In a World of Tight Resources, it Takes a Village to Make Things Happen
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a director of one of the senior high rises in one of the western counties I cover. She asked me to come and speak to her residents about PA Link and what we do to help seniors and individuals with disabilities. She mentioned usually the audience is small and to expect no more than 15 of her residents to attend. We figured out the details and I placed it on my calendar. No big deal!
The day before the presentation, I did what I always do. I pulled out my notes to prepare and began gathering my handouts. I thought I would be “generous” and pack 25 of my brochures just in case a few extra people came. When I arrived at the apartments about 20 minutes before my presentation, I was delighted to see a whole room of more than 35 vibrant seniors chattering at the tables and waiting for me to talk. As delighted as I was to have such a large audience, the director was even more ecstatic. “We’ve never had so many people! I am so glad they are interested!”
As always, they were polite as I explained to them how PA Link started as a Federal initiative to help streamline the process and reduce duplication for those who need long-term support services. I explained how I work with professionals to offer trainings and gave them examples of how I work in the community to provide outreach and education on these topics.
When it was time for questions, I had a few hands shoot up. The first question came from a woman who was concerned about her apartment. She qualified medically and financially to have someone come in and help her clean her apartment once a week. But, when she called to set-up services, she was told there was no funding for the program in her particular county. (Each county is different. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging about services available.) She struggles even with her walker and no family lives close by. Her limited income is just enough for rent, food and other necessities. She asked me what she is supposed to do.
Another resident had a friend still living in his home. Alzheimer’s and fragility is dictating his life. His care at home is becoming too much for his wife. He was trying to get services through the PDA Waiver program to keep him at home. But the process has been slow and this resident is worried something will happen to his friend (or his wife) before services are available. He wondered in this day of technology, how can something like this take so long?
I think I disappointed some of these residents when I didn’t have any free and easy fixes. Although they qualify and are truly deserving of the benefit, the truth is there is no pot of money just sitting somewhere to help everyone, instantly. As professionals, trust me, we wish we could help everyone. But in today’s world of tight resources, every decision is tough and must be weighed. Do you funnel the money to homemaker services or transportation to life-saving medical appointments?
Professionals, seniors and families have to think outside the box and know what’s available to help. That is what I am noticing in my work more often than not. It truly takes a village to help those most in need. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive emails from professionals working together to get someone that wheelchair they desperately need or meals delivered free from a local service organization. People can accomplish great things working together and each giving a little.
So what could I tell those residents who came with questions and the hope of an easy solution? What can we do until those Waiver services kick-in for the man with Alzheimer’s? Can we encourage his wife to get a few hours of affordable respite care and visit a support group? Absolutely. Can we suggest some medical equipment that will save her back and reduce his risk of a fall? You bet.
What about the woman in need of light housekeeping? Can we connect her with a church who might have a volunteer to help? Can we find some gadgets that will make it safer for her to do on her own? The answer is always yes. It might not be easy and straightforward, but with everyone working together, the village can help anyone.
If you need help understanding the resources available, please feel free to reach out to the PA Link to Aging and Disability Resource Center for a listing of services available in your community. Please call our toll-free Call Center at 1-800-753-8827 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.