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How to Navigate Health Programs

Read a transcript of an online chat with Judy Peres, a long-term and palliative care expert

Comment From Anne: My mother lives alone and is resistant to moving into independent care even thought she can barely take care of herself. She's in the early stages of dementia and is in denial. How can I make it easier for her to move to an independent care facility?

Judy Peres: Anne, it is difficult when we see a reality different from our parents'. The first step to developing a plan is to validate your mother's feelings. Understand and accept that everyone copes with change differently. Change can make an anxious person more anxious … it can send chronic deniers into denial. Hearing your mother's concerns will help her understand you are on her side. If your mother won't listen to you, you might try enlisting the aid of someone else whom she trusts. You might try her physician, an old friend or clergy. As long as your mother can make her own decisions, they are hers to make.

If your mother is not willing to consider alternative housing, even though you and other family feel she can't stay where she is, consider gathering for a group intervention. In an intervention, everyone is gentle and respectful but firmly conveys the message that you are concerned about her and want to help her make decisions about her care and safety.

Comment From Jacki Forkel: Are there any ways to get financial help when both parents need 24-hour care and they and the family are unable to give much financial assistance?

Judy Peres: Jacki, it sounds like you and your parents have fallen into the sad reality that there is no consistent funding of long-term services and supports. A variety of long-term care services, ranging from adult day care to meals on wheels, transportation and respite care, are present in many urban and suburban communities around the country, but the supply, availability and funding vary dramatically by state. There are some services that will help you discover what is available in your state:

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) offer free health insurance counseling in your community.

State Units on Aging are agencies that administer, manage and design benefits, programs and services for elders and their families.

Also try your AARP state office.

I hope the above helps point you in the right direction.

AARP: OK, that's about it for us. Thank you for the great questions. Visit the AARP Caregiving Resource Center for more resources, checklists and videos.

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