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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published November 16 2008

States move to improve elder access

Dear Readers: North Dakota and Minnesota are trying to help. There are promising programs on the horizon that should enable elders to get more assistance for in-home care, and provide better ways for caregivers to find that assistance.

Legislators in both states and of both parties are beginning to recognize the fact that it is cheaper for the taxpayer to provide some assistance for in-home elder care than it is to wait until elders enter a nursing home because they can no longer afford care in their own home.

Medicare currently only covers prescribed medical services that are delivered in the home. From personal experience, I know that the vast amount of help needed by most elders is what’s known as custodial care. That is help with bathing, groceries, errands, even companionship. When people contract with an agency for custodial care, they are, at the present time, responsible for all costs. We have reason to hope for change in this area.

Accessibility is another point of interest. I’ve been told that North Dakota is working to implement a “single point of entry,” so people can find out with one phone call what services are available to them, or where to go to get more information about services they request. This will be a huge step forward.

North Dakota and Minnesota both need to do more to get information about what is already available to people who are still in their homes. The best programs can’t help if people don’t know they exist or how to access them.

For now, if you live in North Dakota, you can call 211, a hotline where you will get a menu for an abundance of services (not just elder care). You can also call the Aging Services number at (701) 328-4601. Their Web site is www.nd.gov/dhs/services/adultsaging.

If you live in Minnesota, you can call the Senior LinkAge line at (800) 333-2433 or go to their Web site at www.cmcoa.org.

More accessible help is coming, but even now there is help that many people don’t know about. If you need respite care or just some direction, please get in touch with these agencies so they can point you in the right direction.

Medicare Part D events: The North Dakota Insurance Department is putting on free events around the state offering assistance for people enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan or switching plans.

The meetings closest to our readership area are Dec. 1 at the Ramada Crystal Ballroom, 1635 42nd St. S., Fargo; Dec. 2, North Dakota State College of Science Red River Valley Room, Wahpeton; Dec. 9, Gladstone Inn, Jamestown, N.D.; and Dec. 16, C’Mon Inn, Grand Forks, N.D. All events are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and registration is not required.

If you go to one of these events, bring your medication list, your Medicare card and know your current plan, if you have one. For more information, call (888) 575-6611.

Bursack is the author of “Minding Our Elders,” a support book on family elder care, and maintains a Web site at www.mindingourelders.com. To 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