Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesdays with Elders - The Privacy Act

The Privacy Act of 1974 is a good thing. It prevents people from obtaining our personal information like Social Security earnings or our medical records without our permission. It proves to be a brick wall when trying to help Elders who can't or won't give permission.

Try calling the telephone company to dispute calls made to Jamaica, if your Elder hasn't given you permission to speak on their behalf. What do you do?

Convince your Elder to add your name or someone they trust to doctor's office, medical insurance, utilities, and especially bank accounts.

Since I was always with my parents at doctor visits, their doctor invited me into the exam room with them. Since my parents never objected, I became the de facto medical contact. I was able to make and cancel appointments, and to ask questions about medications, or medical conditions. Being the medical liaison also made it easy when emergency room staff or other doctors asked questions about my parents medical histories. I knew the ailments, medications, and dosages. Kept the medication list with me.

One area that is especially critical is to have your Elder add your name or another they trust to their bank account as a joint holder.

One fine, sunny Spring day, I drove my parents to their respective banks to have them add me as a joint account holder. Years ago,Dad had a secretary named Janet whom he liked because she ran the office efficiently. All the nitty gritty, mundane details were taken care of. I became the new Janet, paid the bills on time and Dad was free to pursue his activities at the Senior Center.

Initially, Ma thought adding my name to her account was a good thing. She happily signed the forms at the bank. Beamed when the Customer Service Rep told her she was doing a smart thing. My name on Ma's account lasted a month and then backfired in my face.

I had requested with both their banks to receive an ATM card. Since I didn't live close by to my parents, I could make purchases on their behalf without planning an expedition with them or have to drive to the house to pick up a check. One afternoon after running errands, Ma said she needed a prescription picked up. No worries, I told her I'd pick them up on the way home and would have Himself drop them off on his way to work. She worried how she was going to pay Himself.

I told her I had the bank card. It was just like writing a check. Big mistake being honest with her. Ma had a meltdown accused me of trying to steal her money. She wasn't dead yet, and I wasn't going to get a dime. The dementia bees were buzzing so loud, she wouldn't believe she had signed papers at the bank. The next day, Ma took a taxi to the bank and had my name removed from the account. She wasn't going to tell me she did this. As the taxi pulled out of the driveway, Dad called to tell me I became Child Non Gratis.

Having your name added as a joint account holder becomes especially important when dealing with Medicaid.

Next week: Missing Signs.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s not really ‘them’ doing these things. Sending you big warm long distance {{{hugs}}}} (because sometimes life just sucks.)