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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published September 07 2008

Services are plentiful for seniors

Dear Carol: My mother is still able to live alone. I know she needs more help than I can give her, as I work full time. I’d like to see her have more company and more activities during the day but am not sure how to go about it. Any ideas? – Roger

Dear Roger: There are many services, depending on how active, physically and mentally, your mother is. The Fargo Senior Commission at (701) 293-1440 and Senior Connections in Moorhead at (218) 299-5514 both offer many services, including meals, and a good social atmosphere for seniors who want to be with peers and stay active.

If your mother has declined to a point where these are not practical options, you could consider adult day care, also called adult day services. We have many of these services in the metro area, and each has something unique to offer. If that sounds like an option for your mom, visit several centers. What may be wonderful for one person may not be a good fit for another. See “Day Services Adult” in the phone book for local centers.

Another idea is in-home health care. If you look in the phone book under “Home Health Services,” you will find nearly a dozen area agencies that provide in-home health care. Again, you will want to check with several, as they don’t all offer the same services. Talk to the staff members to feel out your comfort level. Also, ask for references.

Some in-home health services offer medical care, while others offer only custodial care. So whether or not your mother needs medical help will be one determining factor for you. At least one local company offers physical therapy, as well.

In-home health care can be wonderful for some people, as the caregivers can take a person grocery shopping (or shop for them, if that is preferable). Most can give baths, clip nails and do other personal care, to free you up for quality visiting time when you do see your mother.

Also, of course, they offer companionship. Sometimes the social connection alone is worth the price. Please understand that custodial care is not covered by Medicare.

Any of these options could be helpful for your mother, Roger, depending on her health and her personality. Talk with her and let her know your concerns. Perhaps together you will be able to come up with a plan that is good for her and will give you peace of mind.

For veterans The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a Special Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit that many veterans aren’t aware of. This could help many veterans get some financial assistance for in-home care and other needs.

The Veterans Benefit Administration has a booklet that is downloadable at www.va.gov that explains these benefits. You can pick up a copy at the regional office in the Fargo VA complex (the small building right off the 19th Avenue North and Elm Street entrance). The phone number is (800) 827-1000. I tried to get a more direct number, but there isn’t one available. Patience is needed to get through the phone menu. You may find a drive over to the office easier.

Bursack is the author of a support book on family elder care. To submit questions to “Minding Our Elders” and view past columns, go to www.inforum.com and click on columnists. Readers can reach Bursack at cbursack@forumcomm.com or write her at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.