SPECIAL SENIORS SECTION:
Options Available for Senior Adult Care
By Fran Memberg
Today’s statistics on aging confirm the inevitable outcome of the post-World War II baby boom that has been chronicled from decade to decade as Baby Boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers started overcrowding elementary schools in the 1950s, glutted college admissions offices in the 1960s and began tapping into the Social Security system in 2008, the first year of eligibility for the vanguard group of Boomers. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the elderly population will exceed 70 million people by 2030. Dealing with the challenges of aging – illness, frailty, financial insecurity, inability to manage the details of daily living, among others – can be a challenge unto itself not just for the senior population, but also for their families.
For example, a healthy senior adult may be overwhelmed by caring for a spouse who is ill or disabled. In other instances, many Boomers delayed childbearing so they are still caring for their children while having to take care of their own parents’ needs. Caught in the middle, they are also known as the sandwich or squeeze generation.
In 2007, Rabbi Scott Saulson of Atlanta established Moving Parents to assist individuals and families in navigating the challenges that arise when Rabbi Scott Saulson, founder of Moving Parents. Photo submitted.seniors face significant changes in their lives. Saulson’s role is not identifying specific needs, but bringing the interested parties together to overcome the obstacles that often prevent families from moving forward.
“I use a mediation model,” Saulson said. “I’m here to be an advocate for everyone at the table. I’m the neutral who helps them know what the challenge is, to find their strengths to achieve success.”
Saulson has more than 30 years of professional pastoral experience and is certified as a Family Mediator specializing in Caregiver Mediation. For 14 years, he served the metro Atlanta Jewish community as a chaplain through Jewish Family & Career Services. In 2004, Saulson was one of the first six elder care mediators to participate in a Georgia state-funded program to train mediators for contentious guardianship cases. He conducts a monthly Friday night chavurah (fellowship), Nediv Lev, makes hospital and hospice visits and conducts lifecycle events for unaffiliated Jews.
During his mediation training, Saulson said, “I was blown away by the power of getting people around the table.”
Sometimes it’s the seniors themselves who seek Saulson’s services. For example, he said, “A couple’s retirement visions might be different. [After retirement], sometimes it’s like getting married again.”
For the most part, however, “Most people who come to see me are the adult children who see something is crashing in their parents’ lives,” said Saulson. “It’s hard to accept that they can’t prevent the train crashing. For example, mother has dementia, father doesn’t, he refuses to move, the kids are in tears, they see that mom will fail and dad will crash under pressure. [It’s about] getting the house in order before the train crashes.”
Saulson offers no legal, medical or financial advice. He will provide resources to clients who need those services. He conducts workshops at synagogues and churches, and is a caregiver facilitator for home care providers.
One outcome that Saulson’s clients may decide is the right one for their situation is home health care. As the senior population increases, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that home health care services will be among the top three industries for job growth through 2018. This is consistent with the trend toward “aging in place” — living where you have lived for many years, or living in a non-healthcare environment and using products, services and conveniences to enable you to not have to move as circumstances change. Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is a part of the Georgia Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) Initiative. A NORC is a community or neighborhood where residents remain for years, and age as neighbors, until a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community develops.
Three Jewish-owned agencies provide in-home care for clients in metro Atlanta, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background.
Friend of the Family, a 26-year-old independent agency owned by Judi Merlin, provides mostly childcare, although elder care accounts for 20 percent of the client base. “A lot of clients who initially wanted childcare now need care for their parents,” said Merlin, whose staff provides only non-medical services.
When her mother was ill and Merlin lived in a different city, in-home caregivers were employed. “I know how important a caregiver can be,” said Merlin, a 30-year resident of Atlanta who now lives in Athens, Ga. “It touches every family, if not now, later.”
In 2006, Lisa Reisman became a CareMinders franchisee; licensed for 11 counties in metro Atlanta, she serves mostly the Sandy Springs and CareMinders. Dunwoody areas. Three staff Registered Nurses (RN) oversee a staff of 150 Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and manage each client’s care. Medical and personal care services are available.
Reisman, an RN and a Nurse Practitioner, lives in Dunwoody and says she often tells her clients, “I’ll see you at the grocery store,” helping to make them feel more comfortable about having a caregiver. “It’s hard for someone to accept people coming into their home to help,” she said.
To accommodate clients’ varying lifestyles, all CareMinders caregivers are given cultural sensitivity training, said Reisman. That includes, but is not limited to, the laws of Kashrut (keeping kosher). “We are sensitive to all beliefs, cultures and lifestyles,” Reisman said.
Dunwoody residents Lester Czuper and Jeff Taratoot recently launched A Caring Approach home care services, an independent agency which became licensed in March 2010.
A Caring Approach.The name stems from an experience Taratoot had a few years ago when he was looking for home care services for a family member. Providers concentrated on the patient’s medical needs without, for instance, asking what the patient was like prior to the illness that required home care.
Czuper saw combining his “affinity for the elderly” and his many years of experience as a medical administrator as a way to help others.
A Caring Approach offers medical and personal care services. An RN supervises an LPN who, in turn, supervises a staff of CNAs. Personality matching ensures the best patient/CNA fit based on a comprehensive assessment of family and medical needs.
Neither Friend of the Family, CareMinders nor A Caring Approach is Medicare-certified.
Sometimes, what a client needs is a manager. Often, the client is an adult child living in a different city from a senior parent who needs assistance.
Norman and Judy Cohn operate Constant Care Managers. The Cohns assess the senior adult’s daily needs and either help with such tasks as grocery shopping, scheduling appointments, transporting to activities or appointments and bill-paying, among others; or research and recommend agencies or other community specialists to assist the client. They do not provide medical services but will arrange for those services with home care agencies.
Prior to starting her own agency, Judy Cohn had 20 years experience advocating for clients’ rights within the home health care industry. Norman joined his wife in business after 40 years in retail. He is certified as a National Certified Guardian by the Center for Guardianship Certification and has served as a court-appointed guardian. The Cohns recently moved to Sandy Springs from San Antonio to be near their sons and their families.
“Our goal is to keep [senior adults] at home to give them the comfort of staying in their own home,” said Judy.