The Happy Aging Way

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It’s never too early to prepare for the golden years

Bringing up the future with an elder loved one can be difficult for many reasons, but discussing how they will be cared for as they age is a very important and necessary conversation to have. More than 70 percent of Americans older than 65 will need some form of Long Term Services (LTS) or support, with most people requiring help with daily activities when they’re in their 80s and 90s. However, the majority of the population fails to plan accordingly. In fact, Baby Boomers are approximately five times more likely to prepare for death versus life. This is an issue that concerns George Linial, President & CEO of LeadingAge Texas. His nonprofit trade association works to advocate for aging service professionals to inspire, serve, and advocate on behalf of the elderly. Over 35 Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) throughout the state pay dues to LeadingAge Texas. These dues cover representation for legislation at the state level, and continued education for all disciplines that work in these communities.

“Our society is aging pretty rapidly and more resources are needed,” Linial said. “10,000 people are turning 65 everyday in the United States.” Linial cautions that people mistakenly think that Medicare pays for long-term care. For those without financial resources, Medicaid will pay for care, but as it’s the fastest growing part of the state budget (approximately 33 percent), it will continue to crowd out other state funding. LeadingAge Texas wants to see the burden of long term care on families and the state addressed, in order to ease the burden on both. He advises that people start thinking about their long-term healthcare needs long in advance. This way you can be prepared both mentally and financially.

 

Deciding Which Type of Care is Best for Your Family Member

The type of elder care you or your family choose for yourself or a loved one is often determined by the needs that must be met and the financial resources available.

In-home care services can be helpful when additional everyday assistance is needed. There are a vast assortment of services that can cover physical needs, home upkeep, and errand running. Websites such as Care.com can be utilized as a resource to locate providers for hire in your area.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities are another option that provide a wide range of Long Term Services. Individuals can live independently while having resources available 24/7, and community members with special needs are insured that their needs for care are met. These communities provide the opportunity for individuals to stay close to their partners and friends in the same community, even as they age and the services they require change.

When an individual’s situation is acute and they need to be housed in a nursing home, George Linial advises that it’s important to research what the best facilities are in your area. Through a Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare search, you can learn about the score given to local facilities. In addition, he encourages families to physically visit nursing homes to look for: “Does it look like there’s enough activities going on? Are the residents taken care of? Does the staff smile? Does the staff have a good positive attitude?” These are critical to the happiness of an individual and cannot be measured from data. “It’s what you want your loved one to get.”

 

In-Home Assistance Brings Relief for Family

Debra Lachico is a program specialist at the Lower Rio Grande Development Council Area Agency on Aging. She is happy to support the needs of older Americans (60 and over) and their family caregivers, as her connection to the organization is a very personal one — she first found the organization when she and her sister were in need of elder care for their own parents. Their father had been a shrimper and was concerned that under the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program, he could lose his home and lot. He was determined not to let this happen. “He refused services from the state,” said Lachico, so she sought out alternatives to help ease the stress of looking after her parents on her own.

During this time, Lachico was also searching for employment, had a son in college, and was overwhelmed by the 24-hour job of taking care of her parents. When she found the Area Agency on Aging as an alternative to regular state funded services, she called repeatedly, for weeks inquiring as to what position her parents held on the waiting list.  When their application finally came through, “it was a blessing,” she said, as she had been commuting daily from Brownsville to her parents’ home in Harlingen. Now she and her sister would be able to hire a professional to help with their parents’ needs.

It so happened that a family friend’s trusted provider, who already knew her mother, was available. Lachico was relieved to know that they would now be in good hands. “It helped save our sanity,” she said. The family’s relationship with the provider became an important bond, and she was with them for the passing of Lachico’s dad, and later the passing of her mom. “She has become a family friend.”

Shortly after securing care for her parents, Lachico learned about a job opportunity with the Area Agency on Aging. Lachico, who has worked in social service agencies for over 40 years says she “qualified, applied, and got the job!” Now 11 years after starting with the agency, supports the organization’s objective to improve the quality of life of older persons through a coordinated social service delivery system at the regional level.

 

Finding Joy in Day Care

Adult day care centers are other care options that provide daytime relief to working families. These programs serve to prevent and delay individuals from having to be institutionalized, and offer an opportunity for healthy social interaction. Costs can vary from $25 to over $100 daily depending on the services that are provided. Typically adult day care centers are not covered by Medicare insurance, but some financial assistance may be available through state and federal programs.

Josefa Espinosa, who is 80 years old, attends the Amigos y Familia Adult Day Care in Mission. She came to the adult day care at the invitation of the center — no commitment required. Josefa found the center to her liking, and accepted the invitation.

She had suffered from depression, and when her husband passed some years ago, it worsened. But as she found herself at Amigos Y Familia, her outlook on life changed. At the center she has a group of friends, a community of people who enjoy the days in each other’s company and good will. “At the center, that’s where I have my friends — very good friends,” she said happily.

Josefa has been a client of the center’s for about a year now. Her decision to join was a very practical one. “The girls work, so I thought, what am I doing here by myself? It was only a few hours alone, and I was okay, but I feel more comfortable at the center. Those of us who are a little weak in the knees, we play Loteria, we sing, we get along.” Josefa is admittedly a shy person by nature, and was only used to the company of her family. But at the center she has blossomed with her new friends. “We care a lot about each other,” she said. They are always checking in and asking “how are you?” and “how have you been?” For her part, Josefa said, “I feel better now; I don’t feel my sickness so much.”

Yolanda recalls that after Josefa started going to the center, she saw a new attitude in her mother. “It’s helped her a lot with her depression to talk to people her age,” she said. “I recommend it to people who are in their home a lot and they have the possibility of attending a day center like this, because it might help them to do the activities they have there.”

While the center provides necessary care like serving meals and medication to its clients, it’s the fun stuff that makes their day. “They have activities like karaoke, fitness, lots of crafts. My mom likes cross-stitching, so they have a lot of fun,” Yolanda said. “And when it’s their birthday, they take them a trio or a conjunto and they dance, the ones that can, and the others watch. The music and liveliness helps them.”

“Tomorrow there is a party,” Josefa said. “They didn’t tell us a theme or anything this time, but we always go mas-o-menos.”

Her daughter interjects to comment on how well-dressed the center’s clients go to special occasions. “She gets excited to pick out her outfits and jewelry, just like kids asking what they’re wearing to the next day of school — because they like going. They’re all very cute at that day care. Lots of positivity.”

 

LeadingAge Texas: www.leadingagetexas.org

This organization represents John Knox Village CCRC in Weslaco.

 

COG Area Agency on Aging provides a number of services. Please contact them to determine which services are best suited for your family’s needs.

Toll Free: 1-800-365-6131

Website: www.lrgvdc.org/aging.html

 

The Administration on Aging (a principal agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) provides resources and information on elder care through their website and toll free number.

Toll Free: 1-800-677-1116

Website: www.eldercare.gov

 

Amigos Y Familia Adult Day Care, Inc.

Address: 1414 Hill Drive, Mission, TX 78572

Phone: (956) 424-0060