Let’s face it

The challenges associated with aging can seem overwhelming for seniors and those who care for and about them. The concerns vary with the person’s perspective: How do Ikeep my elderly mother safe while preserving her independence? How will my spouse and I handle his upcoming surgery and recovery? Whom could Ihire to help me with cooking and housekeeping? Should my 88-year-old grandfather be driving?

The good news

John Muir Health Senior Services can provide the assistance you and your family need—or can serve as a link to other agencies in our community that specialize in the information or services you are seeking. Here are some highlights of resources and remedies, recommended by Arlene Phillips, John Muir Health’s Senior Services director.

Defining the Big Picture

Too often, seniors and their caregivers face a patchwork of programs and services that can be tough to navigate. John Muir Health Senior Services can help you to pinpoint practical options. With our free assessments of an older adult's overall situation—including his or her abilities, needs and desires, medical concerns and resources—you can develop a care plan that starts putting needed services into place.

Coordinating Medical Care

With a program called Patient Navigator, John Muir Health Senior Services lends a hand with various issues that come up around seniors’ medical care, including preparing for a procedure, scheduling appointments and billing questions. As Phillips puts it, “Health care has gotten so complicated. People aren’t sure where to call, or if they need an authorization or a referral. Or sometimes a phone isn’t use

Understanding Your Insurance

Ever feel like your medical insurance, and Medicare especially, was designed in a way that would be sure to confuse you? At least once a month, the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program of Contra Costa County offers a free class in how to get the most out of Medicare. For reservations at the John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek Campus, call (925) 947-3300. For reservations at the Liberty Adult Education Center in Brentwood, call (925) 634-2565. FYI: John Muir Health Senior Services can also answer questions about Medicare.

How to Hire a Caregiver

Even seniors who are cared for by family members can sometimes require professional at-home care, yet how many of us feel prepared to track down just the help we need? John Muir Health Senior Services can direct you to a range of in-home help options, from agencies that screen individuals for your hire, to companies that employ bonded home care providers ready to take on your care needs on the spot. Detailed instructions for specifying your requirements and expectations, and developing a successful working relationship, are also available.

Choosing Residential Care

Does your next step require moving—to independent living for seniors, assisted living or a nursing home? John Muir Health Senior Services can put you in touch with residential placement agencies that, at no charge, help define the level of services needed, compare costs, and investigate insurance or other assistance. Another good resource for you to consult: “How to Choose a Nursing Home” from California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (canhr.org). This publication spells out what to look for in a nursing home; an accompanying checklist greatly facilitates the daunting process of comparing

Help With Medication Costs

Pharmaceutical companies offer assistance to seniors who can’t afford their medications, but the trick is knowing how to apply. If you are struggling to pay for prescriptions other than for pain medications and narcotics, John Muir Health Senior Services staff will help you determine if you qualify for free medications. If you do qualify, Senior Services will coordinate your application process with your John Muir Health physician.

Classes on Age-Related Topics

Want to know how to get a good night’s sleep? Interested in how your attitude and emotional state affect health? Want to check in on your driving safety? Curious about how to use a reverse mortgage to get money out of your house as you get older? As part of its education program, John Muir Health Senior Services offers ongoing classes geared to seniors’ health and well-being. For a schedule of classes, call (925) 947-3300 and ask to join the mailing list for “Senior Services News.” This quarterly publication also includes information on free memory and blood pressure screenings, as well as articles on aging-related topics. Sign up for the newsletter online

Programs for Caregivers

John Muir Health's Geriatric Care Coordination Program has geriatric-trained social workers who provide professional assistance for older adults, their families and caregivers. Also worth checking into are caregiving classes offered by the American Red Cross (redcross.org and search “family caregivers”) on such topics as home safety, positioning and helping your loved one move, assisting with personal care, and caring for the caregiver. For respite care, go to the Adult Day Services Network of Contra Costa (adultdaycc.org/ program_locations.html) to view a list of programs held throughout the week and throughout the county. Costs depend on the program, but some programs offer scholarships; seniors who are approved for Medi-Cal and referred by a doctor are eligible for free respite care.

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