When Mom Gets Sick

By Rick Law, Estate planning attorney and senior advocate of the estate planning center at Law Elder Law in Aurora, IL.

Jo Huey is the owner of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Institute and knows first hand the difficulties that families face when a loved one has Alzheimer’s.  Jo’s mother was 84 years old and had vascular dementia. She hated going to the hospital ER, which was the legal procedure required if she became ill in the assisted-living community where she lived.

When she went to the ER, Jo would hurry there from out of state.  Until Jo arrived, one of the relatives (sometimes Jo’s sister who also had medical POA) would accompany Jo’s mother at the ER.  They would have the “doctor/attending ER physician/medical residency student” call and talk to Jo because the family did not want her mother to have to endure the extensive diagnostic procedures that terrified her.

An angry physician in August 2006 told Jo that he was trained to “treat” people in the ER and if Jo wanted to decline treatment for her mother, then she should put her mother in hospice and stop bringing her to the ER. Jo called hospice and learned that her mother qualified for the service.

Her doctor was willing to sign for it and she was recertified again in six months. She happened to be doing quite well in August of 2007 when the recertification came up again. Although she still qualified, a physician’s signature was required for recertification. This time, the physician declined to recertify her because “she could live another 10 years.”

Jo called the physician, who was someone with whom Jo had grown up, and asked him why he wouldn’t recertify, and he gave her the same answer.  So, Jo asked him what to do about ER and extensive diagnostic procedures and he said something to the effect of, “You can just come here and stop those things or tell the facility not to send her to the ER.”  But Jo knew the legal procedure the facility was required to follow was to send her mother to the ER when she became ill.

When Jo told him her mother qualified for hospice, he angrily accused Jo of “using the system”.  Jo retorted, “Even if we were using the system, it is none of your business that I want her to have hospice.” When the doctor asked Jo how she was going to do that without his signature, Jo told him that she would immediately change doctors, “Without a signature you will be getting a fax to transfer records in the next 15 minutes.” He was furious and signed the hospice certification.

Just 19 days later, Jo’s mother died in her sleep following a massive stroke and four days of being comatose. She died in her own bed in the assisted-living community where she had been dancing and smiling less than a week prior.

After this harrowing experience, Jo stresses the importance consulting an attorney who can individualize situations to meet the specific needs and desires of the person with Alzheimer’s disease and the loved ones who are responsible for the decisions when the person can no longer make them alone.

If your loved one has memory problems and you’re afraid of the consequences that may bring, give our office a call today at 800-310-3100.  Your first consultation is absolutely free.  We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family.  Call now.


Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees.

Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future.  Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care.  Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!

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