Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Eldercare Referral Agencies: Frequently Asked Questions

Living on the East or West Coasts?  Or in a highly populated area elsewhere?  Eldercare referral agencies are available to help you find good care for your aging parent.

Washington State has some great referral agencies, including Silver Age Housing and Care Referrals, where I work.  Here are some frequently asked questions about this service.

1.  How does a senior referral service help families?

Senior referral agencies are like realtors, teachers and social workers rolled into one.  They know the elder housing and care options in the geographic areas they serve. They understand funding programs such as the Veterans Aid and Attendance and Medicaid, and can refer to professionals who are experts in these areas.  Most important, they have years of professional experience working with families and understanding the emotional stresses involved.  The task is difficult; a referral agent can make it easier.

2.  How does the process work?

Finding good care is a team effort.  Family members are experts on their loved one.  They know his or her favorite foods, hobbies and preferred schedule.  They know the care issues involved. The referral agent knows the providers and pays visits to ensure quality.  The goal is to find a home that is a good fit for the elder and their family in terms of finances, social opportunities, and care. The agent and the family tour together.  Armed with knowledge, the family can make an informed choice.

3.  What are the specific steps?

First, the referral agent does an intake:  gathering information from the family, the elder himself if appropriate, and other medical sources.   Next, the agent researches the available options he or she has checked out previously to determine what will be a good fit.  Third, the agent and family tour together.  The family makes the choice; a nursing assessment is done and the elder moves in.


2.  Who pays the agent's fee?

Many referral agencies do not charge the client (family or individual).  They receive compensation from the retirement/assisted living community or adult family home upon move-in.  However, there are some agencies that hire out their services at an hourly rate to the family.

3.  How quickly can a referral agency find care for my loved one?

Many referral agencies, including Silver Age, can help people find care within 24 hours.  Or they can work for a year or more with elders who are not ready to move but who want to know the options and perhaps get on a waiting list.

Have you had experience with referral agencies?  Tell us about them.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More on Deep Breathing for Caregivers: Breath Prayers

Deep breathing can help people under stress relax.  If you're a caregiver of an aging parent or spouse, or if you work in the senior health care field, you know about stress.  Deep breathing, which I discussed in an earlier post, can move us from "flight or flight" to calm.

Early Christian fathers took breathing seriously.  So seriously that they created "breath" prayers:  short prayers they could repeat during the day to keep their focus on God rather than on the problems they faced, or even on the blessings or answers God might give them.

Breath prayers feature a phrase, usually about six to eight syllables long.  That phase is repeated in tandem with taking a breath. The first set of words is repeated as we inhale; the second set as we exhale.  Some words I've used in my breath prayers are "Lord have mercy," and "Teach me to pray." Breath prayers can be spoken or silent.  And they are highly personal.

The concept was introduced to me in 1994 at a prayer retreat led by Bishop Rueben Job, of the United Methodist Church.

"Ask God for the prayer; and practice words until the prayer fits," he said, sending us outside to walk the trails of the retreat center.  I walked, and breathed, and finally the right words came. 

"Lord, teach me to play."  That was my breath prayer then, and it still fits me now, when I take myself and my work too seriously.

Other religions have somewhat similar practices that combine deep breathing and meditation.

Breath prayers don't substitute for other forms of prayer.  But for me, they have turned off my brain, allowed me to relax and give my work, my family and myself--through my breath--to God.

Thoughts may be overrated, said my physician Dr. Henry Hochberg at my recent physical exam.

"People can live without thinking. Not very well, but they can live.  But no one can live without breathing," he says.

How true!  And as a corollary, for people of faith, "No one can live without prayer."

For the technique of deep breathing, see:  http://boomersguidetoeldercare.blogspot.com/2016/07/caregivers-senior-professionals-deep.html
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