Betty Caldwell and her mother faced a painful dilemma. Caldwell, 64, had developed a heart condition that left her so exhausted she felt barely able to make the daily trip to her mother's nearby apartment in Kingsport.
Her mother, Elsie King, 90, a widow for almost 60 years, had raised three children on her own while working in a factory nearly all her adult life, and was fiercely independent. But she'd come to rely on her only daughter for help with meals, medications, cleaning and errands.
The number of people who will require long-term services is expected to triple in Tennessee in the coming decades, but the biggest challenge for the program, which has no waiting list, is getting the word out to those who could benefit, said Margot Seay, AARP state president.
In King's case, the program sends someone once a week to clean and perform household chores. It delivers one meal a day, Monday through Friday.
The program has also installed a personal emergency response system, which allows King to press a button if she needs assistance, and the service will contact Caldwell or emergency responders.
Some weeks, when needed, Choices provides more assistance in helping with daily dressing or other activities.
In the future, it may provide respite care for Caldwell, a grandmother who rarely leaves their hometown because of her caregiver responsibilities for her mother.
Choices "doesn't replace the care we're giving her," Caldwell said. "It just helps her and eases the burden a little for me and my husband. The people in the Choices program have been a blessing to us."
For more information, call 1-866-836-6678 toll-free.
Anita Wadhwani is a reporter based in Nashville.