Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making a List... and Checking it Twice...

This week, I had to sign a paper at the Assisted Living Facility saying we do not want any more antibiotics to be given to my grandmother.  When I went to the administrator's office to sign the paper, I noticed that there was also an option (with a check box) for not taking the resident to the hospital Emergency Room for treatment.  That box was unchecked. I  asked, "Don't we need to check that box, too?"  The administrator asked, "You mean you don't want her taken to the ER?"  "No!" I replied adamantly.  "Hospice has assured me they will keep her comfortable in her apartment, and she does not want to go back to the hospital... for anything! 

The administrator nodded and said, "Then yes... you need to check the box."  Now honestly, I assumed this was already understood... and covered by the fact that my grandmother is under the care of Hospice. I was wrong!  So while I would have been able to refuse an ambulance (if I were called in time), one very might have been called if necessary.  For instance, the day my grandmother had the "coughing spell," the administrator said she almost strangled.  Had she lost consciousness, I am sure they would have called 911.  When she broke her hip last spring, the EMTs had already loaded her into the ambulance by the time my husband and I arrived... and we live five minutes from the ALF!

I am sharing this information to tell you that you cannot assume ANYTHING!  Ask questions... be sure you know what is documented... and that all agencies involved are coordinating efforts.

In a different vein, I've had some "fun" with other agencies recently that I'd like to share.  I had it on my list to call the insurance provider for my grandmother's Medicare Part D and verify that all of her medications are covered by this company.  Believe it or not, after having to change companies some seven times in six years (including one year when Medicare just arbitrarily changed us to a company that we did not select - and one that did not cover Mam-ma's medications), we have been with HealthSpring for 2 years now... and we will be with them again for the coming year.  The website showed that all medications were covered again.  But I like to hear it from the company to be sure.

So I called HealthSpring to verify this, and the rep told me that "I'm sorry, but I cannot discuss this with you, because I do not see your authorization."  I explained that I was my grandmother's Power of Attorney... I've been calling this company for three years now and talking about her case, and a copy of the Power of Attorney is on file with them.  She insisted it was not... I insisted it was, because I've always gotten this information.  The lady told me several times that she could not discuss anything with me.  I tried to explain that says that all of my grandmother's medications are still covered by their company.  I was merely trying to verify this with HealthSpring.  Finally, the rep said, "Did you say she has been our customer for two years?"  I told her yes, this was correct.  She continued... "Then all of her coverage will roll over to this next year."  "All of her medications will still be covered?"  "Yes, they will roll over."  I thanked her and said, "That's all I needed to know."

Now for the record, this is not necessarily always true.  Just because a company covered your meds last year doesn't mean they will this coming year.  This is why we moved from company to company so many times.  Some of the medications my grandmother took along the way were quite expensive, and companies loved to drop them from the formulary as quickly as possible.  So when I would get the formularies for the coming year, those expensive drugs would no longer be covered.  I still don't know what happened to the record of my Power of Attorney... but at this point, I have what I need, and I'm not going to pursue it any further.

Last week, I tried to pay my grandmother's pharmacy bill online, and I put in the wrong password on the account and got locked out. Usually, I call an 800# for the main bank (in another city), give them the info, and they unlock the account. This day, I got a girl with attitude who told me that she could see I was listed on the checking account, but the online account was in my grandmother's name (DUH) and only SHE could talk to her. I said, "Look, she's 100, she's on Hospice, she cannot talk, and she is dying. I'm trying to pay her bills." The girl got pretty curt, and I asked to speak to someone else and she said there was no one else to speak to. So I had to set up a whole new login/password account in MY name... and I lost all of my auto bill pays. The girl kept saying, "Let me try to explain this to you in a way that you can understand."  Really?  By the time I hung up, I was in tears, and the girl said, "Have I explained this in a way that it makes sense?" I told her no... but not much of anything makes sense right now!

So THEN I realized that I had a $700+ payment going out the next day to the ALF. I got worried that if I set up billpay again, as this girl had said I should do... it might pay twice and make an overdraft. So I called back. Guess what?! I got a DIFFERENT girl, who was much nicer...but by then I had set up a login and password for myself on the account. She said, "I can't tell you anything, but if you ask the right questions, I can answer them." So we did determine that YES... that payment was still scheduled to be made, and had I put it in again, we'd be in the hole and have to pay an overdraft of about $30! So much for Customer Service!!  

I get that banks have privacy laws, but the first girl said, "You gave me your name when I answered the phone, and it doesn't match the name on the account, so I know you are not Polly." In other words, if I had lied to start with, she would have unlocked the account. CRAZY!  I gave her the last 4 digits of MY Social Security number, my grandmother's, and other vital information... and she could SEE me listed as a co-signer on the account... and still, she would not help me.

In her defense, this girl was just doing her job.  And I am glad that our banking info is secure.  But it was more her attitude and her unwillingness to work with me in any way.  I told my husband that I guess that LITTLE thing was what triggered my BIG meltdown. I'm okay now... just one more lesson learned. My mother suggested that I should have hung up, called back and pretended to be Polly.  It probably would have worked!  I'm just sayin'!

These are the types of things that make life for those of us in a "Sandwich" so challenging. As if we didn't have enough to do already, we have to deal with Customer Service reps who seem to go out of their way to make life difficult.  I know that this is often a ploy just to distract and deter the elderly.  Somehow, I think that bank CS knew she had not exactly made my day...but never once did she say she was sorry or act the least bit sympathetic. If this had been my mother-in-law or another older senior, the conversation probably would have ended much more quickly. 

You would think that after all of these years, I would be better at "playing the game."  And I had to laugh as I thought of the many times that a CS rep would not talk to me and asked to talk to Polly.  I would call her on my cell phone and hold it up to the land line receiver, and this little woman would say something like "Sugar, you just ask Debbie whatever you need, and she'll tell you."  Somehow, that was acceptable and believable.  Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?!

1 comment:

Mark said...

I hope that although they are not commenting, lots of people in the sandwich generation are reading your posts. On top of letting them know they are not alone, this post is chock full of valuable information.