Life is sweet at home

Communication, Networking Keys to Caring for Elders, Adults with Disabilities, Ourselves

Marla discusses trends in elder care.

Marla discusses trends in elder care.

Last week I participated in a panel discussion on “Caring for Elders, Adults with Disabilities, and Each Other”. I want to share some of the insights that came out of that panel.

It was one of a series of conversations held in conjunction with the “Hope in Hard Times” Great Depression exhibit put on by the Highline Historical Society (HHS) in Burien. The exhibit runs through Jan 4, 2014.

My fellow panelists included Judy Pigoff, founder of Personal Safety Nets® and Kathy Sellars and Susan Carmony of LifeSPAN-Lifetime Secure Personal Assistance Network. Deborah Wakefield, financial services professional, New York Life, served as panel moderator.

Panelists (L to R): Diane Wakefield, Kathy Sellars, Judy Pigoff, Marla Beck, Susan Carmony

Panelists (L to R): Deborah Wakefield, Kathy Sellars, Judy Pigoff, Marla Beck, Susan Carmony

Trends in Care for the Elderly, Disabled Adults

In response to the first question, “What are some of the historical trends of the region and how do they relate to today?” Judy suggested that people are beginning to see their lives in a more holistic ways and devise strategies to help them develop support, “The hardest part is asking for help.”

I noted that compared to the past, we have lots more options for elder and disabled care, “We help elders live at home as long as possible. We basically offer customized assisted living in the privacy of their own home.”

At the exhibit Marla scopes out the 1920s hair curling machine.

At the exhibit Marla scopes out the 1920s hair curling machine.

Kathy put caring for the disabled in perspective, “Parents were either isolated caring for a disabled child or the child went to an institution. These days, organizations such as LifeSPAN help parents plan for caring for their adult child by networking with others and tapping into available resources.”

Pivotal Point in Starting Your Organization

Judy said the impetus for her work came about when she encountered a woman who had no resources and no idea how to ask for help or make a plan.

I founded Andelcare as a result of watching my mom and her sisters care for my grandfather, who died at age 102. I told the group, “I wanted to make sure more options were available to other families than were available to mine.”

Kathy’s story is somewhat similar in that she and her husband realized they needed to make a plan for their adult daughter with Down ’s syndrome.

I observed that most of our clients do not have a plan. They usually call us after Mom or Dad has had a crisis and they are immersed in making important life decisions. I always say to clients in a rush, “Slow down, let’s get care in place.This buys time for them to consult advisors and for us to help develop a plan.”

In fact, I added with a laugh – but it is true, “The King County Crisis Line uses us as an Emergency Room for these kinds of calls!”

Greatest Barriers to Making a Plan

When asked what are the greatest barriers to making a plan, I spoke right up, “Fear. It’s hard for clients to admit that things are out of control. As a result, we always honor that fear and gently guide families and elders toward making a plan.”

Kathy suggested that a positive attitude and developing a support system can help people move away from denial and into action.

I explained that after the crisis has been taken care and the elder is safe, we like to sit down and discuss the options. We suggest families start small, maybe only an hour a week of respite care so the caregiver can take a break. After awhile we often hear, “We wish we would have called you sooner!”

The Cost and Future of Elder Care

Everyone on the panel agreed that care costs money. I noted that we try to keep expenses reasonable and work with families and their financial advisors to determine how we can best meet their needs.

When asked what I see in my crystal ball for in-home care, I suggested that in the future home care will be more prevalent. People are beginning to understand that an increasing number of care options are available.

Also, I foresee all ages living in a variety of configurations. For example, I see seniors and elders living cooperatively and pooling resources for in-home care.

So, what about you? Do you have a plan in place for your care? For the elders in your family?