On March 1, 2023, my dad’s life with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease finally got a big break.
He moved into the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City where he lives, free of charge, in a beautiful, well-built, maintained and staffed skilled nursing facility. His moods have stabilized, he likes the food, he plays games with other guests, the nurses take care of him and he can’t run away anymore.
Once he reached 80% disability rating within the Veteran Affairs disability rating system, the SNSVH pricing changed from $125 per day to free (to us) because he is now covered by the state of Nevada’s VA fund. He moved from a group home, which costs $3,500 per month for a single room, to a skilled nursing facility that will take care of all his needs for the rest of his life.
The new home manages his medical needs, physical therapy, food, activities (so many activities!) and everything else he needs. It alleviates so much stress from the family, that we can all finally relax our back muscles and brains. All we focus on now is visiting, calling and field trips.
The SNSVH is also an award-winning, highly recommended facility with three distinct care wings, gift shop, cafeteria, well-appointed activity rooms, field trips plans of its own, a commissary and lobby!
Take a look at his little faces of joy.
A word on group homes
Rainbow Adult Care, the last group home he stayed at was wonderful. They were the best memory care group home we could find. I am grateful for the opportunity to recommend them to anyone in the Las Vegas area.
Unfortunately, Sunflower Memory Care was fined by the state, at my request. After he escaped, unbeknownst to the staff, for two hours, allowing him to walk 6 miles to the nearest gas station in early June 2022, we immediately abandoned them and began a search for a new place for my dad to live.
I received a letter from the state several months later that Sunflower Memory Care was fined for representing themselves as a memory facility without meeting the state’s requirements, such as not checking on people every hour, not using alarms at the door and not having a 24/7 awake staff.
It is unfortunate that a facility received a hefty fine but also relieving to see the state took our concerns seriously and hopefully improve a facility for future patients.
How to get that sweet, sweet VA money
One of our biggest breaks came from a random doctor who was interviewing my dad about depression because he had previously told a psychologist he was depressed at the first group home (now we know why). I was on the call and told the doctor he was no longer able to make his own decisions.
This triggered an incompetency check, which led to the VA assigning me as his official VA fiduciary, instead of us precariously managing his bank accounts through his logins.
The VA also increased his disability rating from 60% to 80% because of worsening diabetes and *cough*ew*cough* erectile dysfunction diagnosis. Dementia and depression continue to be denied because they are allegedly not a service-connected disability (if you recall my previous rant). We’ll see about that in the future.
My last article also prompted a Veteran Service Officer to help me re-submit applications for various disabilities on a fast track. He was approved for hypertension due to the PACT Act, but unfortunately, his hypertension was not…bad enough…for an increase in disability rating. I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that he takes blood pressure medication that maintains a healthy blood pressure.
You can’t make this shit up, folks. I wonder what his blood pressure would be if we took him off his meds for a week? Maybe we could get him up to 100% disabled in a few days!
I digress. Anyway…
Since the diabetes diagnosis was several years ago, the VA backdates the pay for that diagnosis, which resulted in a windfall of backpay, something the VA does quite often for people, especially when a decision takes years to make. Basically, if a decision for an increased disability rating takes two years from the original diagnosis, they will act as though the decision for the disability was made on the day you submitted for the increase and reimburse you for the time you had to wait.
That comes in one lump sum to catch you up to today. Future monthly disability payments are then increased moving forward. Pushing for a decision, with the help of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s office, helped us to get where we are today.
That lump sum allowed us to pay off an enormous amount of debt that was otherwise terrifying for the family to consider paying out of pocket. It also meant he could afford the full rent at Rainbow Adult Care, finally. And it also meant he has money for the first time in his life, that we can use to replace clothes and care products at a normal pace.
The final beautiful irony is that the new home is state-run and operates under state rules, so living there does not discount his federal disability pay (allegedly). That means he can afford the VA’s whole life insurance to help pay for end-of-life funeral costs; something that was not previously possible.
I guess that means we don’t have to spread his ashes in a casino now (you should really click the link).
It feels like we finally won
A recap of Harvey’s Wild Ride is necessary so that you, too, can feel the catharsis of what this means:
- My dad ran away from Kentucky in October 2021, about a year after his official dementia diagnosis.
- He briefly lived with his granddaughter but after abusing her and running away, he moved into a group home: Sunflower Memory Care.
- Shortly after Thanksgiving 2021, his wife, my stepmom, Denise, was diagnosed with COVID-19. Since she was unvaccinated, she suffered greatly in the hospital on a respirator for months until she died in April 2022.
- We traveled to Kentucky to attend her funeral and retrieve valuable documents, personal items and photographs that we were able to use to gain Power of Attorney over my dad’s finances and his VA account and benefits. We also shut down all of his ties to Kentucky, including utilities and releasing vehicles to local family.
- My dad then ran away from the first group home in June 2022 and was briefly housed in Desert Springs Hospital.
- He was relocated to Rainbow Adult Care the following week.
- He ran away and rode the bus up and down Saharah Ave. for a day. Rainbow Adult Care retrieved him, demonstrating their ability to manage him.
- His disability rating increased to 80% thanks to the hard work of the family, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s office and about 100 pages of applications and emails.
- By October 2022, my dad began hospice care within the group home because he appeared near death.
- He was denied entry into the Boulder City VA state nursing home due to an “aggressive behavior” note on the Desert Springs Hospital intake form.
- I became fiduciary and received backpay.
- I made a “final” visit to him on Thanksgiving 2022.
- We paid off his debts and could finally pay the full monthly rent due to Rainbow Adult Care, making good on our commitments to the owner as he came close to end of life.
- By December 2022, hospice canceled his service, noting he had completely bounced back to normal activity and health.
- The state fined Sunflower Memory Care for poor procedures and memory care policies, sending us a complete report.
- In January, he ran away from Rainbow Adult Care and hitchhiked. Luckily, the driver quickly realized he was a nut and took him to the police department. By the time the police were called, he was already safe. Rainbow Adult Care retrieved him.
- We re-applied for the VA nursing home in January 2023 and used the state’s report as evidence to show that the “aggressive behavior” was due to improper care at the first home. On top of that, we had hospice care write a letter demonstrating that he had significantly calmed over the last six months at Rainbow Adult Care and that his new prescriptions had significantly decreased anxiety and anger.
- He was accepted into the VA nursing home in February 2023, for free, due to Nevada VA policy.
- On March 1, the family moved him into his new well-appointed room at the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home.
- On March 20, 2023, we took him to Hoover Dam for a field trip. He said he loved it.