Independence & Fulfillment / Housing Article:

In-home services give seniors a helping hand

by Pam Piering
Aging and Disability Services, Seattle Human Services Department

As people grow older, they face an often dizzying array of options for managing their health and well-being. Fortunately, taking care of everything by oneself at home or moving to a nursing facility are not the only choices. In-home services are a very good option for many older adults who need a little extra help but are still able to live comfortably and safely in their own homes.

Some of these services are available at no cost or at low cost for those who meet certain guidelines. Here are some examples of the types of service you might find by calling 1-888-4ELDERS (1-888-435-3377), a free and confidential resource sponsored by the Healthy Aging Partnership - a coalition of 27 nonprofit and public senior services agencies in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

"Chore services" provide assistance for activities of daily living which can no longer be done independently, such as grocery shopping, light housework, laundry or meal preparation.

"Personal care" or "home care" services can help with dressing, bathing, toileting and housekeeping services.

"Home health" offers professional nursing, speech, physical and occupational therapies, and social services at home.

The Medicaid program, administered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), offers help for frail elders on limited incomes. This program pays for personal care and other services for people in their own homes, adult family homes and assisted living facilities.

"Adult day services" provide varying levels of health and social supervision for the person who has help at home - perhaps from a family member or neighbor - but who needs support and monitoring during the day. A wide variety of services are provided by adult day programs, including health monitoring, exercise, learning and rehabilitative activities, nutritious lunch and recreational activities. Adult day services can also be used to provide respite to care providers.

"Respite services" focus on meeting the needs of caregivers by providing them with time away from the responsibilities of ongoing care of a disabled adult. The care that is provided ranges from companionship and supervision to care provided both in-home and in the community.

"Transportation programs" provide transportation at a discount for disabled and senior citizens. These include low-cost bus and taxi services through city or county transit departments as well as door-to-door van service through several public and nonprofit agencies. Also, volunteer programs can often provide transportation to medical and other essential appointments.

"Minor home repair" helps keep your home safe by providing low-cost repairs for homeowners who meet certain low-income requirements. Plumbing, electrical and carpentry repairs are frequently performed, and the program also allows for installation of safety equipment such as grab bars in showers or construction of ramps or other modifications to improve home access.

"Meals on Wheels" helps homebound seniors maintain their independence by delivering nutritious frozen meals and liquid nutritional supplements weekly. The "Mobile Market" program delivers reasonably-priced groceries to seniors at home.

For more information on the in-home services available to older adults in the Puget Sound area, call 1-888-4ELDERS (1-888-435-3377) or visit the Web site at www.4elders.org.