What happens when the child becomes the parent? Watching Mom and Dad struggle with the aging process can be heartbreaking. It’s an emotional time to be searching for answers, and implementing solutions can be difficult for the entire family. There are diverse organizations for elder care assistance throughout the St. Louis area, but the first step is an assessment of needs.
Many older adults choose to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, a concept referred to as ‘aging in place.’ If they make the decision to give up driving, transportation becomes the most immediate challenge, and a simple trip to the doctor can become a nightmare of coordination for adult children.
Elder care professionals agree that this loss of independence is a primary concern. Patient Advocacy Services offers transportation for patients of all ages, but owner Christine Krieger says it is the most requested service for the company’s elderly clients. With degrees in nursing and law, Krieger says her services extend beyond mere transportation. “Because of our medical background, we ask the questions that the patient might not know to ask,” she says. “Sometimes it’s necessary to challenge the need for duplicate or unnecessary procedures, for example, or uncover conflicting medications from different physicians.” Krieger, a certified Geriatric Care Manager, recommends
caremanager.org as a national resource for families looking for guidance.
While aging in place has become a choice for many older adults, it is not always the best option. If an individual requires a more comprehensive level of care, a skilled nursing facility may be necessary. When families face that decision, an elder care professional can help them identify the best senior community for their loved one’s needs. Ursula Shaner, co-owner of Elder Support Services, compares the process to choosing a college. “Everyone has unique wants and needs, so it’s important to plan ahead and not wait for a crisis situation,” she says. “Does the individual have a religious preference? Is location important? And, of course, financial parameters are always a key component.”
To avoid the crisis stage, Shaner stresses the important of continued monitoring and evaluation. “I hear the phrase ‘It’s no big deal’ quite often from senior adults, because they don’t even realize their needs increasingly have been met by family members. Or adult children insist that ‘Mom’s not that bad.’ It’s critical to have the discussion before an emergency develops and the choice is made in haste,” she advises.
The complexity of options and accompanying rules can be impossible for the elderly to negotiate, and intimidating for caregivers. Insurance and Medicare regulations, in particular, are notoriously complex and will change yet again under the recently passed health care legislation.
Dick Grote, chairman of American Medicare Counselors (AMC), says professional guidance can save money and grief. “The key is to make sure people understand how the new rules will affect them,” he says. “AMC works closely with clients transitioning from private insurance to Medicare, comparing rates and benefits to help them make the most cost-effective choices. For elderly patients already in the Medicare system, it is critical to monitor their insurance coverage to ensure premiums are being deducted from Social Security checks.” Grote cautions, “If no one is watching, it is very difficult to reinstate coverage for the elderly once it is lost.”
Reversing roles is challenging for the elderly and their adult children. Recognition of an elderly parent’s needs, and meeting those needs with compassionate solutions, will help make that their golden years more enjoyable for everyone.