Recently, Sharen Martney of Seniors Consulting was asked to comment on the housing situation for seniors. Her reply was not about supportive housing or low-income housing but on the group of seniors whose need is not so apparent.
These are the seniors who are living in their own homes, in supportive housing or with families but have a level of dementia that makes them no longer safe to live in their environments. Usually this is due to dementia.
It is only when families try to deal with parents with dementia that this group is noticed and still only by their families, not the public in general.
We read in the media about the serious lack of beds required for these seniors but it is one of those situations that people cannot truly comprehend until it is their parents in need of this care. These families experience a huge emotional and financial cost. Therefore, I believe that this is an invisible group of seniors with a serious need for housing. I feel for the homeless seniors who have dementia and no one who could help is aware of them.
The seniors do not require 24-hour nursing care but 24-hour supervision. They cause microwave fires, forget to eat even when food is prepared and available, put the wrong type of cream on their faces causing damage to the skin, obsess with shaving until their skin is raw, take hearing aid batteries thinking they are pills, and walk outside and are not able to find their way back.
I work with families who have parents who require 24-hour supervision. These families are doing the best that they can. However, they are frustrated, burned out and exhausted. They do not understand what is happening, what they can do about it or their options.
Families are concerned that their parents have to fall and break a hip or go outside and get lost before their parents can move into a safe facility. I provide the families with guidance, information and hope.
Even when the healthcare system puts in as many services as possible, the families still worry about their parents because rarely can families be available 24-hours to oversee their parents. Not everyone is meant to be a caregiver and this could lead to elder abuse. Families too need to live their lives or there will be illness, missed working days and divorce. These are costs to society that show up in other ways.
Families need to learn how to cope and take action to help their parents. They need to join together and become vocal. They have to realize that this is too huge a problem for only the government to solve.
Perhaps it is time that funder-raising begins to generate awareness and money for the seniors who currently need this care and for those who will need it in the future. As with other associations, donations need to come from people and groups who do not think that their parents or they will need this assistance in the future.