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Getting help with elderly parents

by Maryalene LaPonsie

Looking for help with elderly parents? Get some ideas of the various organizations that offer support and services.

Adult children navigating the different care options for parents may find it a bewildering experience. A number of organizations provide an array of services to help with elderly parents, but tracking down the right programs can be overwhelming. However, if you know where to look, finding the right resources and support doesn't have to be complex.

"The first thing I would say is to start with your local Area Agency on Aging," said Jennifer FitzPatrick, MSW, LCSW-C and founder of Jenerations Health Education, an education and consulting firm in the areas of geriatric health care, caregiving and dementia.

The Older Americans Act established these agencies in 1973 to meet the needs of Americans aged 60 and over. The government set up the Area Agencies on Aging in every county or cluster of counties in the nation, and each agency has an information and assistance line.

"They can point you to the right place," said FitzPatrick. "It's a launching point."

Help with elderly parents: specialized or local services?

While the Area Agency on Aging can serve as a good place for generalized information, some organizations feature access to specialized resources. For parents struggling with a certain medical condition, adult children may want to search for an association specific to that concern. For example, the American Diabetes Association and the Alzheimer's Association both have local chapters that may be able to offer guidance to caregivers.

Adult children may frequently overlook another source of information, local retirement communities.

"Continuing care retirement communities often provide resources beyond what is offered in their facilities," said JoAnn Abraham, Vice President of Sales for Porter Hills Retirement Communities & Services based in Grand Rapids, Mich. "People working there have a good knowledge of what's available to seniors."

Even if adult children do not plan for their parents to move into a retirement community, it may be beneficial to call local facilities and discuss what other options may be available to help with elderly parents.