Good neighbors can make all the difference in the life of someone in need.
In greater and greater numbers, seniors are living alone and facing the daily danger of unintended chaos. We all must do our best to be aware of such seniors and to protect them. While this often requires great vigilance and commitment, it does not have to be done alone.
Doris, an 80-year-old woman, found herself helpless in a nursing home. She had been injured in a fall in her apartment and was rushed to the hospital. After two weeks, Doris was sent to a skilled nursing facility to undergo rehab. The care she received there was incredibly inconsistent and appalling. Within a few weeks of being in the nursing home, she “fell” and severely broke her leg. She was sent to another hospital. Doris swears she was pushed by an “impatient” aide. When the leg healed as much as it could, Doris was returned to the same nursing home where she had been mistreated.
Since her parents’ deaths 20 years ago, Doris had contact with only one person, Beth, her neighbor of 30 years. Beth called a dozen hospitals trying to find Doris and finally did. When Beth got to the nursing home, she saw immediately that Doris was neglected and needed help.
Beth turned to a friend for help, who in turn referred her to Eddy & Schein Group. After speaking with Gideon Schein, they visited Doris. Doris is a highly intelligent woman, full of energy and wit, although, as she said, being in this “dungeon” had taken its toll. We immediately sprang into action and brought in a geriatric care manager (GCM) and an elder law attorney. We found out that the nursing home, in an effort to recover one month of unpaid bills, had applied for Medicaid. They did so without verifying her assets or income.
Within days, the team (neighbor, attorney, GCM and Gideon) helped Doris identify two people to be agents under Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy and get the documents created and signed. Three days later we found out that the nursing home had filed for guardianship, claiming Doris was bipolar, violent, and unable to take care of herself. Over the next month, the four of us fought the guardianship and won. We followed the request of the court evaluator and cleaned out her apartment to make it safe and clean.
Doris was the only child of an immigrant couple who made a living selling whatever they could. Doris earned a PhD and was a high school teacher for 40 years. She had been living comfortably on Social Security and a good pension. Now that she needed 24-hour in-home care, we all assumed that she would need to be on Medicaid. However, we had a surprise.
Doris was a book hoarder with floor-to-ceiling books. In order to prepare the house, we needed to remove most of the books. From experience, we knew to go through every book and in the process found $16,000 in cash. More importantly, an old, yellowed receipt for a fully paid-up safe deposit box was uncovered. Gideon went to the bank, had the box opened, and, lo and behold, it contained $700,000 in United States Savings Bonds! Lesson learned: when it’s time to part ways with your books, leave no page unturned.
The nursing home caused physical harm, illegally put Doris on Medicaid, illegally diverted Doris’ Social Security to their account, and unreasonably started a guardianship proceeding. One neighbor made the effort to help Doris. Doris feels that her team saved her life. It was Beth’s vigilance that “saved” Doris. Everyone worked diligently towards the common goal of bringing Doris back home and helping her regain the quality of life she deserves.