Serving Our Aging Community with Honor and Grace

Though Tina Buchanan had always known she wanted to serve others through social work, she had envisioned the ‘others’ being underserved children at about elementary school age. And who didn’t want to work with children? After all, they’re adorable and fun. The last group she wanted to serve was the elderly. In fact, she was severely disappointed when her college internship program placed her in a nursing home rather than a school room. How could she help these people? What did she have in common with them? She wasn’t old, and it was incomprehensible that one day she might end up like them.

Her resistance dissipated, however, when she met Mary, an elderly woman on hospice who seemed to always be alone. She had no roommate and no family to visit her. Tina’s daily visits with Mary would change her outlook and her career path in ways Tina couldn’t then imagine. Mary had so much to share with Tina over the course of their visits, telling her inspiring stories about all the things she had accomplished in her life. She was extraordinary and yet she had no one with whom to share it. Sadly, Mary didn’t know how she ended up in her situation, bedridden, with no one to visit her.

Mary’s life and death inspired Tina to choose to work with the elderly from then on. At the conclusion of Tina’s masters program, she immediately started working in the elderly community.

Seven months ago, however, her passion for helping the elderly hit home when her aging grandparents got ill. Tina spent months flying back and forth between San Diego and Reno to visit them, trying to help her mom emotionally and practically, filling out paperwork with the Veterans Association, moving her grandparents into assisted living, and then back home, and then into hospice.

After watching her mom struggle to navigate through medical care, end of life decisions and other aging resources, and helping her fill out all the associated paperwork, Tina knew others needed her help too. As a result, Tina established her practice Visionary Care Consultants, in which she helps adult children and their aging loved ones navigate through medical care and assistance and resources.

As an Aging Life Care Ambassador, Tina helps families navigate this unfamiliar territory and obtain the resources necessary to improve the quality of their and their loved one’s lives.

When Tina meets with a family, she takes a thorough inventory of their loved one’s medical and caregiving needs, housing, finances, transportation, meals, social programs, emotional resources and ensure that advanced directives and powers of attorney are in place. She helps the family choose and obtain the best resources for their loved one, among all the resources available to them.

Here is a list of many of the resources that Tina advises are available to assist your elder loved one.

Aging and Independent Services

Every city has its own aging and independent services. To find the ones in your location:

Google

“Aging and independent services” followed by your zip code.

Transportation

Your loved one will require transportation. Does he need low-income or wheelchair resources? There are one-on-one driving or group van options available. To find the transportation resources available in your area:

Google:

“Senior transportation program” followed by your zip code.

“Disabled access transportation” followed by your zip code.

Meals

What is your loved one doing for meals at present? Is she cooking her own meals? Is she eating out? There are meal delivery options for seniors, including the food bank if she is low income, and other local non-profits. If money is not a limiting factor, there are also higher-end online services which deliver meals.

Meals on Wheels is one of the most well-known national programs which delivers food to seniors based on a sliding scale. They offer low-income options and accept government subsidies.

To find resources available in your area:

Google:

“Meals and transportation services” followed by your zip code.

“Homebound senior meals” followed by your zip code

Social Programs

All too often, due to factors such as limited mobility, age, and our own busy schedules, our loved ones spend far too much time in isolation. There are social programs designed specifically for the elderly to counteract this. Again, there are many options available to your loved one depending on his financial means.

Two such options are senior adult day care centers and senior centers. Senior centers tend to be more open, less structured, and have a monthly calendar of events in which your loved one can participate, mostly free. Adult day care centers, on the other hand, are more structured and costly, though some insurances like Medical will pay for them.

In addition, there are national social programs that offer assistance. If your loved one suffers from dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association website provides many resources of local social programs. So does the National Parkinson Foundation website.

To find resources available in your area:

Google:

“Senior adult day care centers” followed by your zip code.

“Senior centers” followed by your zip code.

“Senior social programs” followed by your zip code.

Advanced Directives and Power of Attorney

An advanced directive is a written statement of a person's wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.

The power of attorney is the authority to act for another person in specified or all legal or financial matters.

To write up an advanced directive and assign power of attorney, you must seek legal help. Every state and county has elder law advocates, who are attorneys who draft these for you. Some charge a fee, and some that are county-based are free of charge. Case management companies can also help with this.

To find resources available in your area:

Google:

“Elder law advocate” followed by your zip code.

“Elder law attorney” followed by your zip code.

“Legal aid elder law” followed by your zip code, for low-income and pro-bono services.

Emotional Resources

If your loved one is suffering from depression, or has a history of dementia, there are plenty of psychosocial support systems available to him in his area, as well as national resources. In addition, there are neurological resources for certain dementia or cognitive issues.

To find resources available in your area:

Google:

The behavior or diagnosis, such as “depression resources” or “dementia resources” followed by your zip code.

Financial Resources

Assess your loved one’s financial resources. Is she struggling with mortgage or rent, the cost of medication or utility bills? Does your loved one need a caregiver? There are programs that can assist with any or all of these. Most counties offer low-income utility assistance programs. There are additional resources available if your loved one is a veteran. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can assist with housing and other costs, as well as with providing a caregiver.

If your loved one is not a veteran, there are Medicaid programs that can help with some of these costs. Further, the Social Security Administration has financial programs to assist with medication costs.

Housing

Is it feasible and viable for your loved one to remain in her home? Or, would she fare better relocating to an independent living community where she will enjoy more supervision and interaction with others?

If your loved one chooses to remain at home, there are financial resources available to help with mortgage and rental payments. Most counties offer low-income housing, such as Section 8 Housing, which is a subsidized low-income housing program. Ensure the safety of your loved one’s residence by investing in and installing necessary safety resources and programs.

Oftentimes, a better choice is to relocate your senior to an independent living community in which she can enjoy prepared meals, socializing and supervision.

To find resources available in your area:

Google:

“Senior placement agency” followed by your zip code.

“Senior housing resources” followed by your zip doe.

Caring for the Caregiver

Caring for a loved one is one of the most emotionally-wrought and stressful responsibilities you can undertake. Be sure to make time to care for yourself so that you are better able to care for your loved one.

There is so much to think about when your elder loved one can no longer care for himself. This list of resources is a great place to start.

You are Not Alone

You may find, however, that you are best served by seeking out a professional Aging Life Care Ambassador, also known as a case manager or aging case manager, in your area. An Aging Life Care Ambassador, such as Tina, can not only walk you through these resources but can help you complete the necessary paperwork and ensure your loved one is well provided for. Often, adult children spend more time and money overall when they try to navigate these systems alone. Investing in the right professional can enhance the life of your aging loved and give you peace of mind.

Feel free to reach out to Tina Buchanan, MSW to schedule your FREE strategy call at visionarycare.sd@gmail.com or go to https://visionarycare.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php

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