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What to Do When You Have No One to Help

                I have written often about the need for everyone to have a support system in place in the event of a crisis.  Think about whom you would turn to if you needed help.  For most people it would be family, a spouse, child, grandchild, sibling, niece or nephew.   But, what if you have no one?  What would happen in that case?  What kind of crisis am I talking about and what might it look like?

                Usually the issues come to a head because of a medical crisis.  Let’s look at Jane Doe, who is admitted to the hospital because of an acute medical condition or injury.  If Jane is 70 years of age or older she very well could have a mental impairment.  It could be a direct result of an illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  It could be a result of trauma from a fall or a side effect of the combination of medications she is taking or has stopped taking.  It could be that Jane is mentally competent but a physical ailment prevents her from attending to her needs.

                Whatever the reason, Jane is now in the hospital and needs care.  As anyone who has ever been admitted to a hospital knows, doctors, nurses, social workers and staff are constantly in and out of your room.  Decisions need to be made every day regarding tests, treatment and aftercare.  There is a steady stream of paperwork that must be reviewed and signed.  It is so important to have a family member who can oversee the care, talk to the doctors and staff and ask questions.

                In most cases it is impossible to think that Jane will be able to manage her own care and make important decisions all from her hospital bed.  Even if she is conscious, she won’t be at her best mentally to focus on the information she needs to process because she is in pain or under the influence of medications that have been prescribed or just weak from the ailment that caused her admission to the hospital.

                It takes all of Jane’s energy to focus on her recovery.  She needs someone to help her answer the important questions that will be presented to her in a complicated medical system.  Along with that comes the financial part of the equation.  Advanced care is expensive.  How will she pay for it?  Is she able to provide the necessary Medicare and insurance information so that the hospital or subacute care facility  can be paid?  Does she have the funds to pay the out of pocket costs?  Are those funds liquid?

                So again I pose the question – who can Jane turn to if she doesn’t have any family to help?  Next week I’ll attempt to answer that question.