Tag Archives: elder care services

Location, Ca$h, and Care

The United States of America is still one country. But if you are looking for financial help to pay for dementia care services, it may not seem that way. Each state determines its own spending policies for elder care programs and many states distribute funding in ways that make no obvious sense. Differences between states are often compounded by variations across rural and urban districts. One factor, however, seems to be true across all geographies: Benefits for dementia care improve in locations where elected officials are sensitive to the issue.

The financial policies of your county and municipality can have a big impact on the types of services you can afford to buy for your loved one. These policies are typically formulated as the state’s response to the Older Americans Act  which was passed in 1965 as a framework to provide community services that guarantee seniors’ access to a “retirement in health, honor, dignity — after years of contribution to the economy”. Each time this federal legislation is re-authorized, it is subjected to a national review with requests for community input. Once it is re-authorized, each state must then review its own policies and determine how it will comply with the updated federal legislation.

This state-by-state review can result in wide disparities between states with different economic conditions — and those that have a larger aging population. Pennsylvania, for example, provides better benefits for elders than those offered by some other states. This is partly due to the fact that Pennsylvania is home to Philadelphia, which has the highest proportion of senior citizens among the 10 largest cities in the United States. But the state also adds resources to programs for seniors through funding generated by the Pennsylvania Lottery to Benefit Older Pennsylvanians.

After the PA Department of Aging incorporates its funding recommendations into a plan for statewide implementation, each county of the state must review trends and needs of its residents and determine local spending priorities. But there are big regional differences in the amount of money available to spend on senior services. If you live in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia,  your region has more money to spend on senior services due to the “hold harmless” clause protecting the large number of seniors in these two urban areas. If you live in a rural part of the state, the budgets for caregiver support programs are much smaller and in some cases, seem very unfair.

What does all this mean for your family’s healthcare budget? Funding differences across geographic lines may provide another opportunity for joint family planning. If there is more than one person in your family who can provide care for your loved one with dementia, you may want to do some research on the kinds of programs and funding streams available to support care in each person’s municipality. Siblings may be living in counties with very different funding pools available to pay for adult day services, caregiver respite, prescription medications, and even elder transportation. You can use information about these programs to develop a long term plan for how you will pay for care over the course of the disease. Learning more today may help you plan better for tomorrow. And don’t forget to “remind”  elected officials to protect funding for programs and services that really help your family.



Professionals Who Go the Extra Mile — Adult Day Services for the Elderly

Taking care of a person with dementia requires a degree of patience I did not know I had. For years my world revolved around writing assignments and deadlines. It’s a career that requires perseverance and self-discipline. Ten years of freelancing for national clients convinced me that I was pretty good at it. But everything changed when my mom moved in. I felt clueless and overwhelmed. The transition was hard for both of us. Once I found the incredible people at the Adult Day program in our county, managing my work and her care became much easier.

Until Mom moved in with me, I had never heard of Adult Day Care. To me, the name sounded belittling, and I was careful not to say “day care” around my mom. No matter what stage of dementia someone has reached, you’ve got to show respect for who they are.

We are lucky to live in a county with a great Adult Day Service Center which is operated by Blue Mountain Health System. I interviewed Roxanne Downs, the director of the program to get more details about how services are organized. Although the program is located in Carbon County, this Palmerton site also has contracts with Monroe and Lehigh Counties which can refer clients who need services.

Ms. Downs feels that current services for seniors in Carbon County are well managed and located in sites that are accessible for most people. The aging population in our county is growing,  just as it is in the rest of Pennsylvania. But Roxanne feels that the county — like most others — is not financially prepared for the growing wave of elderly people.

Like most Adult Day sites, her center focuses on taking good care of their elderly participants. To do this, they work closely with their families. The center has a caregiver support group that meets regularly to discuss topics of interest to family caregivers. Past sessions have covered elder care law, the nature of Parkinson’s Disease, and trends in gerontology. Staff members at the site interview the elder’s primary caregiver every six months to adjust each elder’s care plan. The program operates on a medical model which helps identify and address health issues together with families.

Apart from meticulous daily care, the center offers handicapped accessible showers for people who have limited accessibility at home. They have a nurse on staff who can do blood work on site. This reduces the family burden of making appointment for ongoing labwork. A hairdresser is there offering weekly cuts for elders. Occupational and speech therapy can also be arranged on site.

I love the people who work there because they have been so good to my mom. Whenever any issue comes up, I get a phone call immediately and we create solutions together. Every day I am thankful for the kind attention they have given my mom and I am certain that their activities have helped my mom retain some abilities despite the progression of her disease. If you need this kind of support so you can work full-time and still care for a family member, the links on the front page will guide you to similar programs around the state of Pennsylvania. My December article in the Journal Newspapers also provides more details about elder programs in the Pocono region.

If your county doesn’t have a program like this, it may be time to become an advocate for launching one. You can begin by calling your Area Agency on Aging — and follow up with a call to your state legislator. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really need. The elders in our community deserve the kind of support they once offered to us.