GETTING STARTED: DETERMINE YOUR ELDER CARE NEEDS
Almost everyone is or will be dealing with elder care issues
By Jim DeBrosse
Dayton Daily News (OH) - Sunday, December 5, 1999
(C) 1999 DAYTON DAILY NEWS
Never before have so many people lived so long. And never before have so many of their children been caught between the demands of their aging parents, their careers and their own children.
Thanks to modern medicine, the Greatest Generation has become the longest-lived generation, with more seniors living well into their 70s and beyond than ever in our history.
But with longevity can come debilitating health problems, fading mental skills and growing dependence on others.
In many cases, Baby Boomers now reaching their 50s - already caught between their own children and demanding careers - have become their parents' caretakers as the golden years lose their glow.
"It feels like a triple-decker sandwich, and I'm in the middle," said Andre Norris, a 55-year-old Brookville resident and mother of a teen-age son. Norris gave up her full-time teaching job a year ago in order to care for her 80-year-old father at home .
"I love my dad and my family, and I don't want to short-change anyone," she said. "The person who really gets short-changed is me. I'm exhausted all the time."
Where do families turn for help? And how do they choose among the growing array of alternatives for elder care best suited to them and their loved ones?
"There is no single answer for everyone," said Martha Kirkland of Butler Twp., who recently helped move her mother into Friendship Village retirement community.
The answer depends not only on the loved one's needs, preferences and financial means, Kirkland notes, but on "a family's ability to assist and plan ahead."
WHERE TO START
The first step in exploring long-term care options is determining exactly what kinds of help the elder needs, or may need in the near future.
Is it assistance with dressing or bathing? Taking medications? Shopping for groceries or preparing meals?
While families can best answer those questions for themselves, professionals are available to help develop a plan of services.
Good places to start for information on all local services for the elderly is the Eldercare Locator (800) 677-1116 or the local Area Agency on Aging (341-3000) or (800) 258-7277; or visit their Web site at www.info4seniors.org/. Both are government-sponsored services.
The Area Agency on Aging operates the PASSPORT program, which offers comprehensive, in- home assessments for anyone, regardless of income, who wants to explore long-term care options.
To schedule an appointment, call 341-3063 in Greene and Montgomery counties, or 498-4593 in Miami and Darke counties.
For elderly patients with more complex medical problems, a team of hospital-based professionals at a Geriatric Assessment Center can develop recommendations for care.
Look under `Senior Services' or `Physicians - Geriatric' in the Yellow Pages, or call the American Geriatrics Society to locate a physician in your area (212) 308-1414.
Families struggling to assist loved ones from a distance can call on the services of a Geriatric Care Manager - professionals who can step in and assess a patient's needs, arrange for services and keep tabs on how well those services are provided.
Fees range from $30 to $150 an hour. To locate one in your area, call the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (602) 881-8008).
For families dealing with the special problems of dementia and Alzheimer's disease, the Miami Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer's disease and Related Disorders Association (937) 291-3332 is the place to turn for help.
The association provides a toll-free information hotline (800) 441-3322, free brochures, family support groups, in- home assessments and family conferences to develop a plan.