Haims column: Sometimes it takes a village to care for elders
“It takes a village” sounds like a colloquial phrase. However, it also an innovative way to handle the complex living issues that surround our elderly today. As our senior population increases, the need for living alternatives becomes more and more pronounced.
There is an increasing number of elderly living longer, yet in sicker states of health for longer periods. Modern medicine has worked miracles in keeping many folks alive compared to yesteryears — many of those same folks who would not have survived the illnesses from back in the day now view those same afflictions as mere nuisance rather than a deadly condition.
All this leads to a confusing situation when it comes to where Mom and Dad should be living as they age. It’s a complex problem oftentimes with geographic challenges and a layered decision-making process — care for a loved one at a moment’s notice is never a simple solution. So what’s a workable solution? Well, it may very well take a village.
The concept is simple, yet quite effective. A village can be a network of loosely organized volunteers who are focused on meeting the needs of seniors who have chosen to remain in the comfort of their own homes, rather than the less personal environment of an institution.
The membership is made up of seniors living in a certain area who pool their resources (an annual fee is common) to help defray operational costs, such as office rental and telephone charges. These volunteers can assist the resident membership from making a telephone call to arranging some yard work to more complicated tasks such as assisting with taxes after a loved one passes away.
Generally, though, these nonprofit organizations help their membership with transportation to and from doctors, the grocery store or to various social events. Some help is offered with technical support for computers or programming a new television or even ways to safeguard their homes from illegal entry.
These organizations are not the typical support groups where seniors might go to talk about issues. Rather, they are action-focused and results-oriented. They mean to solve a problem and do it quickly and effectively for reduced costs.
FOCUS ON THE NEED
An example of that effort is the trend toward “universal design” homes for the elderly. In an effort to allow seniors to remain in their own homes as long as possible, and in addition to assisting with smaller tasks such as transportation, there is a movement to build simpler and more elder-accessible homes for the aging population.
Universal design homes incorporate features that are focused on the needs of an aging population, such as wider entryways for wheelchair accessibility and flatter landscapes, driveways and walkways for less strenuous movement with wheelchairs. Lower sinks, door handles that are levers not round handles and more grab rails for stability are the norm rather than the exception.
The houses are designed and built for these features, and when built from the ground up, owners can justify certain expenses by lumping them into the bottom-line construction costs, rather then add tens of thousands of dollars to less quality alternative add-ons.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Aspen and the surrounding areas. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.
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