ALTCEW Planning and Management Council recruiting volunteers
As the "graying of America" shifts to the "aging of America" in the next few years, Jean Kindem, a volunteer on the Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington (ALTCEW) Planning and Management Council, expects a "monsoon" of issues will arise related to affordable housing, dementia care, health care and home care.
The percentage of people 60+ living in Spokane County has increased dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years—from 16 percent in 2000 to nearly 19 percent in 2010, she said. It is projected to increase to about 28 percent in 20 years as people live longer because of better medical care.
"Children of elders may be surprised when their parents become ill or handicapped," Jean said. "They need to know if bills are paid and how to access bank accounts to pay for electricity, phone and taxes."
Lynn Kimball, executive director of ALTCEW for four years, said Americans are so youth focused few think that they will age or need long-term care or support at home, and few plan ahead for parents.
"Everyone needs to be proactive and make plans," said Jean, "about housing, nursing, home care and family support."
She returned to Spokane after raising her family in Minnesota to care for her mother in the 1980s. She worked more than 23 years with Group Health as an administrator for Medicaid patients, retiring in 2004.
Jean knows about issues not only from listening to others, but also from her own experiences caring for her mother and her sister who moved from Seattle into Jean's home five years ago. Her sister now lives at an Able Adult Family Home and goes to Spokane Valley Providence Adult Daycare. Jean appreciates that she could move her sister into a facility with more care.
In addition, her son cared for her husband, who had Alzheimer's, before he died in Minnesota.
Six years ago, she began volunteering as one of 35 serving on the council. Since January the council has had 17 focus groups listening in the five counties ALTCEW serves—Spokane, Whitman, Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille—to discover issues for different populations, from individuals with memory loss to older LGBT adults.
"We need more volunteers to be the eyes and ears to evaluate ALTCEW services and contractors," said Jean, who recently gave a recruiting presentation at her church, Central Lutheran in Spokane. She said it was a natural place for her to reach out, because it has offered her support during the caregiving she has done.
The Planning and Management Council meets 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., last Fridays, 10 months a year to help ALTCEW plan and evaluate its programs.
Completing two three-year terms, she is starting a term as the Spokane Valley representative.
From volunteering and caregiving, Jean is aware of issues:
• Service providers need to have someone answer the phone, not an answering machine, because someone may be making a first call for help.
• Everyone is experiencing or will experience issues with elderly parents, spouses or children with disabilities.
• With the tight housing market, more elderly people are struggling with the lack of affordable housing.
"We need to identify for ALTCEW what services are working and what are not working," she said. "If a service is not being used, we can advertise its availability or move funds to other areas where the Planning and Management Council sees needs."
The Planning and Management Council was set up in 1978 to assist the agency in making sure its services met needs of older adults.
Jean discussed the work of several committees.
The Advocacy Committee advocates for older adults in the state legislature as it develops its budget and bills. It also tracks federal bills and informs constituents, who then can make phone calls and write letters.
Currently, there is need for advocacy related to the lack of housing access, safety and affordability for people on a fixed income, she said.
"If a landlord raises the rent, older people on social security and retirement incomes often cannot find another job to pay for the increase," said Lynn.
"As Spokane has blossomed," Jean said, "there is not enough housing."
Both told of limited opportunities for housing for elderly people.
"There is a limited amount of housing available at a rate people on social security and retirement incomes can afford," Jean said.
Lynn finds much emphasis on and advocacy for people who are homeless, but not for housing for older adults.
"As people develop affordable housing, we will be partners," Lynn said, noting participation in Spokane's Consolidated Plan for Housing.
Jean said ALTCEW needs to be proactive on housing so funds go to help older adults find affordable housing, as well as homelessness.
"Seniors should not need to become homeless to find housing," said Lynn.
"Housing insecurity is a threat," she said. "For older adults, homelessness may be disguised as living with a son, daughter or other family member."
A second committee works on planning, which includes planning for the increase in dementia, with the need for a system of care from the diagnosis, to early- and medium-state treatment, to support for families, and to addressing behaviors, violence and mental health.
Lynn said a person on Medicaid has mental health treatment, but when they transition to Medicare, they may lose mental health services.
"There are always gaps," she said, "so the council helps identify issues and alert us to resources. As there are new programs and services, we may partner with new agencies."
Jean said partnerships may include working with insurance companies.
"Many people can be cared for in their homes," Lynn said. "If they are stabilized in the community, we don't need to talk of facilities and bed counts."
Jean wants to help keep people in their own homes rather than building facilities that institutionalize people.
Lynn spoke of the need to support families who give home care, but having facilities when people need more care.
A third committee addresses quality assurance, especially for 51 percent of services ALTCEW contracts to other agencies. It monitors how they spend the money and builds relationships with different organizations.
"Our volunteer council can dive deeply into issues," Jean said. "We have time to meet with people and evaluate services."
"Volunteers don't need to be experts, just be interested in the services that are being provided," she said.
For information, call 458-2509, email email@example.com or visit altcew.org.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2019