Easing the Process for Disabled Seniors

It was something so surreal that we could never imagine it when we were younger, but our parents, grandparents, and loved ones grow old. None of us remain strong forever and the day will come that you need help making it from point A to point B, but we’ll leave that alone for another day. When giving seniors care it is a touchy issue when it comes to aiding them. Like everyone, seniors want to remain thriving members of society but it is physically impossible for them to do so. Here are some ways that you can ease the transition from ability to disability with seniors.

Encouraging Independence

One of the essentials of elderly care is to remember each member of society wants to be healthy and functioning. When an elder realizes he or she is unable to continue caring for oneself like they were able to in the past it is devastating to their self-image. Upholding as many independent activities an elder can accomplish is crucial. Feeling helpless and unable to complete basic life activities without help is something no person wants to experience.  Encourage an elder’s independence. Challenge them to complete tasks which require independence. Go for a 3 15-minute walks per week (gentleman with a walker shown above), come down the stairs at least once per day, play a game of chess (online or offline), or any of these other activities.

Never Call Attention to Deficiencies

Humiliating a senior for a mistake or miscue should never happen. When a senior forgets where something was placed, bumps into a table, knocks something over, or has a restroom accident, do not call it to attention. Assure them that the problem will be taken care of. Then you can help to clean up the mess, reorganize, and assist in restoring the situation. Drawing attention to the senior for making a mistake only worsens the situation.

Home Care or a New Home?

When it comes to the point in which a decision must be made in regards to a senior living at home and receiving care or moving into a retirement center, the most favorable choice for the senior will be to stay in their own home. You’ll find that many major changes to a senior’s lifestyle are met with resistance and this shouldn’t be a surprise. When there are no feasible options besides moving into a senior care center or retirement community, you’re essentially telling the senior they need to evacuate their home and completely turn their life upside down. The “right” answer will depend on the needs of the aging senior and the level of care necessary for the senior to function in a healthy manner. Be sure to remind the senior that there are plenty of great things when it comes to retirement communities, including a community full of other great people and fun activities via life enrichment. If the senior makes the decision to move into a retirement community, be sure you do the research and help them decide which assisted living facility is the best.

The process of losing independence and the ability to care for oneself is never easy so do not expect it to be a seamless transition. It will be difficult, there will be miscommunication at times, and mistakes will be made. Just remember to encourage seniors when mistakes are made, don’t call them out, and challenge them to do things on their own. Put yourself in their shoes and treat them as if you’d like to be treated when you come to their age.

About the Author

Cheryl Swanson worked as the life enrichment coordinator of a retirement community for 17 years. Now she finds herself taking care of her mother, Lena, making sure she gets the most out of life in old age. A writer by heart Cheryl writes for www.justwalkers.com, providing walkers for movement assistance.

Find Free Social Services to Help You Take Care of Your Loved One

In our more honest moments, we can admit: it is incredibly difficult—both financially and emotionally—to provide long-term care for an elderly family member.

Even those who have saved for the challenges of a family member’s old age find themselves facing rising medical costs, hidden fees, and dwindling savings.

And, worst of all, many people who find themselves responsible for an older family member experience “caregiver burnout,” and their motivation and patience wane as time goes on. And while such feelings are totally normal—expected, even—that feeling of burnout can lead to resentment and guilt.

Those who care for family members often believe that they are utilizing every opportunity to provide consistent and thoughtful care. Luckily, there are often extensive—and free!—untapped resources available.

Let’s take a look at some of the social services available in your area, and how to access them.

Step One: Log On and Find Your State’s Homepage

Here’s the good news: there a numerous social programs available to seniors, and to the people who provide care for seniors. Here’s the bad news: most of these programs are hidden in the dark corners of your state’s very old, very difficult to navigate homepage!

Texas is a perfect example. The state provides a wide range of programs for senior citizens and caregivers, but the Texas state homepage is… mystifying, to say the least.

But the search can be worth it. Texas’s Department of Aging and Disability Services has a list of services by county, and offers free or low-cost programs related to respite care, support groups, education on navigating the health care system, counseling for individual family members, and disability benefits. There may be waiting lists to utilize such programs, but many services are in fact under-utilized, and you may face no wait time whatsoever.

The assistance provided by each state is different, and some states provide more care than others. But the quest can be fruitful, as citizens of New York can attest.

To find your state’s website, go to a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing, and enter your state’s name followed by the word “homepage” (don’t include the quotes). The site you’re looking for should be in the first two or three results. Click on it and remember—the frustration of the search may be worth it!

Step Two: Find a Support Group—But Not Only for Emotional Help

Numerous studies have shown that caregivers who look to their communities for support are less likely to get sick themselves, and are more likely to experience “emotional resilience.” There is no question that the emotional backing that a support group offers can alleviate some of the more difficult aspects of caregiving.

So if you haven’t found a support group, you should. Weekly or bi-weekly attendance helps members explore (and hopefully dissolve) some of the more difficult emotions related to caregiving.

But while that alone is reason to attend meetings, it paints an incomplete picture of the value of support groups. We often forget that support groups are full of people who have an incredible amount of knowledge—and who have already navigated the difficulties of determining care for loved ones.

Wherever you live, the people who populate your local caregiver support group will have an understanding of the health care system, local services programs, and which local agencies can provide assistance.

So—get out there and make some new friends! Share your knowledge, and find out what others in the same situation are doing.

Step Three: Explore Services That Might Not Perfectly Fit Your Situation

It may sound odd, but services that are only somewhat related to your needs may furnish exactly the help you’re looking for.

Here’s an example: in many states, there are community mental health clinics that offer free therapy sessions to families who have a family member with a mental health disorder. For the most part, these counseling sessions are used to discuss schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, or bipolar disorder. However, in some cases, the counseling sessions can be used by families who have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Even though the service is listed as a mental health resource, it can be utilized by families who are struggling with various aspects of elder care.

So how you do find such programs? Visit your county’s website and look for a tab that says “Programs and Services” (or something like it). Counties often offer services that are not available at the state level, and you need to investigate each.

A quick tip: a “spoonful of sugar” goes a long with the therapists who work at mental health clinics. Because the counselors and clinicians at these agencies are used to dealing with unhappy or difficult clients, an earnest and polite request from someone who is motivated to seek help can put you at the top of the list for services. For the most part, counselors want to work with motivated clients, and if you can show that you are a good candidate for help, they will be happy to work with you.

Another quick tip: Explore services in the counties surrounding the one you live in. While most counties are strict about division of services, the programs in some counties may be under-utilized, and they may accept out-of-county applicants. We know of one person who was seeking legal advice with an elderly father’s finances, and was able to attain the help of an out-of-county program.

Step Four: Hang in There!

Persistence in key. It can be difficult to arrange free services—but it can difficult to arrange paid services, as well! In every state and every county, there are programs that can help you help your loved ones. Keep at it, and see what you can find!

About the Author

Matthew Morris is a hospital social worker in Brooklyn, NY, and has helped many clients attain social services on a state and local level. He also runs The CNA Career Agency to help individuals start a nursing career in the healthcare industry.