Put your name on the Pioneer Home list today

Alaska Older Veterans Report

I just discovered something upsetting. I'm getting older by the day. Odds are I won't forever be the active, self-reliant person I am now. Yes, it's true, and I must accept the fact one day I will need someone at least checking in on me daily.

So then, what's an old soldier to do when that day comes when they no longer can fully function alone? You don't enjoy removing the beautiful snow from your 300-meter driveway as much as you once did, or cutting the grass in your yard is no longer on your bucket list?

Stress your little pea-picking heart no longer, the state of Alaska is way ahead of you.

Alaska is home to more veterans per capita than most any other state and has always taken care of those who served our nation. In 2007, the Palmer Pioneer Home became the first federally certified Veterans Home in Alaska and designated 75 percent of its 79 beds for Alaska veterans.

In my spare time, I am a volunteer for the State of Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman program and visit the Palmer facility regularly. The care these residents receive from the staff is second to none. The facility is clean, spacious and well attended by dedicated staff. Activities and events are varied, planned and well posted for the residents.

If you have some preconceived notion about long term care homes, I encourage you to visit the Palmer or any of the six Alaska Pioneer Homes. The homes are open to any visitors during normal hours. All you need do is check in at the reception desk.

I read on the Internet, always an impeccable source, Hanoi Jane Fonda was planning to stop and visit veterans while on tour. Her tour is appropriately named "I was young, stupid and don't want to burn in hell tour." Some of my Vietnam-era vet friends had some more descriptive terms that I liked. However, after checking my 70s era George Carlin record about words you can't say, I decided to omit my fellow vets' suggestions. Besides, some suggestions weren't physically possible.

The Alaska Pioneer Home System employs the "Eden Alterative" philosophy of caring. This method attempts to mitigate or eliminate the loneliness, boredom and helplessness of seniors in long-term care.

All levels of care from "three hots and a cot" to full 24/7 dementia care is available. Once in the home, residents' care can be upgraded as the need dictates.

The first step is to get on the waiting list since all homes are full. Of the six Pioneer Homes in Alaska, Palmer is the only one designated as a VA approved home. To receive a Veterans priority, you must have some documents; the two most important are your DD 214 and your VA claim number if you have been awarded a service-connected disability claim.

You should start now gathering these two documents. Like your original PFD application, you need to take two people to IHop for breakfast so they will certify you have been in Alaska long enough to qualified as an Alaska resident. I suggest ordering from inside the menu because it cost more than the specials.

Some of this paperwork can be deferred until you want to be upgraded to the active list. The time to sign up and get on the list is now. You can put your name on the inactive list and won't be called until you notify the state of your desire to be moved to the active list. Why this is important is your "date of rank" starts when you first apply. The waiting list is long, and someone has to pass on before there is an opening.

Medical advance directives

Some of the paperwork in the application should be filled out even if you are not applying for a spot on either list. We all have had family or a friend who one minute was an active, fully engaged senior and the next in an ambulance headed to the ER with a stroke. The waiting room in a hospital is not the best time to inform your loved ones of your wishes. The Alaska MOST (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment) Form should be filled out by you today. Once completed, the MOST form should be on your person and given to the attorney who has your will (get that done now) as well as your next of kin.

If your next of kin is in debt up to their neck and has an ever increasing grin on their face as your health declines, you might want to consider giving the "plug pulling " authority to someone who just might miss you. I'm just saying.

My living will says to use whatever means needed to keep me alive. If saving my life means flying me to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland so the POTUS personal medical team can work their magic, I'm worth the JP5. If you don't ask, you will not receive. I have this information on my iPhone medical alert app.

We all should accept the inevitable fact at some point, we will need assisted living. The time to plan is now and starts by contacting the Pioneer Homes Central Administration Office at 907-465-4416 or visiting their website at dhss.alaska.gov/daph.

By the time you read this list, I will already be on the list. I am ahead of you, but you can be ahead of your buddies.

Do not delay, act today.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.

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