By Karen Huber, Pct. 3, County Commissioner
I’ve learned a lot from my 90-year old Mom this past year. With her two serious hospital stays totaling about two and half months, I’ve seen first hand, the challenges that we face as we age, and the challenges of primary caregivers.
My Mom is tenacious, uncomplaining, and absolutely determined to regain all her abilities to live alone. She is totally committed to doing everything to achieve that. Even our closer friends say she is their role model for aging. She is amazing. The reality is, however, that she had open-heart surgery and then a stroke, so the recovery is long and complicated, but she’s getting there. I’ve waded through a big learning curve on caregiving and wanted to share a resource with my constituents, who may also be facing similar challenges.
The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area supports and advocates for the health, safety, and well being of older adults. It exists under the umbrella of the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG – I represent you on its Executive Committee) and is funded by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Many think that government funded social service agencies are for those who cannot otherwise financially afford help, but this is not necessarily so. The Area Agency on Aging services are provided without cost to residents throughout the 10-county CAPCOG region. They offer a broad spectrum of services and help an individual or caregiver evaluate their needs and guide them to the help and resources available.
For example, while I was looking for qualified caregivers to help with my Mom’s need for 24-hour assistance, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they not only had a list of pre-qualified agencies that provide a full complex of services, but they also offered help for caregivers, themselves. If caregiving responsibilities are affecting your work, health, social life or family life, help is available through their Caregiver Support Program. Care coordinators evaluate the needs for assistance of both the care receivers and caregivers.
One program that was of special interest to me was the Financial Counseling, which provides the tools and resources to guide an elderly person or a caregiver in how to best manage their financial resources in the process of paying for expensive and often, long-term care. Another, the Benefits Counseling service, helps individuals wade through the complexities of Social Security, the Medicare alphabet soup (Parts A & B, Part D), and helps with claims and appeals for all forms of insurance, etc.
The staff at the Center is quite knowledgeable on many aging related needs beyond their specific programs. For example, I also learned that there are new products available that will detect a fall and alert emergency service responders. Fall risks increase with people who have had strokes, and the fear of falling while being alone is high. Technology is helping to narrow the gap between a fall and appropriate responses and gives us grown kids a lot more comfort to know that if a loved one does fall, it will be quickly detected.
If you are over the age of 60, or feel you need some advice for an elderly family member, or are a caregiver of an elderly person, you should check out the resources available at The Area Agency on Aging at http://www.capcog.org/divisions/area-agency-on-aging/ or just go to www.capcog.org and click on the Area Agency on Aging in the left-hand column. All the contact information is listed on the website. If you have pressing needs, I recommend you call them at 512-916-6062 for an appointment. My visit with them yielded even more information than is posted on the Internet. While they cannot solve all problems, they can be helpful in many ways.
And, if you have not already done so, you should sign up your cell phone for reverse 9-1-1 while you are at the CAPCOG website. That way you can be alerted, no matter where you are, should an emergency situation arise near your home.
Stay safe, yourself, and give that elderly and/or infirm relative a smile and hug. It will make their day! Do call my office, too, if we can help you in any way. Karen Huber, Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 3. (Tel. 512-854-9333).
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