Sixth in a series
When my maternal grandparents, Baggio and Marietta LoBuono, became too old to work and live alone, they moved in with their oldest daughter. That was 65 years ago. Not much has changed.
Children and loved ones still provide care to their elderly family members. It is the honorable thing to do and, for most of us, the only alternative to paying $20,000 to $75,000 annually for an assisted-living facility or hiring a commercial provider for live-in assistance at $100,000 per year.
A growing trend in Sun City Center is for a child, or even a grandchild, to move in and assist the parent. With the downturn in the economy, more 20-somethings and middle-aged kids are getting an early taste of retirement living. But many elders-in-need have nowhere to turn; finances are limited or family members are unable or unwilling to make the sacrifice.
Mo, the 87-year-old escapee from an assisted-living facility and the person for whom I am the primary caregiver, falls into the latter category. His wife died, and his only child is committed to his family 1,500 miles away. Fortunately, Mo has decent monthly income from a pension and Social Security; however, there is still too much month at the end of the money, even with the business model I discovered that saves Mo ten of thousands a year. The shortfall is made up from savings. Obviously, this leaves one nagging and agonizing question: What happens if Mo lasts longer than his money?
For Mo, a helping hand is being extended by the U.S. Veterans Administration since he served during World War II. Actually, there are a lot of helping hands out there, including Medicaid if you have a net worth of less than $2,000. The obstacle is to figure out how to get it.
I am amazed how many elderly-in-need have little knowledge of the assistance available. For example, most think hospice is only for the terminally ill. Jump through the right hoops, and Medicare will pay for visits from a nurse, nursing assistant and social worker. Mo has three delightful, committed hospice professionals taking care of his needs regularly. The chaplain who visited last week makes number four.
Did you know Hillsborough County has 15 government agencies to assist the elderly-in-need? Unfortunately, many elders like Mo have the inability to aggressively research and take action to get assistance. But I can, so I have become his advocate. I am getting closer to reaching the pot of gold at the end of a confusing maze of county, state and federal regulations. Mo is set for life if I can grab the pot of gold before his money runs out. Stay tuned, time will tell.
If you or a loved one needs assistance, two sources are excellent starting points:
• Elder Helpline, 800-336-2226; a qualified referral specialist will provide information about services for elders and their caregivers within the local community.
• Hillsborough County Department of Aging Services, 813-272-6630; the lead agency for community care to the elderly, including case management and in-home services.
Knowledge is power. Open your mind, flex your muscles, and prepare to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The cape is optional. Playing the theme from Superman is highly recommended.
Jimmy Curtis is a retired journalist and entrepreneur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.