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Finding Resources for Aging Parents - Is There an App for That?

 Posted by Jim Morgan on October 15, 2019 at 1:46 PM

 Recently I had a conversation with an RN named Sally. Sally has been an RN for more than 20 years and has unexpectedly found herself in the role of caregiver to her elderly father. Despite working in the health care industry, Sally had no idea how to begin looking for the resources to help her care for her Dad. Her Dad had fallen and now needed more help than Sally could provide. She was tired and overwhelmed trying to take care of her children and her ailing father. Fortunately for Sally, a co-worker referred her to Veterans Care Bridge. Because Sally’s Dad is a Korean War veteran, we were able fund some care for her Dad and our VA accredited attorney helped them apply for the Veterans benefit Aid & Attendance.

 By the time we hit our 40's and 50's, many of us will find ourselves in Sally’s situation. She is part of what has been termed "The sandwich generation". This group of young- to middle-aged adults are “sandwiched” between caring for their aging parents, while also raising their children. Sally is learning she can't do it all. The good news is there are resources out there. The bad news is the resources are often siloed. This occurs when different agency groups do not share information, goals, tools, priorities, and processes with other related groups. As a result, many seniors go without the care they desperately need.

 Good communication of resources across multiple agencies is needed, but a path for that is still unclear. This is where organizations like the Veterans Care Bridge can become a "bridge" to those resources. Partnered with a VA accredited elder law attorney, Veterans Care Bridge funds and coordinates care for wartime veterans utilizing the VA benefit Aid & Attendance. Many are unaware of this benefit and how it can help provide care in the home.

 One of the best resources for seniors is the local Area Aging agency. This nonprofit agency exists to help elderly and disabled individuals remain in their own home and community for as long as possible. There are more than 600 agencies across every state in the nation. As a caregiver for your loved one, you can also find help for yourself at your local AAA. Agencies generally hold family caregiver support group meetings, have a caregiver resource network, or provide access to respite services in your area. If you just not sure where to start your agency is a great first call.

 The local aging agency is the gateway for benefits such as Medicaid Waiver. The Waiver is funded by the federal government and administered by the state. One of the challenges of utilizing this resource is understanding the language. When we hear the word Medicaid most think of federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income. Even though Medicaid Wavier is means-tested the guidelines for eligibility are different and it is possible to use a Medicaid Waiver to help pay for care at home.

 The key to getting the support you need is to ask questions. Then ask more questions...then more. It may take some digging, but the support for aging loved ones and caregivers is out there. You simply must be tenacious in your pursuit of information. If you call the Veterans Administration for example and don't get a clear answer to a question, hang up and try again. You could end up with a different person who has more experience than the person you talked to first. Rather than assuming you would not qualify for something, make the call and ask. 

 Some of the best information comes from the community. Ask friends and other family members if they have any advice or information based on their personal experience. If they have been in your shoes more than likely they will have some helpful information and become one of your best resources. The bottom line is most of us will likely be in RN Sally’s position at some point in our lives and will need the guidance of those in the system those who have shared similar experiences who are willing to step in and help. And as you learn, share what you know. You could be that resource who makes all the difference in making sure our seniors are cared for in the way the deserve!

By: Jenniffer Mollet

Program Coordinator

Veterans Care Bridge