John Drescher

Readers speak about health care for elderly parents

I wrote recently about three things I learned from supervising my elderly parents’ health care in their last years: They needed a case manager; health insurance is too complex; and the commitment of health-care professionals is impressive.

That column struck a chord. Here are some of the comments I received via email, edited for brevity:

▪ “Your column really hits the mark for what I’ve encountered the last six or so years in trying to help my aging parents. My dad died about five years ago of primarily physical problems. My mom, who has some combo of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, lives at a memory care section of a facility here in Raleigh. The issues seem endless and take a toll on my own family too. As the loved one responsible for caring for my parents in these kinds of conditions, it is not always easy to know what to pray for.”

▪ “We are currently going through a similar situation with my mother-in-law who has Lewy body dementia and understand what you have been through. This has been a humbling experience.”

▪ “I am an RN with 35 years of nursing experience in a variety of health care settings in three different states. For the last 20 years, I have worked in home health in Raleigh, as a visiting nurse and eventually as the executive director of hospital home health agency. You are absolutely, 100 percent accurate in your observation of ‘no captain of the ship’ in treating patients. This is especially problematic with the elderly, who are often complicated due to multiple medical problems. This is not due to a lack of trying by many health care professionals and this will be much improved as we move to a universal health care record that follows a patient. One possible solution is to utilize the services of an elderly coordinator from Resources for Seniors at There are nurses and social workers who can be hired to act as the case manager for elderly patients and who can coordinate the medical and billing issues for patients and families.”

▪ “The hospital staff are wonderful! I have had three surgeries since July 1 and one stay in a rehab facility. So many of the staff, from doctors on down, are immigrants. I wish that some of the politicians who harp about immigrants and refugees could experience the great care that we get in hospitals from immigrants. My wife experienced the parent-child reversal that you did. It was preceded by her mother gradually ceding control and decision making to my wife.”

▪ “I agree with the three things you learned about caring for an aging parent. I do want to point out that there is a profession of geriatric care managers. They now go by the title of Aging Life Care Professional and they have an association. Many of the professionals have a background in nursing or social work and know the available resources in their community very well. It is not a free service but they can be invaluable as a resource if someone is helping an elderly parent or is not near the home of the parent and wanting to learn about resources in the parent's community.”

Durham news

McClatchy, which owns The News & Observer, has purchased The Herald-Sun of Durham. The newsrooms will share stories, photographs and video. You’ll see work from Herald-Sun journalists in The N&O and vice versa. This will be good for readers of both publications.

Managing editor

Dan Barkin has been named managing editor of The N&O and will supervise the daily operations of the newsroom, including the report in digital and print. Barkin, who has been with The N&O for 20 years, is a fine journalist, a strategic thinker and a good advocate for readers.