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INDEPENDENT AGING > AGING IN PLACE > AP 8

The Importance of Education for Seniors and Caregivers   

By: Jo-Ann Thibault

For someone who has been in the healthcare/senior service industry for the past 25 years, I have learned most of what I know in the past 2 and 1/2 years of providing community education to the Boomer and Senior population.  I have collaborated, side-by-side, with many different senior service providers (all sharing my philosophy on the importance of properly educating the public) – and more importantly, I have heard first-hand from the hundreds of seniors and caregivers (consumers) who are appreciative of the information they have been provided.  Information that guides them to the next step… that empowers them to ask questions, learn and make the right decisions.

There are 10,000 boomers turning 65 each day.  We are all living longer and the 85 year age group is the fastest growing population. Senior care is exploding. Healthcare is changing. There is more need now [for senior care solutions], than ever before.

Have you tried to Google “home care + ‘your state’?”…  How many results did you get?  About 1.6 million?  Yikes!  Can you say ‘information overload’?!

Let’s look at your local newspapers and weekly print publications and even your local phone book. Does looking at that AD, relieve you of your anxiousness and fear of not understanding about that service? Who are they? What are they all about?

Your local Council on Aging/Senior Center has a lot of brochures and lists of services as well. Is it what you need? What questions do you ask to determine if this is the service you are looking for? Credentials, expectations?

With this incredible boom in senior care services, comes more choice for us (the consumer). Now, more than ever, we need to be educated on these services so we know we are making the right decision.  All senior care/health care services are NOT created equal!

Unfortunately, the reality of the senior care service ‘boom’ – means many people want to “jump on the money wagon”, and open up a service company.  Some have a background in working with seniors, some do not.  How do you differentiate and make the right choice?

Let’s take a look at a list of [some] of the senior services that have now saturated the market:

·         Home Health Care – Medicare/Medicaid Skilled Nursing & PT/OT in-home care services (aka, VNA “Visiting Nurse Association”). They are all different!

·         Home Care – private pay in-home care services; Home Health Aides, Companions, Home Makers

·         Aging-in-place specialist: Home Modification/Contracting/Down-sizing/Organizing

·         Elder Law Attorneys

·         Long-term care insurance brokers

·         Geriatric Care Managers/Elder Care Consultants

·         Senior Housing: Assisted Living/Independent Living/Memory Care

·         Reverse Mortgage brokers

·         Senior Move Management Specialists / Senior Residential Specialists (Real Estate)

Many senior service providers are not required to go through any regulatory process. No certifications are necessary. No minimal experience is necessary. Are they licensed? Insured? Bonded? These can be very scary times for both seniors and their caregivers IF we are NOT educated on these resources and services!   SO LET’S GET EDUCATED!

What can we do to protect ourselves (the consumer) from connecting with the wrong service, an unneeded service or a bad service? How do we gain the information/education we need?

·         Start the conversation! Talk about it! Have conversations with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and healthcare providers.

·         Know what it is you are looking for! Try to identify your needs (or potential needs), so you are prepared with a more detailed knowledge of the service you would like more information on.

·         Seek out resources! Contact your local Council on Aging and Area Agency on Aging (Aging Service Access Points –or- Elder Services in your community).  Ask if they are holding any informational seminars on these services.  If not, suggest that they do! Sign-up for their monthly newsletters.

·         Know what questions to ask!  You want more than a list of providers!  You want detailed information about that provider (i.e., How long have they been in business? What credentials, licensures, insurance, references they have? Exactly how does their service work?)

·         Shop around! Remember, you have a choice! Don’t always go with the lowest cost, but let the credentials and reputation of the service provider empower your decision.  Meet with representatives for a free consultation. Ask questions. In many cases, you get what you pay for… (Meaning, the cheapest is not always the best, and in the long run, may end up costing you more!)

So… do yourself, and your loved ones a favor…seek out education about aging options and resources. Attend seminars, presentations, and health/wellness fairs.  Tour the many senior living communities and facilities in your area. ASK QUESTIONS. Take advantage of one-on-one free consultations that many of these service providers offer. Don’t be rushed. Feel good about your choice! 

We all need to be our own advocate and advocate for our loved ones.  You should always be asking questions – and do not hesitate.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”   Mahatma Gandhi

By: Jo-Ann Thibault, Founder/CEO, The Elder Insider, LLC ©2014 – www.TheElderInsider.com