SUPPORT FOR OLDER ADULTS WITH MEMORY LOSS AND THEIR FAMILIES

A Lifeline, Not a Luxury

Getting older has its benifits—senior discounts. You can see a movie for $10, ride the new metro for 75 cents and take any number of classes at the local community senior center for a minimal fee. Now that you are eligible for Medicare, visits to your doctor, medical tests, preventive health care and admittance to a hospital or skilled nursing facility are covered. But if you have Alzheimer’s and need supervision, there’s very limited support from public entities, and private programs can be costly.

Your mom or dad has Alzheimer’s and can’t be left home alone. Your mom might leave the house and won’t be able to find her way home. Your dad might forget to eat or how to eat or cause himself personal harm. Your husband suffers from dementia and may be confused and can’t find the bathroom when needed. Your wife has hallucinations and becomes violent every afternoon. What do you do if you want them to continue to live at home and you can’t leave your job? What are your choices? Medicare doesn’t begin to cover the costs of what you will need.

Costs for a residential health care facility is high and paying someone $15–$25 an hour to look after your loved one at home would be difficult to sustain. Residential facilities covered by government funding are few and far between, have long waiting lists and vary in quality.

OPICA receives numerous calls each week asking if its services are covered by Medicare. Unfortunately, the answer is no, and even with the reassurance that we provide financial assistance above and beyond our already-subsidized rate of $89/day, most inquiries end there. There was a time when the Department of Aging funded centers like OPICA, to serve adults with dementia who need close supervision, providing opportunities for socializing and cognitive stimulation and, if necessary, helping with toileting and eating. But with budget cuts and rising costs of specialized care, government funding ceased and many centers closed.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be an exhausting responsibility. Living with the effects of a loved one’s memory loss, growing difficulty in communicating and episodes of frustration and anger is painful. This experience, coupled with the increasingly close supervision and personal care that are required and the stress they create, can result in depression, grief, fatigue, feelings of entrapment, and physical health problems.

OPICA serves as an extended family for its clients, providing consistent and quality care that reassures families that they are not alone, for most, its services are not a luxury but a lifeline.

It is said that philanthropy is needed to fill the gap between what the government can provide and what the public can afford. Generous support from its family of donors enables OPICA to be the lifeline to families faced with the emotional and physical challenges when someone has dementia. On behalf of everyone who needs and benefits from OPICA’s invaluable services, thank you!

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