Navigating the Stages of Care

Understand the services available to help you in caring for your elderly loved one

For several years Pam Johnson cared for her husband, Joe who suffered from advanced diabetes, a chronic lung condition, and who was becoming increasingly forgetful. Pam and Joe’s children didn’t live nearby, and Pam felt she should care for Joe herself.

But the toll of caregiving became heavier as Pam herself experienced some medical problems and Joe’s condition worsened. Pam’s neighbor, Joanne, reached out to her to see if she could help, as Joanne had cared for her frail, elderly mother. And Joanne even attended a seminar on care options available in the community. Joanne shared handouts from this seminar with Pam; felt it would assist her with the situation she was handling all alone.

Pam sat down one afternoon with the brochures Joanne dropped off. She sifted through the material and read about a variety of care options, eligibility criteria, payment alternatives, and more. She learned about options such as non-medical home care, assisted living, nursing homes, symptom management/palliative care, which are described as follows:

Non-medical home care: Mark Harvey of First Light Home Care describes home care as companionship, medication reminders, meal preparation and housekeeping. Home care can be provided a few hours or 24/7. Most people pay privately since Medicare does not offer coverage for non-medical home care, but long-term care insurance is an option for those who have a policy.

Assisted living: According to Sophia Cameron of the Villa at Suffield Meadows, assisted living offers a range of amenities, from residential services to a variety of options to improve or maintain one’s health. Accommodations can include meals, transportation, housekeeping and nursing support. Some facilities offer dementia care with a secure environment and specialized activities. Long term care insurance and private pay are typically the payment sources for assisted living.

Nursing home, skilled nursing facility: Both provide 24-hour inpatient care, however, nursing homes are for custodial (unskilled) care. To qualify for a skilled nursing facility admission, the person must need skilled (nursing) care and must have had a 3-day hospital stay within the past 30 days in order for Medicare to pay. Nursing home fees are not covered by Medicare. Medicaid, for those who qualify based on financial need, long-term care insurance and private pay can be used to pay nursing home costs.

Advanced symptom management/palliative care: Sherry Filler of Heartland Hospice defines palliative care as a medical specialty that relieves pain and other symptoms of any chronic illness lasting three months or longer, whether terminal or not. The palliative care team goes wherever the person lives (private home, skilled nursing facility, assisted living; need determines frequency of visits) and works with the patient’s other medical professionals to coordinate care.  Medicare and most private insurances cover palliative care. Agencies that provide palliative care often also offer hospice services.

After reviewing all the material, Pam decided she would contact several home care agencies to arrange for one day a week care for Joe. This provided her a chance to rest, take care of her doctor’s appointments, and even go out to lunch with a friend. Joanne was instrumental in supplying this information, and Pam felt better knowing other options existed to help with Joe’s changing physical and mental needs.

For a senior care resource list or a more detailed description of senior care options, please call Aging Together at 540-829-6405.

Five Over Fifty

Five regional counties, Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Madison and Orange, are celebrated in Aging Together’s annual in celebration of “Five Over Fifty.” This event honors one individual over the age of 50 from each of the five counties who has contributed to making our region vibrant.

  • Fauquier County honoree is Dr. Diane King
  • Rappahannock County honoree is Doug Schiffman
  • Culpeper County honoree is Dick Batiste
  • Madison County honoree is Valerie Cruz
  • Orange County honoree is Mary Lou Seilheimer

The award ceremony will be Friday, May 18, 6:30 p.m. at Culpeper Country Club. Tickets are $50. Please call 540-829-6405 for reservations or more information.


Carol Simpson
About Carol Simpson 10 Articles
Carol Simpson is a graduate of Georgetown University. She was executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Washington, trainer at Home Instead Senior Care, and development manager at the Alzheimer’s Association of Central/Western Virginia before becoming executive director of Aging Together.

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