HealthSenior Citizen Topic

Elder Law News By Edward H. Adamsky

A major issue for many families is providing care for family members with disabilities. This may be a parent caring for an adult child with a disability or adult children caring for an elderly and frail parent. Most families willingly provide whatever assistance is needed by their loved ones. But our systems, and society in general, don’t usually value that care very well.

Every year AARP does a study of family caregivers and the pressure and demands put on them. The study seeks to put a dollar value on that family-provided care. The newest report is for calendar year 2017 and the estimate is that families provided 34 billion hours of care at a value of $470 billion.

Family caregivers provide care and advocacy for their loved ones. They also hire and supervise other care providers. They provide emotional and social support and often perform complex medical and nursing tasks such as wound care, injections, and handling of medical equipment. They receive little instruction or guidance on these tasks and although they may feel satisfaction in ensuring the job is done, they often feel highly strained and overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks necessary to care for a person with a disability or other medical issues.

A new report warns that a commonly prescribed muscle relaxant known as baclofen can harm patients with kidney problems. It can make them disoriented and appear to have dementia and this often results in hospitalization. It may look like the symptoms of a stroke even though it is not. The medicine effects only about 4% of people taking it, but the results of a bad reaction are horrible.

Baclofen is typically prescribed to people suffering muscle spasms and is sold under a number of different brand names, including Lioresal and Gablofen. As with many drugs, the kidneys filter it out of a person’s blood. If a patient already has kidney issues, they can suffer side-effects from this drug as the kidneys fail to properly clear it out of the patient’s system. [Any patient with pre-existing kidney issues may have problems with a number of drugs that leave the body through the kidneys, including Acetaminophen/Tylenol.]

Children of elders on Medicaid should remember that they will not be rewarded for helping out their parents and they might even be “punished.” Another case has come down (this time in New Jersey) where an adult child of an elder in a nursing home paid to maintain his mother’s home while she was on Medicaid benefits. This was good for the Medicaid program as it got to recoup some of its expenditures after the mother died by making a claim against the value of the house. This was not good for the child though, as the Medicaid office (supported by the court ruling) did not allow the child to be reimbursed for his expenses while his mother was alive. The system did not give the child any preferential treatment, so the child was in line after the Medicaid office as a claimant against the estate and so received no reimbursement for the money put out on behalf of his mother.