By Kirsten Irgens-Moller, North/Coast Regional Supervisor
I visited a younger Parkinson’s patient at a local Skilled Nursing facility. A skilled performer in his previous life, he had sparkling eyes and a flashing smile that immediately drew you into his creative sphere. But he complained he’d had a pain in his mouth for over a month possibly due to the side effects of medication he was taking, or perhaps years of neglect while he was on the road. At any rate something needed to be done now because it was affecting his mood, his diet and his interactions with staff and fellow patients.
The facility contracted with a dental care provider who came and assessed him at bedside. Their offer: “We can pull out all your teeth and then you can apply to Medi-Cal for dentures”.
He was devastated and called on the Ombudsman Services.
If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know that kind of pain can take over and dominate your experiences of daily living; what you eat, how you sleep and interact with people. And left untreated, tooth and gum pain can cause severe health problems.
At our March Ombudsman Services meeting, Dental Director of Apple Tree Dental, Dr. Dick Gregory highlighted their work in San Mateo County to assess dental needs of resident of Long term care facilities. Our Field Volunteers were excited to learn about efforts to bring oral hygiene services directly into facilities where residents live.
Oral hygiene and dental care need to be a guaranteed part of overall health care. The Center for Medicare Advocacy has an urgent action petition we encourage you to sign. The Center’s mission is to advance access to Medicare coverage through legal analysis, education and advocacy. Their position is that healthcare needs include all body parts, including the mouth!! The petition is addressed to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal) services to remind them that Medicare should cover all medically necessary oral care.