The Face of the Future?

Friday, April 26, 2013

When I was a young girl and people asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would respond, “The President of the United States.” I (mistakenly) thought I had what it takes to change the world…or maybe not.

A title so grand, a job so big, meant to me that I could feel ‘important’ and ‘in charge.’ I thought that, only by being in a position to change ‘everything,’ would I have the ability to make a difference.

As a much older person, my ‘world view’ has shrunk to my family, my friends, my work and my ‘play.’ At least, I think of those people every day and pray I do my best for them.

Those people include people and families who have ‘special needs,’ with my focus being to share information about how to do planning for the future. Since 1998, much of this has centered around the Planting The Seeds for a Successful Future Workshops sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Recently, as part of preparing this year’s Workshops, I have been giving thought to some ‘big picture’ changes likely to impact the families we serve.

For example, in a March 20, 2013 New York Times article called The Face of Future Health Care, the retiring chairman and chief executive of Kaiser, the non-profit insurance plan/health system, is quoted as saying, “We think the future of health care is going to be rationing or re-engineering.” Hmmm. Will this mean I will have less choice about my doctors, or will robots and other technology advances mean better health overall?

The SCAN Foundation, an independent, non-profit, public charity devoted to transforming health care for seniors in ways that encourage independence and preserve dignity, published Overview of Current Long-Term Financing Options. This included a projection that 70% of people over age 65 will need some form on ongoing assistance – often called long-term care (LTC) or long-term services and supports (LTSS) - for at least three years before they die. Considering the ‘bubble’ of boomers, and your perspective, this alone might signal a ‘crisis’or ‘tipping point.’ Hmmm. What will this mean for younger people who need lifelong assistance?

Like many of you, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what the upcoming changes in ‘health care’ and ‘health insurance’ might mean. More people may be eligible for Medicaid as a result of elevating the income eligibility threshold and by the reduced effect of personal financial resources for some categories of potentially eligible persons. Your ‘take’ on this expansion of federal benefits might range from fury at ‘ObamaCare’ to the emotion espoused in a bumper-sticker I saw recently that read ‘ObamaAbsolutelyDoesCare.’

And, in Ohio, many sometimes parallel, sometimes not, changes are afoot as well. With stated goals of providing a ‘single point of contact’ and ‘person-centered care,’ MyCareOhio is trying to better serve the ‘dual eligible’ population, meaning those covered by both Medicare and Medicaid. Hmmm. Will this ultimately restrict consumer choice or provide a ‘medical home’ that feels right?

When your family has a young child, a teenager, or an adult who faces special challenges, or when you yourself have certain ‘disabilities’ amongst all your abilities, you worry. Sometimes, it’s about urgent concerns such as medical treatments or school plans. Other times, maybe in the middle of the night, you worry about the time when you may not be able to run interference and provide additional resources and opportunities.

Parents/families do a lot – provide a loving home, pass along family values, act as first responders, coordinate medical and other care, advocate with schools and service providers, employ or otherwise assist with finding meaningful work, pay for a decent quality of life, purchase insurance for the years they won’t be able to be so involved, and serve in many other roles including possibly as head of the ‘transportation department’ and as ‘social director.’

Maybe it’s time to devote some energy to ‘the future,’ but in a way that moves you from worry and overload to taking a more tangible and organized approach.

There are several aspects to planning a ‘successful future’ for a loved one who may need services and supports over an extended period of time. We talk about planning as putting together ‘the people, the paper and the money’ to ensure a comfortable and dignified life for someone you love. This includes you, as you plan for two – or even three – generations in your family

We have known parents whose hope is that they outlive their child by at least one day. But, just as I am not likely to be President of the United States, that ‘plan’ may not work out. For those of you for whom it is important to get these concerns under control as best you can for now, I encourage you to get started now. If the Planting The Seeds Workshops sound like they might work for you, contact the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities to enroll. If not, I urge you to find your own path and (borrowing from Nike) Just Do It.

- Posted by Paralegal Carol Culley

Amanda Buzo, Esq. and Carol Culley, Paralegal, of Hickman & Lowder Co., L.P.A., both present at the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities Planting The Seeds for a Successful Future Workshops.

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