When I came to Keystone Elder Law I was introduced to the Life Care Planning Law Firms Association, of which Keystone is a member. Among the resource information I saw from the LCPLFA was something called “The Danger Zone.” It is simply the best visual aid for understanding what happens when you fail to correlate care services with care needs. I wished I had known about it when I was working as a hospital social worker because it would have made it much easier for patients to understand their care needs. The diagram showing the danger zone is listed below. Let me explain it to you.
As we age, especially into the 80’s and 90’s, most people find they cannot do all the things they used to be able to do; this is a decline in functional limitations. Unless there is an illness or injury, the decline progresses rather slowly. At some point each one of us will no longer be totally independent. The “X” on the Functional Limitations line illustrates this. The next line down show different levels of care, increasing from left to right. When we are no longer independent, if we are getting the necessary level of care, our independence can be maintained. However, if when we are no longer independent, we are getting no care or a level of care that does not met our needs, we complete the three points of the triangle between the lines. This is the DANGER ZONE. When we are in the danger zone, we are at risk for a catastrophic event that will catapult us to a nursing home, losing the very independence we were trying to maintain. This is why it is so important that, as we experience functional decline, we get the necessary care needed to maintain our independence at the highest possible level.
Now some of you will be saying, “But I cannot afford the cost of the care I need.” That may or may not be true. I have met many people in my work who have saved for a rainy day, only to refuse to spend the money when it is pouring in their lives. Others do not take the time to research what financial assistance is available (that information is on the last line in the diagram). I also have met some who actually do not have the funds to pay for needed care. Unfortunately, in those situations, all that can be done is to minimize the risks to the greatest extent possible and hope a catastrophic event does not occur, even though that person is in the danger zone.
Now that you have a better understanding of the danger zone, I hope you will make sure you and your loved ones do not hesitate to get care when it is needed.
Elder Care Corodinator