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Frankewicz/My Turn: Not my kind of ‘place’

I was watching the Red Sox pregame show and caught an ad for a service called “A Place for Mom.” Their celebrity spokesperson, Joan Lunden, cooed about how wonderful this service had been for her and then talked about a severe form of dementia, calling it “Alltimers.” I know enough about marketing to know this was no mistake. Like a little red flag, it had my attention and then the ad ended with this phrase, “Our service is free and you can trust us.” Hmmm, another red flag went up. You can trust us because we said so … Yikes.

Being a retired medical and geriatric social worker, I decided I would call “A Place for Mom” and see what I could learn about them. From Theresa (in Seattle; I asked) I learned that the “free” service is funded by the for-profit eldercare providers they refer callers to. (In the social work profession we call that a conflict of interest.) Theresa wanted a lot of info from me but I demurred and was finally connected to my “local” eldercare counselor, Amy, who lives in New Hampshire. She assured me that she was born in Massachusetts and knows all about Massachusetts resources. I gave her a scenario and asked for her advice. She assured me that the situation was grave (it was not) and that I needed to get this relative into assisted living as soon as possible! I said I didn’t think she needed that much care and I said that she had a visiting nurse and a homecare aide along with an electronic medication dispenser. I was looking for a living situation where she would have close neighbors to socialize with since she seemed isolated in her big old home.

Amy said that, at 79, this person was likely to begin failing very soon (“she’s almost 80!”) I suggested maybe she could move to (state-funded) elder housing at Highland Village in Shelburne Falls, near me. (I suspected this company would not give me a referral to a resource that won’t pay them for the referral.) When she asked for monthly income of this relative, I suggested it was more or less $1,600. Amy immediately told me that my relative would not qualify for publicly assisted housing with such a “high income.” Before she went any further, I revealed to Amy the real reason for my call and advised her that she was giving out erroneous information.

So here’s what I think, and this is just my opinion, I’d stay away from these people with their mostly hidden agenda, finding “A Place for Mom” that will earn them a commission. We are very fortunate to have Franklin County Home Care whose well-trained staff will provide an assessment and solid information and options for the safe and comfortable care of our elders. There is no fee for this service; it is in the interest of the State to keep people safe in their own communities and out of nursing homes. Though I’ve never worked for FCHCC nor do I know anybody there, I’d call them instead.

Sue Fraser Frankewicz, MSW, lives in Shelburne Falls.

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