Frequently Asked Questions
Click on any of the following categories or just scroll down to browse all questions and answers.
Q: I’d like to remain in my own home as long as possible, but feel that I could benefit from receiving some services in my home. What kind of services might make things easier for me?
A: You need a place to live that is safe and fits with your abilities. A wide range of paid services, including in-home assistance, are available to help with tasks such as light housekeeping, meal preparation, personal care, shopping and transportation. Consider having a home safety inspection to identify areas where assistive equipment might be helpful. As driving becomes more difficult, it is important to access reliable and affordable transportation. If you happen to live in the St. Louis NORC (a specific three mile area near the Jewish Community Campus), there are many opportunities for you to receive services as well as remain as active and independent as you want. Call one of our eldercare specialists to assess your situation and connect you to the appropriate resources.
Q: My dad can no longer live by himself. My husband and I have decided to ask him to come live with us and we want to make sure that everything is ready when he comes. What are some of the things we need to anticipate – for his well-being and for ours?
A: If possible, get family members involved to share responsibilities. You may need your children or husband to help with more household responsibilities and with your dad. Decide upfront what you expect from your dad in terms of completion of chores or financial contributions. Talk about and plan how to accommodate bed times and sleeping habits of all family members in the house. Consider how the household noise level and general activity pattern will affect your parent. Discuss what types of food you eat, when meals are served and any special food needs your dad has. Consider his transportation needs if he no longer drives. Supportive materials are available by contacting one of our eldercare specialists.
Q: My mother currently lives with me, and I’m planning to be out of town for a couple of weeks. Who can care for her while I’m gone?
A: There are many options, depending on your mother’s comfort level. Respite services are available at many residential care facilities which provide 24-hour care while you are away. Depending on the level of care needed, there are home health agencies that can provide up to 24-hour care in the home. Call one of our eldercare specialists to further discuss your options and find the best appropriate resource.
Q: We’re in the process of hiring a caregiver for my uncle. What should we be looking for in a quality caregiver?
A: Whether you’re going through an agency or hiring privately, you need to make sure that you’re hiring someone who will provide what your loved one needs. Speak with the candidate on the phone first to find out about their experience, the hours they are available, whether they can meet your loved one’s specific needs, whether they smoke and if they have a valid driver’s license and reliable car (if necessary). When you meet face-to-face, watch how they interact with you and your loved one. Are they respectful, courteous and easy to get along with? Are they on time? Do they seem physically capable of meeting your loved one’s needs? Are they willing to do the chores and services that you require? Call ElderLink St. Louis for more information, including performing background checks and drafting a contract.
Q: My siblings have left me with the responsibilities of caring for my elderly parents. Any suggestions on how I can get them more involved?
A: You may think it’s obvious that you’re overworked and they’re not helping, but your siblings may not realize all that you do. Approach them in an honest, but not accusing, manner. Use “I” instead of “you” sentences as in, “I feel overwhelmed,” rather than, “You never help”. You have to be flexible and willing to compromise – let them help out in their own way. Maybe one sibling can research options and another can help pay for care. Another option is to hold a family meeting, including everyone who is or will be part of the caregiving team. You may want to get a professional to help manage the meeting. If some family members live out of town, have a conference call or use a speaker phone. Contact one of our eldercare consultants to discuss further.
Q: Sometimes I wonder if I can hold it all together. Is there anything I can do to help manage the stress I feel around caregiving for my husband?
A: When you start feeling overwhelmed, try to identify exactly what is causing the stress. Are there family disagreements, too many outside commitments, feelings of inadequacy or just too much to do? You may want to take advantage of some of the counseling services available in the community. Build some stress-reducing activities into your day, such as walking or other forms of exercise, gardening, meditation or having coffee with a friend. For other helpful information, contact ElderLink St. Louis.
Q: What is hospice?
A: Hospice is an approach to care for anyone with a serious illness who doctors believe have a short time to live, often six months or less. Hospice is designed to treat the symptoms, making the person more comfortable, rather than treating the disease. A dying person can receive hospice services at home, at a hospital or at a residential living facility. Medicare typically pays for all hospice services. There are several agencies that specialize in hospice care. ElderLink St. Louis can help determine which agency is right for you or your loved one.
Q: I just lost my job and I’m struggling to pay my housing and heating/cooling bills. Who can help?
A: Although some restrictions apply, there are financial assistance resources right within the Jewish community. Call one of our eldercare specialists to connect you to them.
Q: My husband and I are struggling to pay for all our prescription medications. Is there any help out there for us?
A: Depending on your current prescription coverage, there may be different Medicare drug programs that better fit your needs. Check online at www.Medicare.gov/MPPF or call 1-800-MEDICARE to discuss options. There are also a variety of prescription discount programs that may help lower your costs. Visit www.pparx.org for possibilities, or contact the manufacturer of your prescription directly to see if they offer financial help.
Q: I’m confused. What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
A: Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 years or older and some disabled people under the age of 65. Medicaid is a federal health care program, administered by the state, that is designed to help low-income individuals with few financial resources. Missouri’s Medicaid program is called MO HealthNet, www.dss.mo.gov/mhd. For more information on Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov.
Q: What is the difference between assisted and skilled facilities?
A: Assisted living facilities are for people not requiring total care, but still needing a little extra help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as bathing, cooking, medication administration and maintaining a home. Assisted living exists to bridge the gap between independent living and traditional skilled nursing homes. Skilled nursing facilities offer 24-hour nursing care. Contact one of our eldercare specialists to help determine which type of residential living facility is best for you or your loved one.
Q: When is the right time to start talking to my parents about moving to a residential care facility?
