Q. My parents are getting to the point where they need help at home. What should I look for in a caregiver?

A. As of September 1, 2008, State Statute 245.80, “No person shall open, manage, conduct or maintain a home health agency without a license issued by the Department. (Section 3 of the Act). All professional care supervisory and staff personnel caring for patients or clients residing in Illinois shall be subject to any licensure, certification or registration that is required to perform the respective service in Illinois, and shall be so licensed, certified or registered. in-home caregivers must be licensed by the state of IL.

If you hire someone privately, check to see if they have their license. You will also be responsible for paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for this person, as well as reporting income for IRS purposes.

Q. I am confused. What is the difference between Assisted Living and Supportive Living?

A. Assisted Living is for those individuals who can contribute privately to cover their own costs of care.

Illinois developed the Supportive Living Program for low-income older persons and persons with disabilities under Medicaid. Each Medicaid-eligible resident must have income equal to or greater than the current SSI and must contribute all but each month to the provider for lodging, meals and services. The is to be kept by the resident as a personal allowance to use as the resident wishes.

Q. In home care is not going to be enough. My parents are going to need full-time care. What should I look for in a long term care community?

A. Visit several communities, either on your own, or with your parent(s).

  1. On your tour, see if the residents there look happy.
  2. Is the building clean and do you find any lingering, unpleasant odors?
  3. Find out about costs and what is included in the monthly rental fee meals, laundry, cleaning, etc.
  4. What is included in Assisted level of care?
  5. Are there charges, and what is the cost, for other services such as ‘queuing’ getting the person to  meals/activities? Get all cost estimates in writing.
  6. Are staff available 24-hours a day?
  7. Is there a buy in required and how much is it and how is this handled (invested, yearly dividends applied, etc.) and what part, if any, is refundable when the resident leaves?
  8. See if you can dine there a time or two.
  9. Does it fit the needs of the person(s) who will be living there?
  10. If your elderly relative can mostly care for himself or herself, is there availability to remain in place and receive more assisted, personal care as time goes on?
  11. How many total residents are there in the community, and how many staff are available on each shift?

Q. I have heard there is funding to help pay for Assisted Living care for Veterans and/or their Widows. I think my parent would qualify. How can we apply for this?

A. There is a program called Aid and Attendance to help pay for assisted living. We have several suggestions on who your family can contact to see if your parent qualifies.

Q. I am at a loss, I know Mom and Dad need help, but I do not know where to start. What are some phone numbers of places I can call to get information?

A. If your parent lives in the same area that you do, call the Area Agency on Aging Senior HelpLine. In Illinois, call 1-800-252-8966 or go to www.state.il.us/aging.

For other states, try www.eldercare.gov or www.n4a.org.

In Kane, Kendall and McHenry County, contact Senior Services Associates, Inc. at 1-800-942-1724, or www.seniorservicesassoc.org. In DuPage County, contact 1-800-942-9412 or go to www.dupageco.org/seniorsvcs Each of these agencies can help apply for benefits and let you know what services are available in your area.

Q. I know my parents may not be getting all the help they are eligible for, but I don’t know where to start. What are my resources?

A. Check out www.benefitscheckup.org. You put in basic (nothing distinctly personal) information about your parents and it will give you a list of benefits they may be eligible for.

Q. I think my parent is being abused by the caregiver/relative/friend who is providing caregiver services. Who can I contact about this?

A. You can contact the Elder Abuse hotline anonymously, by calling 1-866-800-1409. They will take the information and do a follow-up investigation. Elder abuse can be physical (roughly handling the senior, hitting, withholding medication or medical treatment, refusing to aid in personal care (toileting, feeding, etc.), financial (misuse of funds, stealing money and/or checks, etc.), emotional (calling names, using derogatory language, etc), and even sexual.

Q. I do not think my parent(s) have enough Social Security/pension/savings to help cover the cost of their care. Where can I go to apply for Public Aid for them?

A. Contact your local State Human Services office which is listed under state services, or call the senior service provider, who can also help you apply for the benefit.

Q. I think the medical provider my parent uses is charging excess fees for the services and even charging for services they never received. Who do I report this to?

A. You can call the Medicare/Medicaid Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477, or go online to www.oig.hhs.gov/hotline.html

Q. What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

A. Medicare is the federally funded insurance program for those age 65 and over, or those who are disabled, to help cover the cost of hospitalization and physician visits. Medicare limits the amount they will pay to nursing homes, and the patient must generally qualify by having been hospitalized first. Medicare will pay for some in-home services, but requirements are strict.

Medicaid is a program funded through federal, state and tax funds to cover medical care for low-income people and coverage varies from state to state.

Q. I am helping my parent(s) with their insurance claims/applying for supplemental insurance/Medicare coverage, etc. and I do not understand all of the paperwork they have. I need help. Where can I get some assistance in figuring all this out?

A. There is the Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) Counseling that can be reached at 1-800-548-9034. They have trained volunteers who can help.

Q. I am not sure that my parent(s) would know what to do if an emergency such as a tornado or flood or ice storm that knocks out power for days, happens. How can I best prepare them?

A. First of all, make sure your parent(s) would able to call for help. If they only have a cell phone (which may not be able to get a signal in an emergency), or portable phones (which lose power when the electricity goes out), they will have no way to call for help. Purchase a corded phone (does not use electrical power to operate), that connects directly into the wall phone jack (you may also need to get a double-jack connector to plug into the wall jack).

Make up a box with several bottles of water, some food items that are shelf stable, such as packets of tuna fish, crackers, granola bars, foods that do not require cooking (if you include canned goods, make sure that they have a hand-operated can opener they can use), etc. Check with the local Health Department for a list of items to include. This way, if they are isolated for a few days, they will be able to have food.

Q. My parent has dementia. I am not sure it is Alzheimer’s Disease, but I need someplace for him/her to live where I can believe they will be safe. What should I look for in a facility?

A. Not all dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. Some may just be ‘forgetful’ or have other problems that do not allow them to remain alone at home. As long as the person is not wandering or wanting to go off on walks by themselves, they can generally live in an assisted living community. If, however, the person often tries to leave home, a special Alzheimer’s community that has no access to the outdoors without a special key or card, should definitely be considered, for the person’s own safety.

Q. My parent has been diagnosed with a terminal condition. I think we need some help. Who can I call?

A. Contact Hospice, which provides care for people who are nearing the end of their lives, and is designed to relieve or decrease pain, or other symptoms, and provide quality time with family and friends. Their focus is not to cure or treat the disease, but to provide the highest quality of life for whatever time remains. Generally, Hospice is for those who have six months or less to live. Medicare, Medicaid and some private insurance help to cover the cost of Hospice care which can include professional services, medical equipment, medications. etc. There are both non-profit and for-profit Hospice agencies.