My dad passed away in 2015 and we had to make some hard decisions for my mom who has Alzheimer’s Disease. She was not able to live by herself so after my dad was no longer there to care for her we had to sell the house and move her to an Assisted Living Facility. It was a hard transition for all of us.
It is always difficult to see our parents aging and we worry about their health and needs when we are not there. At first we notice small things changing like their physical appearance and then forgetfulness or memory lapses. While a lot of this is the normal aging process there comes a time when they may need help.
Where To Find Help for Aging Parents
It is great when family can be available to be the caretaker for routine needs but when they need more help than you can provide it get harder. Sometimes it very hard trying to find answers to all your questions. So the following are some steps I hope will guide you and provide some support.
The Office Of Aging
The Office of Aging in every state was designed to assist the elderly with all aspects of their life. It is worth connecting to for some of their basic supports. They will send someone out for free to evaluate your loved one if you feel they really are at risk.
They also will be able to tell you what is available in the community for any support that they think is needed.
Has your loved one started to stay home alone more and isolate themselves? If so, it is important to try to find outside interests that they can participate in to get them out of the home. The Senior Centers can help as far as having a structured day of activities and will provide transportation if needed. It is a good way for them connect to others, talk about current events, socialize and have a light lunch.
It is also possible to connect with some very knowledgeable individuals that help run the center to answer some questions and to guide you.
A good geriatric physician can be a huge help in figuring out what might be going on either medically, phyically or mentally. It is good to establish an ongoing relationship with this type of doctor because when your loved one does need care this will be the person that will sign qualifying insurance papers.
Geriatric Social Worker
The newest professional on the scene in the last few years is the Geriatric Social Worker. You should be able to easily find one through your parents insurance company. They will be able to interview your parent and help evaluate any needs and then meet with the family to make necessary recommendations.
They are a really good resource if you are limited in the time you have available to spend researching all the options. It can be very time consuming contacting all the possible agencies that might be able to help. It is very hard trying to do it all by yourself while working, raising a family and dealing with everyday life.
Another resource are day programs which are available if your loved one needs to have someone with them most of the day. They will provide transportation, care and meals. The available openings are usually limited and you may have to get on a waiting list. Sometimes the programs are based on income and that can usually be evaluated by phone.
Home Health Care
This is my favorite because it has a tendency to be the least disruptive for everyone. Plus it keeps your parents in a familiar environment where they are the most comfortable. If they require nursing care it can be arranged by Home Health Care.
Insurance requires medical necessity to be established before they will approve Home Health Care. Your parents family doctor can write the order and fill out the paperwork required by insurance. The physician can also recommend a Home Health Agency if you need recommendations.
If you are more interested in an aide or companion type service it is possible to again go through an agency and insurance may approve it if a doctor is recommending it. It varies by insurance companies as to what services are covered.
If you are considering hiring someone privately, Care.com is one resource available for senior care options. It offers an extensive community of caregivers and companies that allows you to find the right fit for your family.
This is a place to start, but do your homework. Interview just like you would hiring any employee, ask for references from past employers, spend time with them as they get to know your parent. Do regular unannounced visits when they are working. Provide clear expectations on what they will be doing.
I also suggest providing a schedule for your parents week if they have activities, appointments, medications to take and a meal schedule. You can find really great care takers but sometimes it takes time. By hiring your own caregiver or companion you are in charge of setting the amount of a payment based on the budget.
Home Based Waiver Services
If your family member is eligible for Medicaid they may be eligible for the Home Based Waiver Services. This will vary a little by name from each State but is through the Office of Aging and worth checking into. A waiver program is paid by Medicaid so if they meet the income guidelines this is a possibility.
The program evaluates the needs of the elderly person and then develops a plan of care to meet their needs in their home instead of in a facility. The services are set up through agencies that participate in the Home Based Waiver Program. If your parents qualify they can get up to 16 hours of services 7 days a week, depending on their needs. A self skill evaluation is performed and then need is determined.
I have found so many helpful people through my church that is invaluable. I have found people willing to drop off a meal, provide hair care, mow the lawn, do some laundry, drop by for an hour a week to visit and to assist with running errands and doctor’s appointments. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to help and support our senior citizens.
We have a lot of people aging and without the community’s help we are going to have a lot of elderly people fail. See what you can organize at your church for a weekly schedule to help and aid the elderly.
Assisted Living Facility (ALF)
Please talk to your parents about any possible changes in their life and get them on board as to why a different living arrangement might help keep them safe. Including them in any discussion no matter how difficult it might be is imperative to any move being a success.
An Assisted Living Facility will provide a safe place to live, meals and snacks, activities, minor medical care if needed and administration of their medication. The resident may still drive and go out on their own if it is deemed safe.
Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF)
A skilled nursing facility is a possibility only if the individual requires medical care continuously. They might have a brief period when they are sick and be admitted to the hospital. If they still need medical care they may go to a skilled nursing facility for care and rehabilitation.
However once the medical need is no longer there an individual is ready for discharge. So the bottom line is a SNF is only an option when there is medical necessity.
This gives you a basic list of what is available to help you find the means and the people to help care for your parents. It may not be all the resources out there but it is a good start. I also suggest support groups to help everyone through the process.
The most detailed support I could find and I highly recommend is the AARP in your state. They are usually very up to date with what is available in your area.