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Residents learn latest on how to age in place

by Sam Richards

Staff Writer


Tuesday, April 2 (4:00 p.m.): To successfully “age in place” generally requires having a strategy for managing the health-related needs that come with getting older, and two people whose jobs deal with such things say that being proactive gives seniors the best chance to remain in their homes as long as possible.

“Have a plan – do what you can in advance,” said Bryan Riddle of the Senior Visionary Services division of Walnut Creek-based Care Placement Advisors, as part of a March 19 Optimum Wellness Lecture hosted by Rossmoor Counseling Services. Planning, he said, is far better than responding after a situation has already become a crisis.

About 80 people turned out for this presentation in the Fireside Room, which also featured Lorna Van Ackeren with Concord-based Continuum Hospice. Both she and Riddle pointed to the following keys for maintaining independence: the preparatory planning that includes obtaining and/or learning one’s way around health insurance (or the Medicare/MediCal processes); deciding which of the various levels of home care is best for a given person’s situation; working out how such services will be paid for; and staying as healthy as possible (and making sure all caregivers involved do the same).

Aging in place, Riddle and Van Ackeren told the audience, usually at some point involves finding the level of in-home care that they (or their insurance carrier) can or will pay for. Home care professionals, they said, typically charge between $25 and $40 an hour, with the more expensive ones having gone through background checks, and usually are backed by better insurance policies.

The less expensive professionals tend to be “independent caregivers” who generally don’t have a company or firm they work for. That, Riddle said, makes the person aging in place their employer, which brings its own set of considerations. And there should be a backup plan in place for times when an independent caregiver is sick, Riddle said.

That there is an industry- wide caregiver shortage, Riddle said, will not only make it harder for many people to find the right caregiver for their situation but will likely mean that multiple caregivers will ultimately work for a given person, requiring more “training” by the patient about his or her particular needs.

Van Ackeren said several kinds of treatment fall within the “home health care” designation. They include physical, occupational and speech therapy. A physician must prescribe this care, she said, which can often be paid for through Medicare.

Hospice, which offers physical, emotional, social and spiritual support for patients nearing the end of life (and their families), is also paid for by Medicare, typically for up to six months, though sometimes longer, Van Ackeren said. As with home health care, hospice requires a physician’s approval.

Riddle said it’s important, regardless of what kind of care is being sought, that whoever is doing the looking knows that different types of caregivers are licensed to do different things, and to choose personnel with the proper credentials for the specific job.

Doing that research and making the best such choices, Van Ackeren said, can be a challenging job for the agingin- place senior themselves, or their family. Sometimes, she said, that work is performed by a hired “care manager.”

Van Ackeren referred to care managers as “professional relatives” but experts at what they do. They can charge like experts, too, she said – $150 an hour isn’t unusual.

“They’re kind of like (paying) a lawyer,” Van Ackeren said. “But they’re worth their weight in gold.”

Riddle said 67% of caregivers who are seniors die before the spouse, relative or friend they’re caring for does. That’s because family-member caregivers often stop caring for themselves, Van Ackeren said, which hastens what she called “caregivers burnout.”

Riddle cautioned such caregivers to work at “not losing yourself in the journey.”

Rossmoor Counseling Services can offer myriad resources in the realm of agingin- place and related caregiving and medical services that help make staying at home more possible. For more information, call that office at 1-925988-7750.