IKOR Program Offers Families Help with Medical Challenges

Suppose you’re a 50- or 60-year-old person with a mother who’s no longer able to care for herself. You live in Fish Creek and she’s in Green Bay and determined to stay there near her church and friends. You don’t even know where to start making arrangements for her.

Or suppose your 85-year-old father in Algoma just fell and broke a hip, and you’re on Washington Island, running a business and helping to care for your new grandchild. Will dad ever be able to live alone again? Does he have insurance or enough money to pay for a nursing home? If not, what then?

Or suppose your 20-something son suffered a traumatic head injury in an auto accident. The hospital has stabilized him, but he’ll never be able to live independently. Now what? Where can he get the specialized care he’ll need for the rest of his life? What are your financial and legal responsibilities?

Or suppose you are a senior citizen who’s had a fall or a serious illness and realize you’d be safer living somewhere with help available when you need it. Your grown children are three states away, and you don’t want to involve them if you don’t have to. Or maybe you have no close relatives at all.

Making decisions about a care facility and, if necessary, getting answers to financial or legal questions can take lots of time – time that isn’t available when things fall apart quickly.

Until recently, residents of northeast Wisconsin had no single place that offered assistance in all these areas. But last fall, Dr. David Ferguson retired from 30-plus years as a pathologist, working primarily with hospitals in Wisconsin, to become managing director of the first IKOR office in the state.

Patricia Maisano, who had 30 years of nursing experience, more than 20 of them in disability management, founded IKOR in 2000 in response to the frustrations she saw professionals facing as they helped families manage short-term health crises and long-term care issues for the elderly and disabled. Now there are more than 60 IKOR programs in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

Dr. Ferguson is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) serving the greater Green Bay and Appleton areas and Outagamie, Kewaunee and Door counties. With 30 years of experience in medicine, he understands the complexities of the health care delivery system. From personal experience with family and friends, he recognizes the difficult challenges families face navigating the system, coordinating services and maintaining communication, especially when a concerned family member cannot be close by.

Dr. Ferguson became interested in IKOR because of his work as a medical professional and from personal experience. When he learned that his elderly mother in Houston, who had previously been doing great on her own, had begun to lose weight, he flew down to go to doctors’ appointments with her.

He found that his presence at those meetings made a difference. Sometimes the medicines being prescribed for his mother were not covered by her insurance, when substitutes could have been arranged at far less cost. No one had suggested that milkshakes could help reverse the weight loss. With her refrigerator stocked with them, she regained enough strength and energy to resume exercising at the gym.

Dr. Ferguson’s IKOR office is in De Pere, where he is also an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin at St. Norbert College. His staff includes two registered nurses, who are specially trained in medical advocacy and life care management.  

IKOR Advocates is located at 435 N. Broadway St. in De Pere. All three professionals are in regular contact with other IKOR offices across the country to discuss best practices.

“It’s good,” Dr. Ferguson said, “to be connected with a lot of other people who share the same passion for caring for individuals with special needs. This is one of the things that attracted me to IKOR.

“We are different from others that serve the needs of seniors and the disabled. We are advocates first, providing guidance, planning, oversight and the implementation of plans designed to focus on our client’s critical life challenges. For example, the nurse advocates can vet a number of long-term care facilities to find the one that is best for a particular person. And, if requested, we will follow up after the patient has moved into assisted living, to make sure all needed services are being provided.”

Among the other areas in which IKOR can assist families and patients:

Life Management

  • Living arrangements
  • Coordination and oversight of life services
  • Ensuring safety and independence
  • Personal rights protection

Medical Advocacy

  • Oversight of medical care
  • Agent for patient’s power of attorney
  • Agent of a patient’s guardian

Financial Advocacy

  • Light forensic accounting
  • Routine bill pay
  • Agent for guardian of patient’s estate

Disability Advocacy

  • Mental health
  • Physical disabilities
  • Intellectually-disabled individuals

Dr. Ferguson has contacts with many attorneys and financial planners to whom he can refer families and individuals needing advice related to medical or health care situations.

He is happy to meet with families and individuals in their homes, in his De Pere or Sturgeon Bay offices or in any other requested location. There is no charge for an initial conference to determine a client’s needs. He can be reached at 920.559.7106 or 855.545.6794.

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