Remember the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116? It’s a number to keep handy this holiday season.
The locator is a national toll-free number anyone can call to ask questions and learn about supports and services in any state in the country – no sales, no obligations.
Locally, at the Area Agency on Aging, professional staff field more than 1,000 calls a month as a public service on the Info-Line for Aging & Disability (800-654-2810). We’re often asked if we know what’s available in Arizona, or Florida, or elsewhere. We do – through the Eldercare Locator.
Our national association (n4a), through partnership with the Administration on Community Living in Washington, D.C., fields hundreds of thousands of calls annually on the locator. In fact, right now, nearing the end of Medicare’s open enrollment period, they’re fielding 30,000-40,000 calls monthly.
The locator is manned by professional staff who can answer questions directly, and, if desired, link a caller straight to a local number serving the area for which they want more information. We routinely have calls patched through to us.
Every year, the Eldercare Locator mounts a national “Home for the Holidays” information campaign about a topic of common interest. This year, the topic is “Home Modifications to Support the Changing Needs of Older Adults.”
The campaign, in partnership with the University of Southern California’s Leonard School of Gerontology, aims to prompt ideas for easier living and make sure older adults and their caregivers know about services and programs around the country to help them modify their homes for successful aging.
A large percentage of the calls coming in locally to the Info-Line for Aging & Disability are related to possible assistance with funding for home modifications. Each call is discussed individually with options provided.
We also have brochures to share, provided by the Eldercare Locator, on “Home Improvement Scams” with tips to help safeguard against bad deals.
What kind of modifications are we talking about? They range from simple to complex, no cost to expensive.
A lot are focused on bathrooms, which tend to have slippery, wet areas and a lot of hard surfaces. Some common examples include installing grab bars near the toilet, in the shower and/or bath. Grab bars come in a variety of sizes and colors nowadays and make sense for all ages.
Other tips? If a towel bar is within easy reach next to a toilet, replace it with a grab bar for double duty as a towel bar and a safe thing to grab onto. Too many towel bars, and people, end up on the floor.
Adding a handheld shower head and a shower seat greatly help the safety and usability of a shower. Bathtubs can be replaced with showers or cut to create a step through passage, or have a door installed.
Other common modifications include widening doors, removing throw rugs, improving lighting, adding nightlights, rearranging cupboards for easy reach to common items, replacing or adding lift mechanisms for seating that’s too low or hard to use, adding handrails to all steps, inside and outside – even the one- or two-step places – extending top steps into a garage so one can step out on the same level before stepping down, and of course adding a railing.
Still worried? Or is figuring out how to make things easier confusing? Often, a visit by a qualified care manager or an occupational therapist can assess a home, and walk through possible accommodations.
When visiting this holiday, keep in mind these ideas. Feel free to call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability locally, or the Eldercare Locator to connect with the information you need.
Lynn Kellogg is CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Saturday in The Herald-Palladium.