Yesterday, I had the privilege of consulting with an attorney and his clients, who are dealing with the death of their elderly father and the need to place their mother in a dementia facility.
I just want to reiterate here how precious each and every true caregiver is. If you are caring for a parent, a spouse, a child, a relative or a friend, you are an unsung hero. You are likely losing time from work, money from Social Security, work, or retirement benefits. You are probably tired, angry, frustrated, exhausted, confused, and sad at least some bit of every day. I saw this in these clients. And I recognized it in myself from days gone by.
You are also filled with joy, comfort, love, and solace that you have the opportunity to provide so deeply for someone you love. Those emotions aren’t always on the surface. But you know they are there. Because these clients were now former caregivers for their Dad and current caregivers for their Mom they were experiencing all of this simultaneously.
All the hard work they were doing was right in front of us. Our conversation was complex and detailed. The wife had a file 5 inches thick with paperwork.
And yet… at some point….we were discussing very difficult decisions and how their Mom was ready to die as well. So I told them my constant conversation with my mother-in-law:
“Marie would say to me often, ‘Just bring the box, I’m ready,’ I related.
“And I would say to her, ‘Marie, I would, but the problem is, you can’t climb in the box, someone has to put you in, and with my bad back, I just can’t do that.’
Marie and I would chuckle and the conversation would change.
Which is just what happened here. One chuckle was enough for all of us to keep moving forward in our quest to help them and their elder with difficult decisions.
To all you caregivers, may today bring you a bit of laughter, a smile from someone or just a full heart, for you are certainly doing that for someone else. And for that, I thank you.
Yesterday, I went to the Social Security Office unannounced. It was a big risk. You could be there 20 minutes or three hours. You never know. There was only one couple in the waiting room and one lady at the window talking to a representative. Jackpot!
My number was called in less than five minutes. Clearly, the gods were on my side.
I was in the Social Security Office to check on the missing checks that were to be sent to the children of my brother-in-law. See, there ‘s a rule in Social Security. If a bank receives a check after a recipient has died, the bank must return that check to Social Security.
Now this might make sense to you. However, what you need to know is that Social Security pays in arrears.
What that means is that if you die in October, and you receive a check in October, you are being paid for September. So that’s still your check, alive or dead. You lived all of September. You get paid for September. Admittedly, if you don’t tell Social Security that you died ( well, okay if someone else doesn’t tell them that you died), and those checks continue to go into your bank account they should be returned to Social Security.
But here’s the rub. Almost every funeral home alerts Social Security that you’ve died and the whopping $255 death benefit will be sent to the beneficiary. It’s a nice favor that funeral homes do.
And yet, 99 times out of 100 that monthly check that the bank returned to Social Security does indeed belong to the deceased. And it would naturally flow to the estate of the deceased and dealt with accordingly. The bank can’t help it. The bank is required by law to send that check back as soon as they are notified that someone has died.
But because of this stupid rule, I had to go to the Social Security Office, get the proper form and submit the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of the children of the deceased.
And I did that….on March 27, 2016.
By August 27, 2016. five months later, the beneficiaries contacted me to tell me they had not received their checks. Which I was grateful for, since I have no way of knowing if Social Security did their job or not.
So I went to the Social Security Office after Labor Day and asked the representative if she thought it was weird that we hadn’t heard anything, hadn’t received the checks and seemed to have fallen into the black hole of lost paperwork. Of course, I had a copy of everything I submitted. She admitted that was weird.
So she looked up the case from my paperwork and said: “Oh, that case was cleared August 29th.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
She just shook her head and shrugged her shoulders and said, “well, I would just wait another week to see if those checks are delivered. And don’t lose these copies.”
Yeah. I made those copies for just such an occasion, not because Social Security told me that would be a stellar idea.
Five months to correct a thing that never should be happening. Why is this even a thing? Who made up this stupid rule, costing deceased families time and money, costing banks time and money, and especially since Social Security knows they pay in arrears.
Imagine waiting five months in your office for someone to read a paper and take action. The checks came, my beneficiaries were happy and we all just shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders.
Think of these blogs as instructional, so you don’t lose your mind and please……
As I continue down this unrelenting path of caregiving, even in death, I can’t help but see the irony in statements that come my way like, ” what are you doing now that your brother-in-law has died?”
I’ll tell you what I’m doing:
“Hello, Medicare? I’ve now sent you a request for permission to speak to me as Executrix of my brother-in-law’s estate with all the supporting documents. I’ve waited the requisite 50 days for you to process it. I’ve waited longer than that because the first instructions I received were to take those documents to my local Social Security Office, which resulted in absolutely nothing, and now I have finally received a letter saying you will talk to me. Yay.
Medicare Person: What can I help you with?
Me: I’m trying to find out when a claim I have submitted will be paid?
Medicare Person: Why did you submit the claim Ma’am?
