Elderly Care for Your Aging Loved One What To Do?

by Sharon J. Miles – New Mexico WOMAN

Are you stretched beyond your limits coping with work and a family? What happens when an elderly relative or friend becomes disabled or is simply frail and needs some special attention and care? What can you do? Where do you start? The good news is that there are many programs and community resources available to provide the care your loved one needs, whether it be in-home care, a residential care home, or an assisted-living retirement apartment. In-home care can make the difference between living comfortable, safely, and independently at home, or being prematurely institutionalized in a nursing home.

Types of In-Home Care for Elders

The programs offered to seniors and the disabled are extensive and provide services to support independent living whenever possible. Programs may be private-pay, government-funded, donation-supported, or reduced fee programs. There are three broad categories of in-home care from which to choose.

Homemakers / Companions

Homemakerscompanions provide non-medical assistance with the daily tasks of living such as dressing, grooming, walking and light exercise, taking medications, preparing meals, shopping, light housecleaning, laundry, transportation to doctors, errands and, most importantly, companionship.

Personal Care Attendants

Personal Care Attendants are medically trained and certified nurses aides for personal care such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, aided transfers, and assistance with walking. They usually provide the homemaker/companion responsibilities also. Both of these services are available from private and nonprofit agencies. Fees range for $12-$18 an hour with three to four hour minimum.

State Programs to Support In-Home Care

The State of New Mexico offers three Medicaid-funded programs that provide homemaker/companion and personal care services to prevent premature placement in a nursing home and allow individuals to remain at home. There is no cost to the elder if he or she meets certain eligibility requirements, such as a level of personal needs and income. Registration for these programs can take up to two months and have waiting lists, but if your elder meets emergency criteria, he or she might obtain the services sooner.

Putting Together a Plan

It is not always easy to wade through the various governmental and private bureaucracies in order to access these programs and resources.  The problem of finding the appropriate services is often compounded because many elderly live at great distances from their families.

Putting Together a Plan (continued)

Fortunately, professional help is available through a newly emerging group of care managers who are specially trained to help arrange for the best possible geriatric care for your loved one.  Geriatric Care Managers can save working professional women and families time, frustration, and money while providing personalized attention, direction, and support through the maze of elder care services and programs.

GCM’s are professionally trained in gerontology, nursing, social work, and/or counseling.  They conduct a personal in-home needs assessment and develop an individualized care plan.  They also assess the availability of private and/or state-funded services which most effectively address their clients’ needs.

  • A Comprehensive In-Home Needs Assessment Evaluates:
  • The elder’s social skills, independence, and ability to prepare meals, manage medications, arrange for groceries and errands, manage money, keep house, and drive or arrange for transportation
  • Individual daily needs such as nutrition, personal grooming, bathing, mobility, and mental and medical health
  • Home safety and equipment needs
  • Financial ability to pay for various long-term care options
  • Any legal issues that may exist
  • Potential need for alternative living arrangements such as:
    • Assisted Living Retirement Communities (These typically provide apartment, dining, and varying levels of personal care services.)
    • Residential Care Homes (These generally support eight to 10 residents, and offer 24-hour care and supervision.)
    • Dementia and Alzheimer’s specialty-care facilities
    • Nursing Homes

GCMs also coordinate and monitor the elder’s care on an ongoing basis, communicating regularly with the family and providing support and counseling as needed. This is especially important for a long-distance caregiver’s peace of mind.

Community and In-Home Programs Resources

  • City of Albuquerque Department of Senior affairs (505) 764-6400
  • D & E Waiver Program. To register call 1-800-432-2080
  • Total Community Care – PACE (505) 924-2650
  • Personal Care Services (800) 432-2080
  • National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (useful for long-distance care givers) (520) 881-8008; www.caremanager.org

“Together we will find solutions.”