Parents in seniors residences need help from their children

By Kevin Woodhouse

What kind of reaction would you have if you brought your car into your local mechanic who told you that the cost of replacing a part on your car was $1,300. But when you went to pay the bill, you notice an additional charge of say, $465, with no detail of the additional cost.
Your dentist tells you that the cost of repairing a tooth is going to be $2,500. You budget accordingly and then go in for the procedure only to be told that, voila, an additional, say $465, is added to the bill with no details.
Under both circumstances, you would ask the professional in question the nature of the new charge and expect an itemized breakdown of the cost. Chances are, you would not fork over the extra money unless the new charge was justified.
My father passed away peacefully this past late January at the age of 91. He had been widowed for five years and lived on a care floor of a Pointe Claire seniors’ residence.
During the last few months of his life, one of his major concerns came when the residence changed ownership and my dad, who dutifully worked all of his life and was an excellent money manager, started noticing additional costs on his monthly expenses, say $465.
And while my father had reduced mobility and was a stroke survivor from years back, he was still mentally sharp. He would often call me after he had read the paper to discuss some of the political stories I had written.
So when, last Fall, he started getting his monthly bill, which is about twice the cost of our pretend mechanic’s bill, there was that suspicious $465 added as “Extra Services.”
He inquired from the nurses on staff, basically walking saints who do way too much work for not enough money and respect, who put him in touch with the new administration.
Cue the runaround. My 91 year old father, who had served in WW2 building planes and worked from the age of 15 to support his mother and family, was never given a straight answer.

So, instead of spending his days enjoying his time, he was quite put out by the new administration’s billing practices.
My sister Sheila and I were my father’s main advocates as she had power-of-attorney for emergencies. We would visit him often and while we talked about local politics, the Alouettes and Les Canadiens, he was annoyed that he could not get a direct answer to his question.
I met with the administration, asking for details about the costs. If they were justified, my father would have been the first to pay. But he taught us that if you feel you are being taken for a ride, fight back.
So we did. We changed the payment process while still politely requesting what the new $465 monthly charges were. He kept getting charged for them, month after month, without an answer.
The executive director said one thing. Senior management said another. No answer was found. After my father’s passing, the residence gave us about 10 days to mourn before we received another bill for $465 for the last month of his life, despite the fact that he had spent a few days in the residence and the rest bouncing around area hospitals.
We explained to the residence a final time that without a reasonable cost breakdown, they were not getting another penny from us. Senior staff had a meeting.
What ended up happening? My father’s estate received a refund check so we were basically paid off. As far as my ftaher’s last wishes were concerned, we had taken care of that idiotic issue. Why? Because three of my father’s adult children actually live close to him and could visit him often.
We visited enough, weekdays and weekends at all hours, to know that too many of my father’s neighbours never got any visits because their adult children had moved out of country or province.
Maybe that was a justification for the residence to tack on extra fees because most adult children probably don’t have the time to go over every line of their parents’ bill.
In this day and age, it is important to be an advocate for your parents. My father lived in a fairly well maintained residence but was getting bills for non-existent and unproved extras.
So if residences are willing to openly steal from our Greatest Generation, what hope for the future is there?

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