Senior Life: Sally Kelly’s column of senior interests returns

I am back!! I am taking this opportunity, which The Portager has given me, to continue to bring news about and for older Americans in Portage County. I spent more than 15 years writing a Senior Life column for the Record-Courier, focusing on the existence and needs of older Americans in our neighborhood.

Well, now here we are in 2023 and no one ever picked up the “computer” to write such a column after I retired. I am now well into the older Americans group and there is no one out there telling me where to go (except my family) to find information about services or opportunities for us “older folks.”

So here I am, Sally Kelly (330-687-9501) writing Chapter 2 of Senior Life, for The Portager.

Our family has recently had the experience of trying to locate appropriate care for an elderly relative (96). This part of her story starts back before Easter this year when she fell at home and ended up in an Akron hospital. From there she went to Falls Village, whose staff thought she was capable of living in an assisted living facility (not at home alone). So off to find an assisted living facility that the family could afford and which was close to their homes.

After two weeks in an assisted living facility, she fell and ended up at the Portage Medical Center, and from there she was sent to a local rehab facility. After extensive therapy, the family was told that she should now be able to function in the assisted living facility with limited assistance from staff.

So here we are today, after many lessons learned.

No. 1, we learned to contact the Area Agency on Aging for assistance in becoming better educated about these facilities. They were able to tell us if there had been many ombudsman reports verified. The Area Agency has a staff whose only responsibility is to visit rehab and long-term care facilities to verify that patients are being cared for safely. Locally, we found that the number of complaints about a facility ranged from one to 10. For instance, had the patient been bathed daily, had the patient fallen when left alone, had the food been unappetizing, or had the staff been rude or neglectful to our family member.

No. 2, we learned that as family members we needed to speak up and insist that the staff at the facility take appropriate and compassionate care of our family member, which they are being paid for.

No. 3, we learned Medicare also rates these facilities. A facility may achieve a 1 Star or up to 5 Star rating for their services, compassion, and flexibility in caring for their patients.

No. 4, we learned that just because there are beautiful gardens and lovely fireplaces in the lobby, and cloth tablecloths, it will not guarantee that your family member will receive the best possible care available.

No. 5, we learned that your health insurance has a WHOLE lot of control of how you receive care, and for how long you can receive care at any one facility.

If your family needs to make these arrangements, remember that the Area Agency on Aging (Direction Home Services) is available to help answer your concerns whether prior to a placement or, most importantly, during a placement. Do not be reluctant to make a call at 330-896-9172 or 877-770-5558.

Great news — almost. I was recently invited to attend a community meeting at the Portage Medical Center to view their new plans for a UH Portage walking path. This project will provide our community with a safe, visible walking area for our entire community, especially for senior citizens.

It will be located on the land between the Medical Center and the Woodlands on North Chestnut Street in Ravenna. This will be a half-mile walking tract with benches and eventually a pavilion and gardens.

The funds were obtained by the Portage Medical Center’s Foundation Director, Shawn Gordon. She had written a grant proposal for the State of Ohio and finally was able to convince them that our community and their facility are needed.

Though we are at least a year away from being able to walk on this track … at least the idea is alive and well.

How long is your memory? More than 10 years ago, working with a group of senior citizens at the Portage Senior Center, I obtained a grant from the American Heart Association to develop a similar project for the northeast corner of the Medical Center’s property. But at that time, their administration (Robinson) was not ready to commit to such a project.

Oh, well, this just goes to show that “be patient and good things will happen” rings true.

Happy Older Americans Month! Get out there and be visible, let our government officials, our social agencies and our neighbors know that we are here. We are still able to contribute to their well-being, we are able to try new things, to contribute to new ideas, and to enhance the quality of our communities.

Older Americans Month was established back into 1963 … 60 years ago. The Administration for Community Living (a federal agency) has established the theme this year for Older Americans Month as Aging Unbound.

The premise is that we need to promote flexible thinking about aging, to enjoy our independence and establish our “own paths” as we age.

Though the month is about over … please take the opportunity to get out there and “strut yourself” to be visible, to contribute to someone else’s well-being, do not let us become the “hidden generation.”

Senior Life is a monthly column written by Sally Kelly. Contact her at 330-687-9501.

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