Resources for Elder Care
By Michael Gibbons
Like others their age, many baby boomer physical therapists find themselves sandwiched between raising their children and caring for their elderly parents--an exhausting, daily labor of love. In addition, often, physical therapists are a primary resource for patients' family members faced with the same challenge.
That's reason enough to explore the many volunteer and professional agencies created to make life easier for the elderly.
Here's a second reason. Many seniors retire from the urban pace to small towns or rural settings, only to find themselves isolated from health care resources they need.
The resources listed below can offer needed services to elderly and their families.
Medic Alert Foundation (800-344-3226) provides Alzheimer's patients with locators, necklaces and wallet cards with a 24-hour hot line to safeguard them should they become lost or wind up in an ER. Alzeheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (301-495-3311) has information about physicians who specialize in the care of people with Alzeheimer's disease.
Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (202-737-9200) refers patients with neurological problems to specialists. International Tremor Foundation (312-733-1893) offers resources for families with members who have tremors, many of whom can't feed themselves or perform other routine activities. (also, see next week's issue for an article on a new FDA-approved device to treat tremors.)
American Brain Tumor Association (847-827-9910) has a pen pal program that allows people who have life-altering brain injuries to contact each other. American Parkinson's Disease Association (718-981-8001) offers patient education and physician referral. National Stroke Association (303-649-9299) provides information and resources about risk factors and rehab for patients with stroke whose insurance has run out.
Turning to recreation, information on Elder Craftsman is available at (213) 861-5260. Two books on the subject by Kathleen Eliasen and Catherine Feick include: The Activity Director as Educator and Activity Planning in Long-Term Care.
Simon Foundation (847-864-3913) has self-help and support groups for people with incontinence.
Children of Aging Parents (800-227-7294) holds workshops to teach people how to empathize with their parents.
Health Insurance Association of America (202-824-1600) has details on how to convert an elderly person's insurance policy to provide for a caregiver during work hours, seven days a week.
Volunteers of America (504-837-2652) has rehab and community support systems.
Aging Network (301-657-4329) has free psychotherapy consultations for seniors who are depressed.
National Urban League (212-310-9000) helps those who lose their housing or can't get into community housing.
Whether because of dementia, lack of money, or inability to face their mortality, elderly people often fail to leave a will, set up trusts and otherwise account for their assets before they die.
The National Senior Citizens Law Center (202-887-5280) even provides private lawyers to represent seniors who encounter age discrimination in employment or have trouble collecting social security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
Only one agency ensures that seniors on limited incomes eat properly. Food and Nutrition Information Center (301-504-5719) supplies sample menus and advice on better buys at grocery stores.
Pharmacists from American Pharmaceutical Association (202-628-4410) will enter a nursing home and offer free education on medications. Both it and Center for the Study of Pharmacy and Therapeutics for the Elderly (410-706-3011) have information on dosages and drug interactions.
International Hearing Society (800-521-5247) refers patients to qualified hearing specialists.
Arthritis Foundation (800-283-7800) has a huge library of audiovisual and printed materials on arthritis geared to patients, families and caregivers.
Prevent Blindness America (847-843-2020) performs free eye screenings for the elderly and organizes self-help groups for patients with glaucoma.
The American Foundation for the Blind (800-AFB-LIND) retrains older people losing their sight, for free.
American Society for Geriatric Dentistry (312-440-2660) secures free dental care for seniors.
American Psychological Association (800-374-2721) offers counseling and investigates complaints of inadequate care of dementia in nursing homes.
Many elderly native Americans speak a dialect no longer accessible to younger members of their tribes. National Resource Center on Native American Aging (701-777-3293) will provide linguists who speak these dialects to aid in educating tribal elderly. Japanese American Citizens League (415-921-5225), National Association for Hispanic Elderly (213-487-1922) and National Caucus and Center on Black Aged (202-637-8400) deliver employment, housing and other services to their particular ethnic groups.
National Women's Health Network (202-347-1140) provides free education and health care.
Older Women's League (202-783-6686) offers possible investment opportunities for women, and Women Work (202-467-6346) furnishes tuition assistance and education for unemployed women who want to work.
--Information/courtesy Marta Lee Tingdale, BCA, RRT