Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Student George Thurlow found this story about athletes helping elders with their utilities:
The Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team and linebacker Myles Jack recently made headlines by helping to keep utilities on for several elderly Jacksonville residents in October 2019. While this donation made a difference in helping 31 elderly customers to keep their electricity on, it also speaks to a larger societal issue—there are many older Americans (ages 65 and above) that face financial hardship.
According to a 2008 study from the Center for American Progress, 22.4% of older Americans have family incomes that would be considered poor—within 150% of the poverty line (which in 2019 is $12,490 for a single person or $16,910 for a couple). This measure also likely underestimates the elderly poverty rate as it fails to consider thing like high medical costs (which nearly would double the figure for New York state). These individuals struggle the most with paying their utility bills. While programs such as Florida’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program (EHEAP) can help older Americans meet this need, they require substantial documentation to apply and leave out some older Americans struggling but with income above 150% of the poverty line. Also, older Americans are more likely to live in older homes with insufficient insulation and not have newer, more efficient heating and cooling systems, only increasing their costs. The end result of this is that a lot of older Americans are struggling balancing their utility bills with other necessities.
While this is a good dead by the Jaguars and Myles Jack, how do we help other older Americans facing this same struggle? Do we increase Social Security and Medicare benefits? Do we encourage more economical housing arrangements that would have lower utility bills? These are serious discussions that we will need to have and the need to have these conversations will not disappear anytime soon with rising medical costs, rising life expectancies, and a growing number of people nearing retirement age with insufficient savings.
Jenna Kyle writes about elders in one country who are committing crimes in order to be jailed for housing:
Jail as a Warehouse for the Japanese Elderly
It is commonly discussed how people in today’s North American society have a lack of respect for the elderly. Often, you hear how in other cultures, such as those in Asia, respect for the elderly still exists. However, this article illustrates that a lack of respect and resources for the elderly is a global problem.
Seniors in Japan are intentionally committing petty crimes as they have no money to afford food and shelter. They commit these crimes knowing how seriously Japanese courts treat petty theft, expecting to receive jail sentences; and therefore, food and shelter. In the past, children traditionally looked after their parents in Japan. But, recently in provinces that lack economic opportunities, younger people have moved away, leaving the elderly to look after themselves. It is interesting to consider whether a similar epidemic could occur in the United States. Personally, I don’t believe it is as likely. In Japan, the elderly are committing petty non-violent crimes, as they are known to come with high sentences. In the US, petty crimes, such as shoplifting are not typically given such high sentences. Therefore, American seniors would need to commit more extreme crimes to be sentenced to a jail term, crimes I feel elderly people are less likely to commit.
Further, Japan is improving their prisons, putting in handrails and special toilets and implementing special classes for older offenders. Historically, American prisons aren’t as elder friendly, making them a less desirable living situation for impoverished American elders.
This article also raises another important issue. A model in Japan has been costed to build an industrial complex retirement village where people would forfeit half their pension to get free food, free board and healthcare, etc. It has been determined that it would cost significantly less for the government to do this than to continue to put money into their jails to make them adequate for their elderly inmates. I believe this illustrates how the government and society tends to deal with issues involving the elderly in a reactive manner instead of a proactive manner. If the government and society were able to take more proactive measures in caring and aiding the elderly, it would not only benefit the government (less money spent) but would also greatly improve the quality of life for their elderly citizens.
Erin Morse writes a very personal story about looking for an ALF for a family member.
Finding an Assisted Living Facility For Your Loved One
Around this time last year, my family and I were looking into assisted living facilities for my grandma that had been diagnosed with dementia years prior. Thankfully we had time to look into these options, something many people don’t have on their side as many are being discharged from the hospital and can no longer go home.
We began looking into our options for assisted living facilities because it was becoming too hard on my grandpa to be her caregiver and unfortunately in-home care was not our best option because my grandpa, the devoted husband that he is, refused to give up on my grandma and thought he didn’t need the help.
Several things played a factor in what I looked at when assessing the different facilities. It was important to me that the facility allowed visitors whenever, with no advance notice. If a facility makes you give notice and/or only allow visitors in a certain time frame, it’s a huge red flag.
The quality of food was also top of my list. I didn’t want my loved one eating cafeteria slop. I wanted the food to be edible, fruits and vegetables that actually looked like fruits and vegetables, and a healthy well-rounded diet. I wanted the food to be made fresh daily and not come from a freezer.
I also factored into my decision what the residents were doing in the daytime when we visited. Were they sitting around watching tv? Were they just sitting in their wheelchairs and sleeping? Did they seem to never leave their room? Or were they active and participating in different types of activities?
There is obviously an extensive list of things to consider when choosing a facility for your loved one which can be found with a simple google search, one of those lists being located at the following link: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2017/assisted-living-options.html. It is also helpful to make a list of things that would be important to you if you were about to enter into a facility.
Which brings me to present day, where my family and I are now potentially looking at facilities for my grandpa, who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Things that I have now added to my list are to thoroughly read the facilities contract - paying close attention to arbitration clauses and their ability to terminate the contract; observe the facility’s turnover – which I recommend looking at their open job positions and see how often new job postings are being posted; and even learn about who is on their payroll – how many registered nurses, do they have a visiting doctor, do they have a local pharmacy or a pharmacy that delivers, etc.