Tag Archives: elder care

Can America afford to age in place?

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Joe Zlomek/Freeimages

While many people, including myself, would prefer to age in place, for financially strapped communities throughout America, the trend is straining limited resources.

An article about my mother’s home state of Tennessee and its struggle to care for a rapidly growing older population is a scenario taking place in many states. Many state, county and city budgets are already overwhelmed with issues ranging from high unemployment to the opioid epidemic. I read one article that said older people calling 911 due to falls at home was straining EMS budgets. While the federal government contributes money to elder care each year via the Older Americans Act, it’s simply not enough to address the needs of a growing elder population.

In Tennessee, thousands of older people are on waiting lists for government assistance programs. The organizations do the best they can, but those cited in the article said more resources are needed, and officials are going to have to address the issue soon.

Transportation was listed as a major issue. While some older people may be physically healthy and not need in-home assistance, they may no longer be able to drive and need transportation options to maintain their quality of life and independence. This of course was an issue for my parents. Thankfully, they did have a county-funded shuttle service that they used for years. (Most county officials were against the idea of the shuttle, however. Its funding is always on the verge of being cut.)

Meal delivery was another major need. The meal delivery service also serves as a status check on the older person, so it has a dual purpose. For those in rural areas, this can be a lifeline.

In Tennessee, supporting someone staying in their home costs $3,000-$15,000 annually, while putting a person in a facility costs over $50,000 annually. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see what is the financially efficient solution. Unfortunately, the federal  government has not been proactive in addressing the issue. Tennessee reports some success at the state level, working with community organizations.

Has your community addressed aging in place issues? I’d love to hear about programs that are working in your area.

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Addressing aging issues, village by village

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Anna Wolniak/Freeimages

While the concept that “it takes a village” has become a platitude in popular culture, there are people out there actually putting the village concept to the test. I’m now following the village concept in earnest, and will be interested in seeing how it develops.

I first heard of the concept through Kay Bransford, who has the excellent Dealing with Dementia blog.  She lives in McLean, Virginia, which is home to an active village community. The village is volunteer-based, and supports the needs of its inter-generational community members, with an emphasis on the aging population and the special needs of those with disabilities.

The idea of a grassroots movement that allows one to age-in-place without heavy government involvement is intriguing. The local, community-based approach makes the most sense to me, because neighborhoods have their own individual challenges and opportunities. We also shouldn’t hold our breath that the federal government is going to address the needs of our rapidly aging population anytime soon, no matter who’s in office.

The village movement began over 15 years ago, and the Village to Village Network was established in 2010. Over 200 villages now exist in 45 states. Members help each other by looking out for one another, making sure those who need help aging in place have access to affordable, dependable services for things like home repairs and running errands. Village communities work with existing government and community agencies to address any gaps in care and resources.

I think about how much a strong village model could have helped my parents as they dealt with medical issues and aging concerns.

What do you think about the village concept?

 

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Giving up the little things at the nursing home

Today, my mom and her roommate were complaining about some of the things that were not being done around the nursing home. The complaints didn’t involve serious infractions, but it did make me think about how little control you have once you have to check into a nursing home.

Both Mom and the roommate said their bedsheets hadn’t been changed in two weeks. With my mom’s colostomy accidents, I would think you would need to be changing the sheets much more frequently. They also did not receive a fresh set of towels for the past two days. Again, little things, but both of these women are with it enough to want to maintain good hygiene, so it’s a shame to see their efforts thwarted by a shortage of clean supplies.

In the dining hall, I saw a woman in a wheelchair struggle to pick up her napkin, which had fallen on the floor. She almost fell out of her wheelchair trying to get it! I was about to get up to help her but then I saw an aide come to her table. But she ignored the poor old woman, assisted someone else, and left. Her tablemate noticed her struggling and helped her get her napkin.

I don’t blame the staff members, they are so busy trying to hand out the correct meals, then feed the many who can’t feed themselves. A dropped napkin is obviously not a priority.

But it goes back to dignity. And though ideally the nursing home is about restoring your health, which can boost your self-esteem, it also can be a place that kills your spirit.

Luckily, I’ve been able to help Mom out with some of the stuff she has needed. But I think about my father at the nursing home, and those long hours and days alone, when his needs may have been ignored as well. Not intentionally, but just as a side effect of being short staffed and my dad being a very quiet guy with dementia.

So many of the elderly’s struggles go unseen and unheard within the walls of the nursing home. While of course it’s depressing, I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to witness the good and the bad of elder care firsthand.

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