Me: Because the provider refused to submit it. They provide drugs and drug paraphernalia to the nursing home where my brother-in-law was residing at the time. They insist that they can only bill for the drugs to Part D Medicare and they have no authority to submit for the other items like IV poles, IV flushes and anything needed to actually administer the drugs.
Medicare Person (the THIRD Medicare person, because the first two couldn’t find the other conversations I’ve had and insisted that no such conversations took place). Yes, I’ve found the conversations you’ve had on April 4th , 11th, and 22nd.
Me: The last person I spoke with who connected me with you said she couldn’t find those conversations.
Medicare Person: Well, you’re both right. She can’t see these conversations, she’s in a different department.
Me: So, she couldn’t transfer me to you without wasting 30 minutes of my time and me insisting I speak to this department?
Medicare Person: I apologize for that Ma’am.
Me being Silent,
Medicare Person: Well, Ma’am I can’t find your claim. it takes 50 days to process.
Me: I filed that claim 120 days ago, and when your Medicare person CALLED ME ON APRIL
22 while I was standing in the middle of Times Square, and I popped into the closest restaurant and ordered a $12 glass of wine while on hold with your person, she told me that she was looking at my claim, it was paid to the nursing home and they would have to pay the provider. Then she proceeded to send me the wrong Medicare notices so I could prove to the nursing home, they owed the provider and the Estate of my brother-in-law was not liable for this bill.
Medicare Person: I can’t find that claim Ma’am. And so the only thing I can do is request a review.
Medicare Person: I’m not allowed to request a review until 150 days has passed and it’s only been 120 since you filed the claim. A denial can take up to 150 days to process.
A missing claim is like a missing person. Maybe they went missing on their own. Maybe they are just at a friend’s house and forgot to tell you. Maybe they will use a credit card and then we can trace where they are and stop all this nonsense. But instead of waiting 48 hours, you have to wait 150 days. Imagine telling any person you’ve ever worked with that it will take 150 days to look at a piece of paper you sent them.
Medicare Person and I then went on to discuss the many fun and esoteric ways that Medicare can screw up a claim.
Medicare Person: I know this is complicated and confusing Ma’am.
Me: I understand perfectly, everything you’ve told me. It’s not complicated or confusing to me, it’s just crazy! (Yep, I really did say that).
Medicare Person: Well, I know it seems complex, but we train for WEEKS to process this, so it would be harder for you to understand.
WEEKS? WEEKS? I’ve been dealing with Medicare for 25 years. And in all your weeks of training, the best you guys have ever given me is ridiculous, arbitrary waiting periods to process claims, a myriad of departments who don’t speak to each other, wrong information that has cost me precious time, and heartburn without the doughnut, wine or deep-fried food I deserve to go with it.
So glad your weeks of training have made you an expert.
I didn’t say any of that, I just got out my corkscrew and toasted the Universe for the never-ending supply of blog posts!
So I volunteered to be on an advisory board for a Catholic elementary school. I know, I know, REALLY? You need to do more volunteer work? But my really good friend, the principal of the school asked, and whenever she asks me to do something I say yes and have regrets later. But THIS time, I figured it’s about little kids, no elders, no Medicare, no Social Security, no nursing homes. Yay….little kids.
The parish priest leads the first meeting, and after we open with a prayer (and boy do I need all the prayers I can get), he tells this quick story.
“So, I’m a power of attorney for one of our parishioners who is 90 years old.”
Oh MY GOD (i’m thinking) REALLY, SERIOUSLY, THIS CANNOT BE HOW THIS MEETING STARTS.
“AND,” says Father, ” he was rushed to the hospital a few days ago, so of course, the hospital called me right away. I went over there to make sure everything was fine, and they were going to keep him for a few days and then send him to rehab to one of two possible facilities.”
So I’m thinking: okay, he probably had some problem getting him in to the facility that he wanted. Or the elder parishioner had some unexpected medical condition. Nothing new here. And, by the way, I have not yet confessed to this group what my background is.
“The dear man is in the hospital for three days, and I’m waiting for a call because they have told me that he will likely be moved today or tomorrow. So I’m sort of hanging around, trying to stay close to home in case they call or need me for anything. Finally at 2:30 in the afternoon the nurse contacts me and says:
“Yes? I have been waiting for your call.”
” Well, I guess we should have called you sooner, like BEFORE we released your parishioner from the hospital.”
“REALEASED HIM???!!!! WHERE DID HE GO? He’s 90! He doesn’t drive and I’m the only one who transports him. WHERE IS HE?????
“Oh, he was transported by ambulance to a rehab center.”
“WHICH ONE…. where did you send him?????”
Poor 90 year-old guy, when he got there, he had no idea where he was, why he was there and what was going on. NOT BECAUSE HE HAS DEMENTIA…..he doesn’t……BECAUSE NO ONE TOLD HIM OR HIS CAREGIVERS.
Yup, true story (and I asked Father if I could put it in my blog and he gave me his blessing …and said yes, too)