The snow was flying as my brother helped my mother gently into the car. We made what felt like a getaway. After being
gone for two months, returning home was freedom for our mother.
It'd begun with a hip fracture just before Christmas. It's the way many elderly and children with elderly parents begin
Fractured hips are classic," says registered nurse Rita Fowler, resulting in a trip to the hospital followed by time
rehabbing or dealing with complications at a nursing care facility. Through this point, Medicare will cover a sizeable
portion of care. Then, the system becomes a confusing cobweb.
Fortunately, San Juan Basin Health Department's Options for Long Term Care program provides navigational assistance.
Rita Fowler has coordinated the program for 17 years with the most outstanding team of case managers anyone could
dream of." Fowler provides an initial screening to determine needs and if an individual might be eligible for any
federal or state financial-based programs; and then provides referrals appropriate to the case.
Our community is blessed with a plethora of community services available for seniors," says Fowler. We have an
incredible network of agencies working together."
Recently, one of her long-time clients had to enter a nursing home. Sixteen years ago, Fowler had helped get Walter out
of the facility.
We worked together as a community - Senior Services, Home Chore program, Home & Community Based Services, and
Human Services to get Walter back home with supports in place to keep him safe and well-nourished," she said.
As his needs later grew, Walter moved into an independent-living complex. Fowler continued coordinating care, and they
became dear friends. At age 90, Walter returned to the nursing home last week. Fowler has mixed emotions.
I feel really good about keeping him home as long as we could through a network of services. But it's always sad when
people have to give up their independence."
San Juan Basin Health has a variety of programs to help people remain in their home as long as possible. Key though -
whether you're elderly now, will be soon, or have an elderly parent - is to be proactive by looking at available
resources and planning.
Don't wait until someone is in crisis when it's emotionally so hard," Fowler says. So many people I speak with don't
understand the gaps. Many believe Medicare pays for everything; others are surprised that supplemental insurance they
paid for didn't cover much."
At least 70 percent of people older than 65 will require some long-term care services at some point in their lives,according to the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information. One place to start planning is by visiting
their website at www.longtermcare.gov and ordering the free Options for Long Term Care kit.
Local resources include La Plata County Senior Center 382-6445; Senior Outreach Nurse 749-4007 (visits anyone older
tahn 60 in their home and assesses needs, provides resources and referrals); Rita at San Juan Basin Health 247-5702,ext. 237; or visit: www.sjbhd.org/home-health.
Jane Looney is the communications director for San Juan Basin Health Department.