This week’s blog continues the discussion of an aging adult who wants to stay in his or her home. The introductory installment (on February 11, 2016) discussed the emotional turmoil that can face the adult children in deciding whether to accede to the aging parent’s wishes to stay home. The February 18, 2016 installment discussed home modifications that may make it easier for an aging adult to stay home. The February 25, 2016 installment discussed medication management. The March 3, 2016 installment discussed hiring someone to help with activities of daily living. The March 10, 2016 installment discussed technologies that can monitor the well-being of an aging adult staying in the home. Today’s installment will discuss services that can make it easier for an aging adult to stay home.
One of the biggest needs for a senior to stay in his or her home is nutrition. Mobile Meals or Meals on Wheels is available in many areas for seniors of limited means. These services will deliver balanced nutritional meals to seniors in their homes. The meal delivery is also a social interaction for seniors, some of whom have very little contact with others. Many meal delivery volunteers get big smiles and hugs just because they show up at a senior’s home.
In many areas where there are a sufficient number of seniors, congregate meals are available at senior centers, community centers, or churches. These congregate meals (usually at lunchtime) offer a nutritious meal at little or no cost. Because it is a congregate meal, it also offers socialization. It’s a chance to visit with others. It is also a chance for others to see the senior on a regular basis. The people who host the congregate meal see the same diners on a regular basis. If someone doesn’t show up, the hosts will notice. If a diner is starting to have trouble getting around, trouble remembering, or shows signs of difficulties, the hosts can check with the senior and/or family members.
With luck, the senior lives in a neighborhood where the neighbors are friendly. If at least some of them are friendly, the neighbors can be a support “service.” Neighbors can check on each other or run errands together.
The telephone also helps. Someone calling a senior every day “just to talk” or to check in has the added benefit of knowing that the senior can get to the phone and “‘sounds okay.” It’s less immediate than a medical pendant, but it’s socialization and reassurance for both the senior and the caller.
If the senior has a disease that causes dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association can provide a great deal of advice and can put the family in touch with a great number of resources and other services. If the senior suffers from Parkinson’s, the Parkinson’s Association can provide advice, resources, and links to useful services. Likewise, a number of non-profit organizations can make advice and support available to the senior and family. Often, these organizations focus on a particular chronic condition. In some areas, a United Way agency may offer the same sort of advice and referrals without being linked to a particular condition.
More and more Adult Day Care services are opening. Adult day care services offer a chance for the senior to get out of the house (i.e., a little variation on the daily routine) and socialization. Lunches and sometimes breakfasts, as well as snacks, are available. Adult day services provide activities, and many times those activities are forms of covert rehabilitation for the senior’s chronic issues.
A local senior center may offer a number of services similar to Adult Day Care. There will be less structure than Adult Day Care, but still senior centers many times offer a great deal of structure. Structured or not, senior centers offer companionship and someplace to go outside the house. (Senior Centers with pool tables seem to attract a great deal of men, I’ve noticed.) As mentioned above, senior centers often have a congregate meal. Also, they frequently offer informational programs or support groups for seniors and family members.
Companion Care services are also available. These services are similar to in-home care, but they don’t provide actual hands-on care. Companion Care doesn’t offer (or rarely offers) help with bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding, getting in and out of bed or a chair, or other “activities of daily living.” Help with those needs falls under non-skilled home care (as discussed in the March 3, 2016 installment.) Companion Care may offer meal preparation, medication reminders, laundry, light cleaning, and (as the words “companion care” imply) companionship for the senior – someone in the house spending time with the senior.
A one-stop-shop that can put the family in touch with the many of the services described above as well as a great number of other services is the local Area Agency on Aging or the county Department of Aging. These organizations attempt to “know everyone” who can help seniors. Area Agencies on Aging and Departments of Aging do an incredible job connecting seniors with support services.