Our Aging Journey — Navigating the Eldercare Maze

Getting Help to Navigate the Eldercare Maze

From time to time, I hear from friends who are worried about how to help an older loved one in their lives; or how to plan ahead for themselves.    There seem to be a few “red flags” popping up and other times, an urgent event or incident has occurred like a fall, hospitalization or new diagnosis.  So, this month I thought I would share some tips for how to get help whether you are thinking ahead or are in an emergency.

Aging Life Care Experts:  When I was faced with my parents’ needs after a hospitalization and new chronic care diagnosis, I realized that trying to handle the situation from 400 miles away was not going to be easy.  That is why I encourage people to engage an Aging Life Care Expert (formerly called Geriatric Care Managers) to help sort options and make informed choices. On their national association’s website at www.aginglifecare.org, you can do a zip code based search for who is certified and credentialed.  An Aging Life Care Expert can go to meetings with you; and you can also empower them to talk to staff, discharge planners, etc. on your behalf.  They can be great at helping you understand the jargon and options being presented.  The one I hired was good at locating local services I needed and at handling problems that emerged when I was not around.  The website also offers helpful tip sheets about how to hire an Aging Life Care Expert, questions to ask, etc.  (Privately paid most of the time.)

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (also known as an Area Agency on Aging or AAA) are publicly funded to provide information and some services for older adults and disabled individuals. Staff are trained to talk with you about your situation, what information you may need, and whether there are programs that may help you.   Our local AAA is Spectrum Generations – contact them at 1-800-639-1553 toll free.  The local Aging & Disability Resource Specialist is also available at 607-4405 and comes to the People Plus center in Brunswick on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Usually no or low cost.

Elder Law Attorney – Another key individual you may need help from is an attorney who specializes in the legal issues that can affect people as they age.  On the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at www.naela.org – you can search for an elder law specialist by zip code, type of issue, etc. to find someone who meets your needs.  (Phone is 703-942-5711, not toll-free).  The website also provides consumer resources like a tip sheet on “Questions and Answers When Looking for An Elder Law Attorney.   Attorneys who primarily work with seniors appreciate the complex financial and social decisions their clients face.   Because of their specialized training and experience, hopefully they can ignore myths & stereotypes about older adults and their competence.  As members of NAELA, they are expected to adhere to a code of ethics.

Navigating is not always easy but can go a little more smoothly when you have some help!

Update from the Age-Friendly Communities of the Lower Kennebec:  We are partnering with the Bath YMCA to offer free Community Open Walks every Tuesday and Thursday, from 1 to 2 pm on their walking track!  Come stretch your legs and meet a friend inside during the winter!   (443-4112).

Share your tips for what you do to get through the winter, and I will include it in an upcoming article!   What do you do for fun in winter?  How do you keep cabin fever at bay?   Send me your thoughts to pbailey@cityofbath.com!