An acquaintance called the other day. Last month, her 93 year old father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Father and mother still live together, fairly independent up to this point. Until recently, he was able to drive – to the store, the doctor’s, out for breakfast. Small changes are noticeable. A few burnt meals, absentmindedness, hygiene.
She and I spoke last summer about eldercare and she remembered my mention of Connecticut Community Care, Inc. (CCCI), a care management service for seniors that help the elderly live at home as safely and independently as possible, for as long as possible. She wanted to know more. You can find them at www.ctcommunitycare.org.
CCCI services fall into two programs. The state program, ‘The Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders’ (CHCPE) requires low-income qualification. The ‘Care Management Associates’ (CMA) program is a fee-for-service program open to all.
My mother is currently in the CHCPE program which provides companion care, home nursing care/aides, physical and occupational therapy, adult day care, transportation and more. Mom typically only needs the companion care and adult day care. As well, she is low income-eligible, so pays only 6% of the overall cost for these services and for CCCI management expenses (about $100 per month).
I can already hear some of you saying, “My mother (or my father) will NEVER agree to go to adult day care…” Or agree to a companion. Or let someone else help with meals. Or take a senior care bus to the doctor’s office. Or…………….
None of this is easy. The conversations are some of the most difficult you will have with a parent (maybe even the most difficult your kids will someday have with you). And every family and situation is different, so go slow (if possible) – allow time for discussion, time for adjustment, maybe even a little time for saving face. Ultimately, helping keep Mom and Dad as safe and independent as possible for as long as possible (hopefully still living in their own home) is what they want also.
Fifteen years ago when all this started with my folks, I would have forcefully told you, “My father will NEVER allow a nurse’s aide (initially, some stranger) to help him in the shower, help him shave, clip his nose hair. In the hospital, maybe. In his own home, no way!” When the time came though, he did allow it and even looked forward to their visits as much as he enjoyed his shower.
Mom still has a hard time with strangers and showers, though she allows me and my sister-in-laws to help her occasionally (she isn’t even comfortable rolling up her sleeve at the GP’s office – “You just want to see me naked!”). She does though seem to genuinely care about Alice, the companion who comes in during the week and who she can sometimes convince to drive her to Friendly’s for a hotdog and fries.
If you live in CT and are struggling with these questions/situations, you could start with CCCI. Other states have mirror agencies. Visit them on the web, then call. For so many of us, it is like someone torched the map we’ve followed all our lives and we are lost. CCCI may not have the answers, but they can probably provide some direction.