The Importance of Knowing What’s Out There

December 13, 2016

Sick older woman lying in hospital bed

Susan’s mother was in the hospital and the doctor said she couldn’t go home by herself. Susan knew there had to be community resources to help but she wasn’t sure what they were or how they could help. Sadly enough, she had little time to look for help either. The hospital was saying discharge was in two days. The discharge planner gave her a list of agencies but she was unsure of how to proceed.

The key to aging gracefully is to stay healthy. It doesn’t matter if a person falls at 75 or is diagnosed with an acute illness at 85, decisions have to be made rather quickly about how and where the person is going to live. Making snap decisions based on scanty information is never a good idea but when it’s an issue involving an older person’s life, it’s even more critical to know what the choices are.

Fortunately for Susan she had noticed her mother’s increased frailty and they had begun to talk about what comes next. Her mother wanted to remain in her own community and thought she could stay at home with help when it was needed. Susan had contacted the local aging resource agency and gotten a list of community resources. She began researching these businesses and publically funded programs specific to the local area not realizing she’d have to access help as soon as she did.

There are widely held misconceptions about Medicare paying for everything should an older person become ill. “My mother has Medicare,” a daughter staunchly responds when looking for assistance. It can be a rude awakening to find out that Medicare, Social Security or the Medicare supplemental policy doesn’t pay for most individuals within the home. Learning that an assisted living facility costs between $4-8,000/month shocks families that haven’t done their homework about costs. That doesn’t mean there aren’t choices but knowing how to access them can be a challenge for the non-professional in the field.

With the economic downturn and states looking to trim budgets, many of the public programs for olderand aging adults are losing funding and being eliminated. Public funds have long shorted older adults’ programs but there are still various possibilities along with local and regional programs that can help. There are also possibilities within church communities, service sectors and informal aging networks. It’s also important to note that public aging programs were never meant to meet the needs of the entire aging population. With the over 65 population growing to more than 50 million by 2020, this option seems farther away than ever. It is all the more important for the older adults and their adult children (if they have children) to work to understand what’s available, what it costs and how to access what’s out there. Otherwise, the elder will be in the hospital and others will make decisions during a crisis that may affect them for years to come.

It is in this process of looking, investigating and talking to older adult professionals that the elder and their families begin to think creatively in recognizing the need to respect the individual’s wishes while putting together a plan to allow the person as much individual autonomy as possible while protecting the individual safety and wellbeing. It’s also important to recognize the continued aging of the individual knowing that health issues will continue to be part of the equation. “Nothing stays the same,” the sages say and it couldn’t be truer than withelders growing older every day. What works now may be good for 6 months or 2 years but know the needs will change. Consider the following:

  • What comes next?
  • Where will (I, my mother, my father) live as health declines?
  • Will there be enough funds to (stay at home, move into an assisted living facility, retirement home)?
  • Should we be thinking of the elder moving in with an adult child?
  • Do I know what federal and state resources are available if funds run out or aren’t there?
  • Who can help (me, us, our family) in putting together a blueprint?

For resources look at;; Area Agency on Aging ; the Alzheimer’s Association; and other aging resources.

Carol S. Heape, MSW, CMC is Executive Director/CEO of Elder Options, Inc. serving older adults and their families in the Sacramento Region.

Categories: Healthy Living