HELP LINE: Readers ask, Harvey answers

I HAVE RECEIVED a lot of smart questions from a lot of you.

So, because other folks might benefit from the same exchanges, let’s share the wealth, acknowledging that some of you long-standing readers might have heard some of these issues explored in the past but hey, we need information when we need information.


Q. I’m preparing durable powers of attorney (DPOA) and have a question: Can I have one (adult) child do one part, e.g. finances, and another child handle another part, like health care?

A. Yes, and it’s not uncommon.

That said, I’d urge caution; what I’ve often seen is situations in which when the DPOAs go into effect, there can be … disagreement.

One kid sees it one way, one kid sees it another.

And even though they’ve been designated different areas of focus, it’s still our mother.

It can get messy.

A subset of the same scenario is one in which one child is the dominant personality, and soon takes over the whole ballgame or confuses providers (e.g. doctors) regarding who’s in charge.

I’ve also seen it work just fine.

You know your kids.

Think it through.

Q. In response to some recent articles we’ve read, we’re considering looking into long-term care insurance. Could you direct us to some resources?

A. The best place I know to begin is with the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner, so here’s a link:

For many of us, affordability is the real issue — the older you are when you purchase the policy, the more expensive they tend to be and (sometimes) premiums go up.

I also know a number of folks who have been able to afford it, have used it and have said, “… it saved our lives.”

Here are a few suggestions if you decide to get serious about this:

• Make sure that the policy you’re considering provides for long-term care in the home;

• What is the waiting period? Or, what waiting period are you willing/able to afford? Remember, whatever care you might need during the waiting period will be out-of-pocket;

• What triggers benefits? Is it a certain level of need/disability (“Activities of Daily Living”)? Is that level reasonable to you? Who (what party/entity) assesses the need?

• How long will benefits continue, or up to what dollar value?

Q. I’ve been seeing those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials, and because I live alone, it makes me think. Are they a good deal?

A. While I’m not a big fan of that particular marketing approach, I am a big fan of the actual tool.

They are called, generically, “personal emergency response systems,” and are available in a vast range of costs with a dizzying array of bells and whistles.

There’s everything from summoning assistance to medication reminders and more. If you doubt that, Google “personal emergency response systems” and watch what comes up.

Again, though, I’ve seen these things save lives — please take your time shopping and do your homework. There’s no point in paying for features you don’t want or need, or paying way more than you need to.

You can call any of the numbers at the end of this column for a list of local providers, in addition to those available nationally.

Q. I’ll be turning 65 soon, but am still working full-time and have employer-paid health insurance. Is there anything I have to do with Medicare?

A. Congratulations, on both counts.

You don’t have to do anything, but assuming that you have enough work credits, Medicare Part A (hospital) would be free so, why not? It would act as a “secondary” to your employer-paid insurance.

Enrolling in Medicare Part B, which we pay a dollar premium for, could be deferred until such time as you no longer have employer-paid insurance. If/when that time comes, don’t mess around because you’ll have a limited time to enroll without penalties and grief.

For now, scoop up Part A and get back to work.

Q. I’m being scheduled for surgery, and my doctor is arranging for something called home health. What is that? Do I need that? How much will it cost me?

A. Home health refers to agencies who can have RNs and therapists (e.g. physical therapists) come to you in your home to provide skilled medical care when it’s too difficult for a patient to get to an office. After a surgery, if it were me, I would vastly prefer to have the pros come to me than to have to figure out how to get to them.

Home health can only come in under a doctor’s order, and only for as long as it takes for you to be well enough to get to the office.

From what you told me, you’re on Medicare, which pays for physician-ordered home health services, so it shouldn’t cost you anything.

In my opinion, it’s one of the best deals going.


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 [email protected].

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