I've dealt for decades with my father's many physical and mental ills, which have only become more acute as he has aged. While everyone’s situation is unique, if you are struggling with the needs of an elderly or infirm parent, there are places you can turn for expertise, help and understanding. Here are a few that have made all the difference for me:
Office on Aging. Although my father was officially disabled in New Jersey, I had to reapply for all his benefits when I moved him to New York. The wonderful senior advocates at this office -- part of a national, federally supported network of aging agencies -- walked me page by page through all the forms needed to complete the Medicaid application process. They also hooked me up before his benefits were approved with interim organizations like Catholic Home Care, which sent aides for light housecleaning and company.
Hello, house calls! Just like in the olden days, some physician's practices now include nurse practitioners who make house calls. So when my father is unable to make appointments or is feeling unwell (as is often the case), we have someone who comes to him. It is an invaluable option that more providers are beginning to offer.
Accessible ride services. The town where my father now lives has a bus service specifically aimed at non-driving seniors and disabled residents. For only $3 a ride -- booked with at least two days notice -- the bus will pick him up and take him anywhere in town. Many communities have similar services.
Senior/community centers. While so far I've not successfully gotten my father connected on this front, that’s mostly due to his own specific issues. It's a shame, too, because senior centers and community centers with programs for seniors offer so much -- social interaction, mental stimulation, classes, lectures and potential friends.
Pharmacies that "package." For my father, medication management was a huge issue until we found a specific pharmacy that caters to elderly and special needs and will create "blister packs" for customers. So instead of 25 confusing bottles, my father now has dated, sealed packs delivered to him, with easy directions on which meds he needs to take when. A lifesaver!
Senior housing. If you have a parent who isn’t quite ready for a nursing home or eschews assisted living (like mine), think about senior housing. I've relied on this multiple times with my father, and thanks to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, it has always come at an affordable rent.
Charities and religious organizations. In the first weeks after my father’s latest move, I signed him up for the local Meals on Wheels. I felt good knowing that he'd have a hot meal dropped off daily -- a wonderful service if you need it. Many churches and synagogues also sponsor programs that send meals or visitors to seniors' homes.
Social workers. I found them everywhere -- at the hospital, the senior housing center, social service offices. Almost all health professionals I encountered or agencies where I applied for services for my father put me in contact with a social worker. And they were the best resource! They gave me numbers, organizations, guidance, support. The more social workers you can find to help you, the better.
Friends, coffee, wine, ice cream. Even with all the support out there, it isn’t easy. You need your friends to help you laugh, to feel bad with you when you cry and to get riled on your behalf. You are there for your parent, and they are there for you. And if they're accompanied by sips or sweets, that’s even better. Good luck, and stay strong.
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