Sunday, December 28, 2014

Untangling the Senior Housing Maze? Here's Help

Look in a directory of senior and care housing options, and you may get lost in the words.  So many options it's a little like a toddler in a 31-flavor ice cream store.  The good news is that there's an abundance of help for your aging parent, whether you're looking for the future, or for next week.

There are many options besides a skilled nursing facility.  Here's a list.

1.  In-home help--Home care agencies provide a gamut of services, from housekeeping, home maintenance and yard care, to companionship and help with personal care, such as bathing and dressing.  This help typically runs about $25-$27 an hour, and works if the senior has scheduled needs. 

2.  Senior housing--This is for very independent seniors.  There are usually no services or care, just a group of older people living together in community.  Often they're located near senior centers or other community resources.  Pricing varies widely.  Samples:  HUD Housing (for very low incomes), Affordable Housing (for low to moderate incomes), Senior Condos, 55 and older apartments. 

3.  Retirement communities--Meals, housekeeping, activities and transportation are routinely offered as part of the monthly fee.  If seniors need help with bathing, dressing or medications, they typically contract with a  home care agency.

4.  Assisted living communities--In addition to services of a retirement community, assisted living communities provide 24-hour emergency and personal care help. There is a huge variety in programming.  Some are premised on a social model, emphasizing activities and others on a medical model, offering very heavy care.  In many states, assisted living communities can perform duties that once were only available in a nursing home, such as two-person transfers (when your parent needs two people to get him or her out of bed or out of a chair), and diabetic insulin care.   
5.  Retirement/assisted living communities--This type of community is a combination of the two previous options, allowing residents to move in when they are still quite independent and "age in place," receiving more services as their needs grow.

6.  Continuing Care Retirement Communities--These often require an entrance fee of anywhere from about $100,000 to over a million dollars. Some entrance fees are wholly or partially refundable. Monthly fees are usually lower than in a rental retirement community. Seniors moving in are generally younger and more active.  As their needs change, they can move to other sections of the community for assisted living and nursing care.

7.  Memory Care--Some assisted living communities have a special section to residents with moderate to severe memory issues.  Other communities serve only people with dementia.

8.  Adult family homes--This type of care is not available throughout the nation.  In Washington State, these homes can serve at most six residents.  Usually two caregivers are on site to provide care.  Adult family homes can offer virtually every type of care provided by a nursing home, with the exception of IVs and ventilators.   Because the house is small,  this setting is particularly good for those who need 24-hour direct supervision.

Good luck in untangling the senior housing and care maze!  If you need help, post a comment below, and I'll contact you.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How Your Aging Parent Plays the Holiday Waiting Game

Everyone waits during the holidays.  But especially your aging parent.  You wait for the crowds to dissipate and the to-do list to be checked off.  Your parent's waiting is often darker.

Perhaps he or she longs for a body to mend.  Or a family relationship to heal.  Or the constant loneliness and depression to go away.  And often that waiting makes the days seem long and the nights even longer.

My dad died in 2003.  During the holidays, and at other times during that last year, his waiting was plagued by doubts--about himself and about his relationship with God.  "I don't see how God could ever forgive me," he'd say, and "I'm good for nothing." Funny, since he'd been a pastor.   I wish I could have chased those blues away, but I couldn't.  I could only say, "I'm so sorry.  I'm really so sorry." 

I did remind him of something he'd told me all my life.  "Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God."  Looking back, I wish I'd reminded him of a holiday story straight out of the Bible, in Luke 2, of two elders who knew all about waiting.

Simeon, an older man, visited the temple in Jerusalem every day, waiting for the coming of the Messiah.  One day he was led to go to the temple where he spotted Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.  Immediately he recognized that this child was no ordinary baby.  He blessed Jesus, and said to God, "...Let your servant go in peace, according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation."

Anna, another elder, was an 84-year-old widow, who never left the temple.  Daily she prayed, fasted and waited on God.  The day Jesus and his parents showed up to see Simeon, she approached and immediately knew this was the Christ she had waited for.

Besides the shepherds, these elders were the first to see Jesus.  In their frailty, they could relate to the tiny baby who was their Savior.  I have an idea God didn't take away any physical pain they had, or give them a perfect life.  But He gave him a glimpse of Himself, which is what all of us--old and young--want and need. 

Waiting is hard--for all of us.  But it's good we don't have to wait alone.

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