Community Involvement and the Elderly

So last week I promised you another long and well researched post once I got all of my resources in. Well they arrived and I have researched so hold on to your knickers because I’m super pumped about this post.

This post has next to nothing to do with LARCs (I know, but this is a blog, not a TV series so I can get away with less continuity). There’s a very important reason I’m jumping to talking about the elderly instead of contraceptives. I share an office with an Adult Protective Services worker. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the past four weeks being in the same space and she’s also taken me out to check in on a lot of her clients. So I’ve actively seen more elements of DSS that have to do with APS than just about anything else. It’s heartbreaking to be frank. Many of these people are elderly and disabled either mentally or physically or both and are living on obscenely small amounts of money. A lot of them don’t have people to care for them and even if they do, it’s almost impossible to work full time, make a living wage, and take care of an elderly person. Sometimes caregivers are paid caregivers but there are limits on hours, the pay is not awe inspiring, and there are still times when a care giver may need to be away from the client (such as grocery shopping). So what can be done?

Good news: I know of two relatively easy ways to make life easier for the elderly and particularly the disabled elderly.

Let’s start with the most average elderly people you can envision. There are a lot of them. And the population of elderly folk will continue to grow as the Baby Boomers age. This particular population is huge. Now add in to the mix that when people age, it’s common for memory problems to develop and for people to have issues like Alzheimer’s or some variety of Dementia. Even with in home care, it is possible for these individuals to leave home and find themselves in dangerous situations because they don’t know where they are or where they’re going. Sometimes these situations are made worse by other people or businesses calling the police to bring the person with Dementia home. I know these calls are made out of concern but when you don’t know where you are or you may even be in a different time and place in your mind, it is terrifying to be picked up by the police. Sometimes those with Dementia are a part of the work force and struggle with the early stages while they’re employed or they wish to continue being independent so they need a source of income which is very difficult with Dementia. This is Part One of what we can do:

Dementia friendly community and business trainings!

I personally think this is a wonderful and fairly simple thing that people can do to help elderly folk. The Alzheimer’s Society of the UK has a comprehensive manual that employers can download here. The Alzheimer’s Society of British Columbia has specific instructions for legal professionals, financial professionals, and housing professionals. And thanks to the Wisconsin Healthy Brain Initiative there is a manual that you yourself can read and the Alzheimer’s Association of America  has a PowerPoint you can download and then march on up to your local board of supervisors or mayor (or whoever is in charge where you live), slap it on their desk, and say “This is something our community needs!” Okay, I’m pretty sure that’s not how local government works but get your neighbors on your side and go to a board meeting or do a letter campaign and you could be making a serious impact on the elderly in your community.

“But Sadie, what about the elderly who don’t have Dementia? What about those with physical disabilities or other mental disabilities who need in-home care? How can we help them?” I hear you asking through your computer. Well, I’m glad you’re still with me and thinking ahead. You’re ready to move on to Part Two:

Respite Care!

Actually, you don’t even have to call it that but that’s the name with which I’m most familiar. Long story short, I’m the president of the Wesley Foundation at good ole W&M and we’re affiliated with the Williamsburg United Methodist Church. Well WUMC has a program called Respite Care that functions as an adult daycare so that elderly people who have someone looking after them can have some respite, hence the name. This is great so that caretaker can run errands or just prevent burn out and elderly folks can socialize and get out of the house. They based their program off of the initiative adopted by the United Methodist Church Commission on Disabilities in 2000. The way things work at WUMC is that they are open from 11:45 am to 5:00 pm and they take roughly 12 people a day. The cost is $50 and they have a trained and screened Care Team to look after everyone. They also allow student volunteers to come in and help out which helps foster a larger community of giving back.

If you can’t tell, I love this idea. You don’t have to be Methodist to do this. I’m not Methodist myself. I don’t event think you need to be brand loyal to Jesus to do something like this. I think it would be great if all churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, community organizations, honestly anybody that has building space and is dedicated to helping their community would develop a program like this. Some areas already have adult daycares and that’s great if they’re affordable. Some areas (like mine) don’t have anything like it except nursing homes or assisted living and those are more expensive than I had ever imagined. The Respite Director at WUMC very kindly sent me some information about how to start a similar program and I’m going to share it all with you.

Here’s a checklist that can be modified if necessary:

Please feel free to print this off!

Here’s the list of resources that the Virginia Conference Commission on Disabilities recommends:

For caregivers specifically

General Respite resources

If you have any other questions, let me know! Comment and share and all that jazz. I’ll certainly get back to you and if you have any specific questions about Respite or adult daycare, I can ask the Respite Director and my APS coworker.

More next week!