There’s absolutely no training for caregivers. When you take on the responsibility of caring for an aging parent or spouse, you typically have to just figure it out as you go along.
Maybe your mom or dad suddenly needs a hand with grocery shopping or meal planning, but you don’t have time to help. Or your husband or wife has just returned home from the hospital and now requires more assistance with bathing, toileting, medications and transportation than you’re able to provide. It may even be time for your loved one to transition from living independently in their home to a more supportive environment in a senior living community. How do you even begin to find the resources you need?
Below some Triangle area experts in the field of senior care help you navigate all the twists and turns that may lie ahead of you.
Offering a helping hand
Even if your parents are still living independently, they may need a little assistance every once in a while with anything from cooking healthy meals to getting to the doctor’s office. Concierge services like Golden Girl Senior Care support seniors with their basic day-to-day needs, such as running errands, grocery shopping, preparing meals, home organization, light housekeeping and even solving common problems like what to do when they get an error message on their computers. Golden Girl, which is bonded and regulated by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), can even place helpers in seniors’ homes for companionship and a sense of security.
Golden Girls is also prepared to help in emergency situations that may occur while they are working with seniors. “If a client becomes unconscious, our staff is prepared at minimum to perform the basic-level CPR until the paramedics arrive,” explains Golden Girls’ president, Shan’Trese Cameron, BSW.
And when seniors are unable or unsafe to drive on their own anymore, companies such as Safe Transport Services can help them maintain their independence, while saving their family and friends precious time. “We are helpful to caregivers who are working and don’t have time off—or the equipment in their vehicles—to take Mom or Dad to a simple dental appointment,” says Safe Transport Services’ co-owner Mimi Charles.
Safe Transport Services can give your loved ones a lift to doctors’ appointments, dialysis and rehab centers, back home after they’re discharged from the hospital and even to recreational and social appointments. The company has a handicap lift service for accessibility to those in wheelchairs, walkers and scooters.
Connecting them with care
Has your loved one begun to need more than just the occasional errand, meal or ride, but you’re struggling with finding the services they need? And even if you’re able to find services, it can be such a juggling act to manage it all.
Care management companies such as Senior Care Management Associates provide everything from “navigating the whole aging spectrum to ongoing care management where we become an extension to the family,” explains owner and care manager, Caryn Utberg, CSA, CLTC, LTCCP.
Starting with medical, cognitive, home safety and financial assessments, Senior Care Management Associates will develop a plan of care for your loved one, helping you coordinate and manage the services in that plan—from finding the right home care support to helping with budgeting and insurance claims—while acting as your liaison with doctors, therapists and facility staff all along the way. When you don’t live in proximity to your loved one, the company’s care managers, who are gerontologists, social workers and nurses, will even attend doctors’ appointments with them or be their advocate in the emergency room.
“We know the ins and outs and all the different services available,” Utberg says. “That allows the adult child or family member to remain just that [the child or family member].”
Gaining insight into and finding solutions for memory issues
You may not have realized that some very cutting-edge Alzheimer’s disease research is happening right here at home. The Joseph and Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Bryan ADRC) at Duke University School of Medicine leads research in Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders of aging, while also delivering state-of-the-art care for those living with memory disorders. The Center provides support services, community outreach and education programs for families caring for those with memory disorders.
The Bryan ADRC is currently enrolling participants for studies to prevent memory disorders. One of these studies is to develop and validate new computerized methods for assessing memory in a reliable and engaging manner. Another Center initiative is the Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Registry, which is comprised of people (age 55+ with no diagnosed memory disorders) who want to learn about and possibly get involved in Alzheimer’s disease research. With 4,500 people in the Triangle registered to date, the Center is still recruiting interested participants for this registry.
“It’s a way to reach out and partner with the community to find effective solutions to Alzheimer’s disease,” says Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer, Ph.D., the director of the Bryan ADRC. “It’s a way to share information about research into brain health and what can we do to optimize our chances of aging successfully.”
Ensuring a supportive environment
Other Triangle senior support services like NC Senior Living Solutions are focused on ensuring that seniors are in an environment where they not only will be safe and supported but where they will also thrive. Says Stephanie Merritt, owner and CEO of NC Senior Living Solutions, “We focus on seniors’ ability to live independently longer by having the right care in place now (a proactive approach), rather than being reactive and finding care when there is a need.”
After conducting a thorough discovery process, NC Senior Living Solutions will determine whether aging in place or a senior living community is the most supportive environment for your loved one. If transitioning to a senior living community is determined to be the right move, NC Senior Living Solutions can then recommend communities that fit the senior’s needs, arrange tours of those communities, and ensure that the confusing array of paperwork, assessments and reports are completed. NC Senior Living Solutions’ strategic partnerships with elder law attorneys, pharmacies, durable medical equipment companies and other resources also give you a valuable network to turn to.
“The entire senior living industry is shifting to a very wellness-centered approach to senior living, living out your senior years with vibrancy, life, laughter, friendship and community,” explains Merritt.
One Triangle community that epitomizes that approach is independent living community Cambridge Village of Apex. “Our goal is preventative versus reactive care,” explains Victoria Sosa, Cambridge Village’s marketing director. “To help us accomplish this goal, our Optimal Wellness program keeps residents active and healthy.”
Cambridge Village’s Optimal Wellness program focuses on the mind, body and spirit, including holistic wellness, more than 15 group exercise classes, continuing education courses, and much more. As a result of this focus on wellness and engagement, Cambridge Village has many residents, who were barely able to get out of their chairs when they first moved in, up and walking and accomplishing many things on their own. This leads to a greater sense of independence and pride. Cambridge Village is currently adding 60 new units, with this expansion scheduled for completion in January 2019.
Making the move
When your family member has to leave a home where they’ve lived for decades, the moving process can cause a great deal of stress, not to mention involve much more work than a typical move.
That’s why engaging the services of a company that specializes in senior moves, like Triangle Senior Moving Services, can be so vital. Understanding both the lengthy to-do list and the emotions that go into these moves, Triangle Senior Moving Services figures out how many pieces of furniture will fit in your parent’s new space; helps them downsize their belongings, makes donations and has estate sales; manages repairs and home staging in preparation for selling their home; and actually engages a mover and coordinates the move itself.
And because these moves can be time-consuming for caregivers and sometimes even strain family relationships, it’s beneficial to have an outside party handling the process. “It allows family to comfortably continue their busy lives without worry or guilt,” says Gayle Cooke, owner of Triangle Senior Moving Services and a
Senior Move Manager with the National Association of Senior Move Managers.
Don’t go it alone! No matter what your parent’s or spouse’s needs or the extent of assistance you’re seeking, the Triangle offers a plethora of senior care resources to help you care for your loved ones.