Seniors & Aging

These in-home services help seniors safely stay in their homes

Right at Home Certified Nursing Assistant Jeni Bliss-Vinson washes dishes while visiting Velma MacDonald, 93, at her apartment at Spring Creek by Bonaventure in Bellingham. Bliss-Vinson visits twice a week to help with showering and housework.
Right at Home Certified Nursing Assistant Jeni Bliss-Vinson washes dishes while visiting Velma MacDonald, 93, at her apartment at Spring Creek by Bonaventure in Bellingham. Bliss-Vinson visits twice a week to help with showering and housework. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

In many instances, adult children – and their parents – prolong learning about the services and facilities they might need to rely upon when mom and dad are no longer able to do everything for themselves. The children then find themselves in a panic and lacking the necessary knowledge.

“Be prepared early,” advised Sandy Friedrichs of Catholic Community Services in Bellingham. “Lots of people look for services after something happens and they know nothing about the agencies available to them or what they do. Have a backup plan ready to go.”

Catholic Community Services is one of those agencies adult children can turn to if they are out of town and need to find help for mom and dad. The organization offers basic light housekeeping, transportation to medical appointments, bathing, meal preparation and personal care.

“People often think we are a housekeeping service,” Friedrich said. “We do some very light housekeeping, but we are really more of a personal care services than a housekeeping service.”

The agency also provides supervision, live-in care and respite care.

Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services provide a variety of services to seniors and to people with disabilities that dignifies each individual while providing the needed tools to help extend independent living and promote physical and mental well-being.

Historically, Catholic Community Services has provided home care services that enable seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their own homes. In addition, Catholic Community Services provides this to people with low or no income, as well as to people who are able to pay for the service.

Rob Kraus, care administrator for Right at Home Northwest Washington, said it is critical that adult children and their parents ask for help when they need it. There is no shame is seeking assistance. Too often, the family tries to do what they think is the right thing by enabling their parents to live independently, when it may not be the best thing to do.

“People wait too long to seek help and the pot boils over,” Kraus said. “By then, it’s often too late.”

Whether your loved one needs a short-term companion care plan, 24/7 live-in care or respite care, Right at Home provides home care services to fit every family situation, he said.

The following profiles are based on actual Right at Home clients and are featured on their website. They are used to demonstrate the variety of ways Right at Home can benefit families.

▪  Gloria needed companionship and an occasional ride.

▪  Bob needed help getting around and cleaning.

▪  Henry was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

▪  Hattie was recovering from hip replacement surgery and needed temporary assistance.

▪  Mandy has Down Syndrome and her own apartment.

“We can take pride in re-establishing the family dynamic and taking pressure off the family so they can enjoy time together with their loved one,” Kraus said.

Staff is comprised of certified caregivers who work to help clients carry on the activities of daily living.

With the in-home care services provided, clients receive a customized care regimen that takes those needs and their environment into account. Some of these special care situations include: Alzheimer’s and other dementia, arthritis and osteoarthritis, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, neuromuscular diseases and disorders, cancer recovery, palliative care support, mental health, traumatic brain injury, paraplegia/quadriplegia and home care for Parkinson’s patients.

Whatcom County is rich with services and organization designed to help the elderly in a variety of ways. One of the more unique ones is Bellingham at Home.

Bellingham At Home is a non-profit membership organization modeled on the many successful villages now operating across the country that empower older adults to stay active and engaged while living in their own homes and neighborhoods. It is a program of the Whatcom Council on Aging. The first of its kind was in Boston, according to Leslie Jackson, program manager.

The Bellingham program began in July 2016.

Bellingham At Home was formed to provide members with a variety of benefits to enhance their quality of life today, while also helping develop peace of mind about the future. Its flexible approach allows members to tap into community activities and services as they need, or want them.

The virtual village is part of a national movement of older Americans who are taking charge of their future as they age, Jackson said. Research has shown that the great majority of Americans want to remain in their own homes as they age, but there are currently few resources to make that possible for most people. The village concept is that a community of people can pool resources by paying a $450 annual membership and volunteering their skills and time to support the village infrastructure and to assist one another.

Volunteers in the virtual village, all of whom are Bellingham residents, offer services that including of everything from light gardening, changing a lightbulb, laundry, respite care and more. About 90 percent of the requests are fulfilled, according to Jackson.

The average age of the volunteers is 73, so not all service requests can be fulfilled. For example, someone wanted electrical work done and another wanted shale moved. Neither of those requests was able to be accommodated. Currently there are 59 volunteers registered. All volunteers are trained and vetted.

“I’m genuinely overwhelmed at the amount of time so many of these people offer,” Jackson said. “Their expertise in so many areas is impressive. It’s a beautiful program.”

To keep seniors active, Bellingham At Home offers a monthly calendar of events. First-year events included several potluck dinners, a history cruise on Bellingham Bay and a holiday party at the country club. They also arranged for speakers at Senior Activity Center events.

Bellingham At Home provides members with:

▪  A single number to call for help.

▪  Access service volunteers to help with home maintenance.

▪  Getting transportation to medical appointments, social functions or for shopping excursions.

▪  Referrals to vetted service providers with preferred terms and rates.

▪  Opportunities to participate in social and educational events.

▪  Membership in the Bellingham Senior Activity Center.

▪  A chance to volunteer for others.

▪  A voice in deciding how best to meet members’ needs.

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