Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eldercare Review: Red Cross Family Caregiving Program is Worth Your Time

I'd blame my tardiness on sun stroke. Except I'm from Seattle, where sun is in short supply. During May and June I attended the American Red Cross Family Caregiving Program, held at Evergreen Retirement Community, where I work. I promised a review.

If you care for your aging parent either full-time or part-time, or are supporting your parent who is caring for his or her spouse, this national program is worth your time. First, there's no cost. Second, caregivers can select one or more segments. Third, sessions are facilitated by Red-Cross certified leaders. Mike Davis, of Always Best Care-Eastside, led our discussions.

Booklets on the various topics--home safety, general caregiving skills, positioning and helping your loved one move, assisting with personal care, promoting healthy eating and caring for the caregiver--were helpful, as were the videos.

The best part of these sessions was the lively discussion. Some participants worked in the eldercare field, helping adult children and their aging parents. Others were caregivers themselves.

"There's great value in people getting together to discuss caregiving issues and to work toward problem-solving," said Mike Davis.

For more information on the program and locations near you, contact the Red Cross Family Caregiving Directory.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's MOST Important to Your Aging Parent?

What does your elderly parent want most? Especially if he or she is facing a transition? Is it comfort, tasty food, friendliness, or excellent care?

In my job as Marketing Director for Evergreen Court Retirement and Assisted Living Community, I ask that question daily. One recent response caught me off guard.

"I want to be treated with kindness," 85-year-old Jean told me on the phone.

"Tell me more," I asked.

"It's not that I haven't been treated with kindness," she said, "But I want that to continue. I need to be treated with dignity and respect."

After Jean moved in, she confided she'd experienced some hurts earlier in life. She needed a safe place to land, where she was cared for.

Have you asked your elderly parent to name what's most important? If you do, don't be surprised at what you hear. The words "kindness, respect, dignity," may surface. Together, you can help him or her find that good place.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eldercare Dilemma, Part II--Listening to the Same Old Story

Your elderly parent launches into "the story." You know it by heart. After all, you've listened--sort of--until your ears ache. Do you:

1. Pinch yourself periodically, as you struggle to stay awake?

2. Put on a happy face and nod now and then?

3. Worry that your aging parent is losing his mind--or you're losing yours?

A month ago, on Father's Day, my friend Linda had an Epiphany relating to this subject. When her 91-year-old dad began to recount scenes from his boyhood, as he'd done so many times, Linda said, "I began listening with new ears."

She asked questions. "What did you like most about the walk to school?" "Tell me about your favorite teacher?" "Was recess fun?" "How did you deal with bullies?"

"My questions set Dad off in a different direction," she said. New information surfaced, and the old, old story suddenly came alive. In the process, Linda honored her dad by her active listening. He gave her information about her heritage. Both their minds were fed.

Does engaging your parent during the story sound like it's worth a try?

And as to the repetive stories indicating dementia, either for you or your aging parent, rest your mind. Nearly every elderly person repeats stories. It's just what they do.

How do you respond when your aging parent repeats stories?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Affordable Senior Housing: Tips on Applying

Remember the FAFSA? Years ago, many of our parents burned the midnight oil submitting this multi-page financial aid application. The goal? Scholarships and grants for us. Today if your aging parent is seeking low-income senior housing, you could be facing a "mini" FAFSA.

Once you've chosen a community offering subsidized senior housing or retirement living, your parent will receive an application. Similar to FAFSA, but simpler, this document "proves" that your parent's income meets the community's limits, which are based on a percentage of the average income in that county. In King County, where Seattle is located, a single person can have income no higher than $36,000 for most programs, and $41,100 for a couple.

Most seniors I work with at Evergreen Court Retirement Community ask their adult children to help with the application. They helped you with the FAFSA; now it's your turn.

Some commonly asked questions:

1. What is the application process? A representative from the community will give you and/or your parent the paperwork and explain how to complete it. When you've finished, you'll have a second meeting to go over it and check documentation. The community sends the package to a third-party compliance officer, to double-check the numbers and determine eligibility.

2. Do assets count? Assets such as brokerage accounts, money market accounts, CD's, homes, real estate, etc., must be declared, and documented by presenting the most recent statement. For a home not yet sold, the county assessor's last assessment statement will prove its value. In computing total income, the compliance officer looks at the income (or potential income) generated from the assets and adds it to the monthly income. For more specifics, consult the manager or marketing director of the community you're looking into.

2. What other items need to be submitted? A driver's license or ID card, provides proof of age. Other documents: Pension statements and a Social Security benefit letter, which the agency sends to all recipients in December of each year. You'll look at the top line for the gross monthly amount, before Medicare is taken out.

3. What about bank accounts? All must be declared. For checking accounts, six months of statements may be required. For savings and money market accounts, the most recent statement is sufficient.

Does that sound daunting? The process may be a bit grueling, but the payoff makes it worthwhile. Often seniors can save $500 a month or more over market rate rent by opting for subsidized senior housing. For help in locating options, contact Eldercare Locator.
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