Community Resources for Your Elderly Loved Ones

What happens when you end up caring for a elderly loved one at home? You might be surrounded by community programs that could help you and you may not be aware they exist. Some programs are funded by state or federal government, and others might be privately funded or provided by charitable organizations.

While you need to spend time searching for some programs, that time and energy might be worth the effort. The help provided by programs listed below might help you retain a semblance of normal life and sanity. Use the list below, the Internet, your phone book, a doctor’s advice or advice from a local hospital to discover help that is within reach. Additionally, if your elderly loved one is sick or dying, take advantage of any hospice care in your region.

  • Associations: Visit the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) to find an information and referral service, or you can check your local yellow pages under the community services section. Many national organizations such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Red Cross, or the Eldercare Locator can also provide good referral information.
  • Care management: Instead of trying to figure out the services you need and then finding them, use a case manager or a geriatric care manager to handle this task. You can find geriatric care managers through private companies and licensed agencies. Case managers also are found through licensed agencies, as well as through government and nonprofit agencies.
  • Health information services: National associations such as the Alzheimer’s Association provide excellent information on various health problems. Home health care agencies and associations such as the Visiting Nurse Association can help you locate in-home medical care or household help. Social Service agencies can provide you with mental health services or referrals and information on Medicaid. Hospitals can provide physician referrals, and doctors can provide referrals for geriatric assessment. Each state is required to have a health insurance counseling program, and you can receive advice about health insurance from an insurance agent or financial planner.
  • Legal services: Your local bar association may operate a referral service that you can use to find a lawyer if you need one. They may not recommend a particular attorney, but may provide you with a list of attorneys that specialize in elder law and help you set up a consultation with one or more of them. You can also receive information from your AARP chapter or from certain federal agencies. National organizations such as Legal Counsel for the Elderly can also answer your questions and provide referrals.
  • Meal services: Meals-on-wheels is a well-known program that provides one hot meal and a light supper once a day, at least five days a week. Volunteers deliver the meals. If subsidized, the meals may be free, but sometimes you must pay a small charge for each meal that is delivered to you. Your community may also have a delivery service available that will pick up meals from a restaurant and deliver them to your home for a few dollars more than the actual cost of the meal. Check your local yellow pages for these services.
  • Ombudsman service: An ombudsman is a trained volunteer who monitors nursing home care or other long-term care facilities. Each state also has at least one ombudsman, and many cities and counties have local ombudsmen as well. If you have a complaint about the quality of long-term care, you can contact an ombudsman through the nursing home or care facility, through the area agency on aging, or through your state department of aging.
  • Recreation services: Community centers, senior centers, churches, temples, and YMCAs (or YWCAs) usually offer recreation (including activities and exercise) programs geared towards older individuals. Many of these programs also provide meals, educational prorams, health screening, counseling and trips. Some programs may ask for fees, but in many cases these fees merely cover expenses. Check your yellow pages or call your local area agency on aging to find these programs.
  • Senior advocates: You may need an advocate when you have a legal problem or a problem involving a government agency. You can find out about advocates from the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, the AARP, and through your local social service agency or bar association.

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