Avoiding tragedy in the second half of life

Frustrated by how hard it is to figure out where to get help on senior issues?

One morning Sam discovered that he couldn’t get his right leg to cooperate. Sure enough, he had suffered a stroke. While hospitalized over the next several days, he was forced to face the facts. His irrational superstition that talking about bad things made them happen caused him to avoid planning for getting older.

Sam was unprepared for the almost inevitable changes that come with aging. A widower with only one son who lived in another state, Sam suddenly needed a wheelchair, help with bathing, some way to get food since he could no longer drive, and transportation to physical therapy and doctor’s appointments.

The only bathroom in his house was upstairs, and his laundry room was in the basement; they might as well have been in the next county. His doorways were too narrow for a wheelchair. He soon realized that returning home was not possible, so he spent the next two years in an assisted living apartment.

A second stroke left him needing skilled care, but he and his son discovered that Medicare wouldn’t pay for it. When Sam’s money ran out, they found help for him to apply for Medicaid assistance. They were shocked to learn that his eligibility would be delayed for more than two months because he had given his church and grandchildren gifts totaling $50,000 when Sam sold his house after the first stroke. At $900 per day, the cost of the skilled care facility came to $63,900 that his son had to pay himself before Medicaid began.

If you are over 50 years old, the time is now to begin designing the second half of life on your terms. Far too many people fail to plan. They eventually find themselves in a crisis when the first unexpected event of aging occurs.

When you are in the hospital is no time to start modifying your living space for one-level living or figuring out how you are going to get what you need without driving.

More information

The Senior Resource Center for Douglas County is hosting a series of programs focused on “The Final Episode: Scripting Old Age Your Way.” Each program is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and the fee is $25 per session. Call 785-842-0543 to register and for more information.

June 13: Helping you and your family face the tough questions

June 27: Making your house or next home suitable for your older self

July 11: Avoiding legal and financial pitfalls

Douglas County residents are fortunate. Not only is the list of services exceptionally long here, but you also have a central go-to place whose central purpose is to help pre-seniors, seniors and families of seniors find solutions for what they need. That place is the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County (SRC), where you are just a seconds away from free, comprehensive, unbiased help on any topic related to aging.

Qualified SRC staff and volunteer experts specialize in helping you navigate the complexities of learning what questions to ask and finding what you need on any topic related to aging in Douglas County. A phone call to 785-842-0543 or email to contact@YourSRC.org will get you started.

As an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, SRC does not exist to make money beyond what it needs to provide services. It does not share or sell your information without your permission. The staff is compassionate and sees people like Sam or Sam’s family every day.

The Senior Resource Center also offers some services itself, all at very low or no cost. These include home-delivered meals, door-to-door transportation, Medicare counseling, legal aid and much more. SRC staff also explains what other organizations offer or other similar services and how each uniquely meets individual needs.

You may have noticed SRC’s home, the Senior Center at 745 Vermont St., in downtown Lawrence. Because that building is undergoing remodeling, SRC is temporarily located at 2920 Haskell Ave. in Lawrence within the Peaslee Technical Training Center. SRC will soon return to 745 Vermont St. to a fresh new building and an updated approach to what it means to be a cutting-edge senior in Douglas County.

In the meantime, SRC has positioned itself more broadly in more locations. Thanks to the generous spirit of other organizations, SRC’s classes, services, clubs, events and opportunities are scheduled throughout Douglas County.

SRC isn’t gone — it’s just functioning out of more places than ever before: Lawrence Public Library, Eudora Senior Center, numerous churches in Lawrence and Eudora, Pioneer Ridge Independent Living, the Smith Center at Brandon Woods at Alvamar, Eudora Parks and Recreation, Presbyterian Manor, Lawrence Arts Center, Crown Toyota’s Pavilion, Peaslee Tech and more.

Design the second half of life you want while you still have time to choose from options. Get your home and finances in order for all possibilities. Be ready with a crisis plan. May is Older Americans Month — a great time to begin thinking about planning for the future. If you really care about your family, you will have the difficult conversations to prepare them, too.

Don’t be like Sam. Leaving yourself at the mercy of others to make decisions for you — decisions you may not like — can be one of life’s biggest regrets.

— Dr. Marvel Williamson is the executive director of the Senior Resource Center for Douglas County.


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