A: Don’t wait for a crisis to approach your parents about a move. As difficult as it may be, you need to find out what your parents want, and the conversation is easier if there is no dire issue at hand. Are privacy, activities, proximity to family and/or cost of primary importance to them? You may find a “window of opportunity” by bringing up a friend/relative’s move to a residential facility. Contact one of our eldercare specialists for support and materials that can aid in this sensitive discussion.
Q: My father lives in his own home, but it is just too much for him to maintain. What are some housing options for him? He has a somewhat limited income.
A: Your father might benefit from a senior retirement community that provides affordable apartments and offers supportive services. Two options sponsored by the Jewish community are Covenant House/Chai Apartments, 314-432-1610, www.covenantchaistl.org, and Crown Center, 314-991-2055, www.crowncenterstl.org. Contact them for more information and to see if he meets the income and eligibility requirements. There are other lower-income options in the St. Louis area but it’s not uncommon for these to have long waiting lists, so plan ahead if possible. For information on what is available in your area, contact your local Housing & Urban Development (HUD) office or your local Housing Authority office.
Q: My aunt’s doctor has recommended that she move into a skilled nursing home. How can I help her choose a quality place that will provide the care she needs?
A: A good match between a facility and your aunt’s needs depends on the quality of care, the philosophy of the facility, the services offered and its location. Be sure you understand what services are included in the price and how much any extra services she needs will cost. Visit the facility more than once, sometimes unannounced. Use your senses…does it smell alright, does it look clean, can you hear call lights and are they being answered? Are the residents groomed? Do the interactions between staff and residents seem helpful and respectful? Contact one of our eldercare specialists for additional things to consider. In addition, the local Long Term Care Ombudsman can answer questions about any recent complaints or lawsuits. Call 314-918-8222 or visit www.ltcop-stl.org.
Q: My sister and I are getting ready to move Mom from her large house to a smaller place. How do we begin to downsize?
A: There are several resources that specialize in helping families with the downsizing and moving process. During the process, however, it is important to let your mom go through her pictures and personal belongings, and let her determine what is really important to her. This will also help give her a sense of control over the situation, which can help make this a more positive experience. Contact one of our eldercare specialists to help you locate these helpful resources.
Q: I am an older adult who has been retired for many years. Recently I have been getting bored at home, and would like something to do. What options are there in my community?
A: Depending on your interests, some options are adult education classes, community clubs, volunteer opportunities, tutor-mentoring groups and senior group outings. Contact one of our eldercare specialists to connect you to activities that complement your specific interests.
Q: My father was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. What resources can help?
A: Start with the St. Louis Area Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, 314-432-3422, www.alz.org/stl. They have support groups throughout the area. Depending on the stage of the disease, other resources like adult day programs and homemaker services might be appropriate. Contact one of our eldercare specialists to discuss your options.
Q: I’ve been losing interest in things that used to be enjoyable to me, and lately I’ve been feeling sad and I have no clue why. Is there someone who can help me?
A: Depression is common among seniors, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be controlled. Jewish Family & Children’s Service offers counseling services based on a sliding fee scale. For information or to discuss your options, contact the ElderLink St. Louis specialists.
Q: Over the holidays, Mom seemed forgetful. How can we tell if she’s still able to take care of things or if we need to step in?
A: It can be difficult to both protect your parents’ independence and look out for their safety. If it seems like Mom is forgetting to turn off the stove, pay her bills or take her medications, consider having her evaluated by her physician to determine if there is a medical cause. Often a geriatric assessment by a licensed clinical social worker can help point you in the right direction by making recommendations and providing resources. Transition Strategies at Jewish Family & Children’s Service provides this service, 314-812-9333 or www.transitionstrategiesllc.com.
Q: I am worried about Dad’s safety at home. He has fallen a few times, and I have come over to his house and he has forgotten to turn the stove off. He wants to stay in his home. What can be done?
A: Some simple home modifications might help keep your dad in his home longer. There are agencies that specialize in memory and home safety assessments to extend and improve quality time at home for families caring for a loved one with memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. These places can help make simple changes to prevent future accidents, such as moving cords out of frequently used hallways, installing stove guard devices, or setting self reminders and notes. Contact one of our eldercare specialists to get you connected to these agencies.
Q: Are there any legal documents that would help me plan ahead to keep some control over what happens to me if I can’t make my own decisions?
A: An updated will, a durable power of attorney and advance directives (including a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care) can be a great start. Having these in place can reduce the likelihood of family conflict and a complicated probate process. They also allow you to choose who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and let you to decide your end-of-life medical care. You may want to contact an elder law attorney for advice.
Q: I’m afraid that mom is being taken advantage of financially. Is there anything I can do?
A: Sometimes older adults can be more susceptible to consumer fraud. Make sure your mother knows to:
- Keep Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers confidential.
- Never open the door to strangers unless you requested the visit.
- Never authorize a home repair until you’ve had a family member review it.
- Never keep investments in far-away places.
- Show a trusted family member all official-looking mail.
- Be wary of anyone who tells you you’ve won a prize.
- Hang up immediately on unsolicited sales calls or calls from strangers.
If you suspect that fraud has already occurred, call the Better Business Bureau at 314-645-3300, or Missouri’s Consumer Fraud Hotline at 800-392-8222.
Q: I’m not sure that my husband is being taken care of like he should be in his nursing home. What kind of help is available to make sure he’s safe and well cared for?
A: If you can, visit often and drop in unexpectedly. Bring any problems to the attention of the staff right away. Try to be calm, specific and helpful. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, speak with the nursing supervisor or director to make the necessary changes. If you feel that there is still a problem, contact your local Long Term Care Ombudsman who can investigate and help resolve it, 314-918-8222 or www.ltcop-stl.org.