By Stephen Ingber Staff Reporter
Clinton County—With the baby boomer generation receiving more advanced health care than ever before, many people are living past their life expectancies.
As more and more people make decisions about their aging parents, care for the elderly becomes an increasing priority. The choice to put a family member in an assisted living or a nursing home is a tough choice said Todd Thelen, a resident of DeWitt.
Thelen is middle aged and works an office job everyday. In the last few years aside from saving money for college for his children, he has had to chip in to pay for his mother’s assisted living home bills.
“Having two young daughters at home can already make a budget tight but wanting to support my mother as she supported me for so long can make any family tighten the buckle even more”, said Thelen.
The U.S. Census data shows the population of Clinton County is composed of 13.3 percent of people over the age of 65, almost a whole percentage point lower than Michigan’s average of 14 percent.
Looking at past data from the U.S. Census, the evidence shows a steady increase in people living over the age of 65.
Prestige Pines, an assisted living facility located in DeWitt opened in 2003 and serves the older citizens of the community. It provides services to make life comfortable for the elderly.
The facility offers different levels of care, from assisted living to independent living. Assisted living provides the elderly with in-home help to complete many of their everyday tasks. Independent living is a community that offers independence for the elderly but has a built-in support system for residents. Many of such facilities are in Clinton County. Insurance Companies offer very little to no assistance at all for residents of the community, said Thelen.
But Medicare offers some supplemental assistance. Currently the Tri-County Office on Aging for Clinton County offers minimal assistance for families facing financial predicaments. The tri-county covers Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties.
The agency offers alternative solutions as well in-home solutions like nurses or caregivers. Options like these can provide peace of mind to families of the elderly.
Programs like Meals-on-Wheels provide area senior residents with discounted or free food brought straight to their places of residence. Subsidized by the county, the program relies heavily on volunteers to package and distribute the food. To qualify for the service, Senior citizens need referral by their physicians, family members, neighbors, or individuals.
Dr. Norman Isaacson, a physician who specializes in geriatrics care for the elderly said families should take a team approach in the care of their elderly.
“There are so many options out there depending on dependency, health, and what a family’s financial situation is,” says Isaacson.
Access to medical care and transportation are key challenges for elderly residents in rural places like Clinton County.
Facilities like Prestige Pines offer transportation to offsite doctor’s appointments for residents. In-home caregivers sometimes offer transportation to appointments as well.
Another facility, the Project Choices program offers oversight in care management. Most of this service is covered by state and federal funding. Some services they cover are in-home nursing, mental health counseling, and chore services.
Clinton County Transit is the area’s publicly funded bus system. Offering rides throughout the county, the transit provides rides to area seniors at discounted rates.
To receive services, clients call a telephone number and a short bus service will be made available to pick them up and deliver them to where they choose to go within Clinton County. Rides for seniors (60+) range from .50 cents up to a dollar.
Also, the Tri- County Office on Aging offers seniors recreational activities. These include free exercise classes like chair exercise and enhanced fitness.
“Having resources like this in the community is what has contributed to our increased life expectancy,” said Isaacson.
Residents in elderly communities pay anywhere from $700 a month to $7000 a month, depending on level of care and service needed.
Services provided in the communities include nursing home care, medication management, nutrition, exercise classes, senior trips, and medical consulting with geriatric specialists.
Bobbie Price, administrator of the Grace Haven Assisted Living facility said her outfit is one of the most comprehensive in the mid-Michigan area. She said it its range of services should provide families with peace of mind.
One resident, Julia Fouche, 94 years old, suffers from late stage dementia and is cared for primarily by her son, Alvin. Her son is working with the state to obtain additional services for her care through the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver Program.
“For a longtime, I re-arranged my schedule and worked weird hours and odd jobs, just so that I can take care of my mother,” said Julia’s son, Alvin.
He said there are days when his mother cannot even remember his name or remember moments of his childhood. He said he eventually turned to an assisted care facility with funding help from the Medicaid Waiver program. He has since been able to return to work full-time, as his mother enjoys the activities at her new home.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made but in the end I think we are both happy now and I know she is receiving the care she needs around the clock,” said Fouche.
Another St. Johns facility, The Clinton County Senior Center offers a multi-event center that caters to residents of the county over 50 years of age. Serving lunch four days a week, and offering affordable activities like bingo and day trips, the center is funded mostly by donations. .
The Lansing Area Financial Credit Union or LAFCU offers seminars geared to the elderly members. Every month, LAFCU which is headquartered in Lansing, offers speakers and workshops on topics like Medicare, Medicaid and senior care.
Kelli Ellsworth, Vice President of Community Relations for LAFCU said having an elderly mother has inspired her to use LAFCU to provide help for the elderly citizens of the community.