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Elder Care Essentials

Thanks to the availability of elder services, mom and dad can remain living in their own home. Help them get the best care from their community.

The major complaint of adult children caring for an elderly parent is lack of time. No time for themselves, their children or a spouse. Knowing what resources are available helps ease the care giving burden.

Q: My parents are getting older. They've got their aches and pains but are still in overall good health. I've got kids of my own and don't want to be caught off guard in case of an emergency. Is there one agency that I can contact to get the scoop on available services?

A: Even if your parents aren't sick now, its smart to have a contingency plan. Lucky there are a wide variety of excellent available resources. Many seniors, whether ill or just slightly frail, are able to stay home often at low cost with the right combination of services.

Call the Elder Care Locator and learn what resources are available before a crisis strikes.
When possible discuss your parents' wishes for their future while they are still healthy.
If the AAA has a directory, purchase it to help you find the right resources.
Be aware of how much your parents can afford.

Your essential pipeline to information is the Eldercare Locator. Call 1-800-677-1116 and give them your parents' locale. They'll refer you to one of the Area Agencies on Aging throughout the country that are listed based on your parents needs.

Federally funded by the Older Americans Act, your local AAA should have an information and referral specialist to help you. They can provide you with a roster of phone numbers to community resources. Make sure these include government-subsidized services and private businesses.

Typical programs provided at minimal charge include Meals On Wheels, transportation assistance, senior centers with daily lunch and recreational activities, Alzheimer's day care and caregiver registries and agencies. You may also be able to get information about applying for Medicaid, low-income housing and money management services.

The Contra Costa County AAA in California, for example, each month receives about 1,500 calls and makes an average 3,000 referrals to agencies and programs. Some have an elaborate computer database, a Web site and directories. Others offer only information sheets.

Less well-known services, according to the agency's Judith Kuftin, include tax assistance with electronic filing and an ombudsman program, in which trained volunteers investigate nursing home complaints.

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Mary Moorhead is a Northern Calif. elder care specialist who counsels families on the best ways to care for aging family members.

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