HELP LINE: Catch up on this and that this week

OK, I GUESS it’s time to clean up my act (don’t say it) by cleaning out my miscellaneous file.

Remember, miscellaneous does not mean unimportant. It just means a potpourri, if you will, of this and that.

So, let’s begin with a this:

Not long ago, I shared a remarkable column on ways to deal with, and try to understand, symptoms of Alzheimer’s or any other kind of dementia.

A very sharp reader was kind enough to share an important website, specifically

What you’ll find there is information on creating an advance directive on behalf of folks who are headed down that road — a Washington state original.

If you live in that world, you will come to understand how critically important such a document could be.

If you live in that world, I hope you’ll take the time that you probably don’t have to go have a look. It will be worth the doing.

Here’s a that: A while back, I did a column on the newly created Long-Term Care Trust Act, another Washington state original.

I’m not going to reprise the whole thing again here because that would constitute a foray into the Department of Redundancy Department.

Suffice it to say, I made an error. I know, it took my breath away, too.

But, it’s true.

In that column, I expressed the opinion that spouses would probably not be allowed to be paid caregivers because that is the reality I know in the Medicaid world.

This was wrong. Spouses will be allowed as paid caregivers. Yay. Hope springs.

And here’s a this for multiple emailers who have inquired about eligibility for hospice services: The main criteria is a diagnosis of a condition that is expected to result in a life expectance of six months or less as certified by a doctor.

The question posed has been, “What if I (he, she) don’t die …?”

Let me assure you, you will not be required to die.

In fact, it is not unusual, in the hospice world, for folks to rally as a result of the good care they receive, get a bit better and go off hospice.

We like that.

If things go downhill, you can always go back on hospice.

Note: The biggest mistake we tend to make in these situations is that we wait too long to begin hospice services.

And don’t worry: Hospice services do not invite, or hasten, death. They celebrate life.

The rest of these are about the Bad Guys, so feel free to roll your eyes and shake your heads:

• I hope you’ve heard of the Medicare Genetic Testing scam that’s all the rage.

These are often set up in public places and go like this: The evil-doer offers free cheek swabs for DNA or genetic testing to Medicare beneficiaries.

They ask beneficiaries to provide their Medicare number, as well as other identifying information, before providing said free kits.

In some instances, the scammer submits a fraudulent claim to Medicare for reimbursement, but not always. Either way, the Bad Guy has enough of your information to do some serious harm.

The fact is that Medicare can cover genetic testing, but only when the beneficiary has an order from a doctor and the test is medically necessary.

• A variation on this theme can be found in the Free Cancer Test Kit scam.

In this one, the beneficiary gets a cold-call saying that she or he is eligible — through Medicare — for a free cancer screening test and that a swab would be mailed to him or her.

All she or he need do is provide the requisite personal information plus a Medicare number.

Voila. No test kit, much harm.

It’s the same drill as above: Yes, Medicare may well cover cancer screening, assuming that a doctor says so and it’s medically necessary. Otherwise, forget it.

• Speaking of cold-calls, my phone rang yesterday and, in what can only be described as an epic lack of judgment, I answered it.

A metallic-sounding voice informed me that my Social Security number had been compromised, and that I could “… call the investigating officer at 220 …” at which point I terminated the call by loudly recommending an anatomically impossible act.

I realize that my less-than-sophisticated epithet had no effect on the recording, but it sure as heck made me feel better.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing

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