heart attack in 2013, which lead to the beginning of a slow decline. At first, she could still move around but needed help with cooking, cleaning and medications. Cindy’s time at her mom’s home increased to about an hour in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch and another hour after work.
Step #5: Tillie’s mobility declined to the point where she needed assistance in showering, toileting and walking. She started using a walker, even in the house. Cindy’s time there increased to about a hour in the morning, an hour at lunch and another hour after work. She also spent Sunday nights there.
Step #6: Tillie continued to decline. She needed assistance with getting in and out of bed. Her food had to be pureed, and someone had to be with her to make sure she ate. At this point, we hired a caregiver to help during the day. Cindy spent about an hour in the morning, an hour at lunch and another hour after work, as well as Saturday and Sunday nights.
Step #7: Tillie required total care. In her last months, she needed two people to help with toileting, getting in and out of bed, food preparation and eating. At this point, 24-hour caregivers were required. In addition, Cindy’s time increased to about two hours in the morning, two at lunch and another two after work, along with most weekends. Tillie received great care and was able to stay at home until her death in June of 2015.
Doug’s Personal Journey
Doug’s caregiver journey started in 2004 when his mother’s physician suggested that she have a heart valve replaced. At age 85, Loraine Jones was reluctant about the surgery. She finally agreed because her doctor said she was at risk for a stroke without it. Loraine was not afraid of dying, but she did not want to suffer a stroke, which can be highly debilitating.
Loraine had the surgery and was in recovery for more than a week. After going home to heal, the thing she feared the most happened – she had a massive stroke.
The brain scan revealed that a portion of her brain had been affected and extensive damage occurred. When we asked the doctors if she would recover, the response was “some do and some don’t.” Since it appeared that Loraine made little progress while in the hospital, we agreed to the insertion of a peg-tube to provide nutrition and give her a chance to recover. But this marked the beginning of the very long, two-year journey that ultimately led to her death.
Step #1: Mom was admitted to a rehab hospital in hopes that she could regain some bodily function lost due to the stroke. Patients in a rehab hospital undergo a strenuous program, and after a few weeks, we realized that the effects of the stroke were too great for this facility’s program.
Step #2: Loraine was transferred to a nursing home with a rehab unit. There she received part-time rehabilitative therapy. Some weeks she seemed to make some progress, and some weeks she didn’t.
Step #3: Loraine ultimately moved to a private-pay bed in a local nursing home for several months. Again, some weeks she appeared to make a little progress and some weeks she was the same.
Step #4: During her last several months, Loraine declined to the point where she was sent to the hospital on two or three occasions. They would “patch her up” and send her back to the nursing home.
Step #5: Loraine was transferred to an in-patient hospice unit where she resided for several weeks prior to her death. Doug was against this at first, thinking that by agreeing to it he was “putting the last nail in her coffin.” In retrospect, we should have done this much earlier. As a result of hospice care, Loraine’s quality of care noticeably improved and the focus went from trying to “save her” to just making sure she was comfortable. She received good care and was comfortable until her death in early 2006.
This was and is our journey.
Your journey is different and is filled with as many or more challenges than ours. But we know that sharing those challenges is important. That’s why the Help Me Help Momma community exists: to be a place that uplifts and benefits those of us on this path.
So welcome! Feel free to subscribe to the free monthly e-newsletter, read and comment on the blog posts, and take full advantage of everything offered here.
Doug and Cindy