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Elderlink provides care for New York relatives

Elderlink provides care for New York relatives

A geriatric agency in New York City is operating a new program called “Elderlink” to assist families who have moved away with the long-distance care of elderly relatives still living in the city.

The nationwide service was introduced last fall by Selfhelp Community Services, the largest provider of home care in New York City.

“While adult children who have relocated want to be active caregivers, all too frequently they have neither the work flexibility nor the resources to come and provide cae when parents need help,” says Harriette Friedlander, Selfhelp’s director of social services. “elderlink is designed to step in, at as a concerned substitute family and provide the care that’s needed to elderly New Yorkers.”

Ms. Friedlander points out that Elderlink differs from the growing number of case management or consultation services that mainly refer families to professionals or agencies in the city where the elderly relative lives. She stresses that Elderlink can provide care directly to elderly clients by drawing on Selfhelp’s broadbased services.

Established 50 years ago to serve refugees fleeing Nazi persecution, Selfhelp has expanded to serve over 25,000 New Yorkers. The nonprofit agency operates 2 multi-service centers for the elderly, 7 senior centers, 3 senior citizen housing projects and 5 offices that assist approximately 2,000 Holocaust survivors.

Through Selfhelp, Elderlink can arrange for home care and counselling, a staff worker to take charge in emergencies, or for a caseworker to monitor the delivery of services on an ongoing basis. The program also offers financial management services to make sure bills and other financial matters are attended to and can refer families to attorneys specializing in “elder law.”

When hospitalization is required, the agency will provide escorts, consult with family members as well as professionals, coordinate discharge plans and arrange for post-hospitalization services. Homemaker/home health aides–many of them trained at Selfhelp’s state-accredited Home Care Training Institute–are available on a short- or long-Term basis.

Ms. Barbara Fuller, director of Elderlink, explains that their services always begin with a comprehensive evaluation that costs $150. It consists of taking a case history from the out-of-town relative, a home visit to the elderly client, research into services and entitlements available to the client, and a written report to the client and the family.

“Additional and continuing costs,” she says, “will depend on what the family wants. If they would like basic monitoring and support of the relative, that service initially costs $150 a month.” It includes procurement and coordination of services, a letter or phone call once a month to the out-of-town relative to report on the family member’s status, a phone call once a week to the elderly client, and a one-hour visit once a month to assess the client’s progress and iron out problems in service delivery. After the first month, the monitoring fee is reduced to $125 a month and to $100 after six months.

Citing examples of the needs of current clients, Ms. Fuller says, “Today, for example, I’m arranging to have an emergency response system put in the home of an elderly lady in Brooklyn. I’ll be out there when it’s installed and I’ll explain to her how it works.”

In another case, she says the family was extremely concerned about the confused condition of their elderly uncle. “He had been the victim of a mugging, and our staff was called in to set up an examination to determine whether or not he had suffered brain damage, which turned out not to be the case. We arranged for 24-hour home care and investigated area nursing homes, but his condiction has improved, and we’re now looking at the possibility of keeping him home and reducing the hours of care.”

Since home care costs $6.80 an hour (with a flat fee of $74.25 for care beyond 12 hours a day), she says it was fortunate that the man had worked until he was 80 and acquired considerable saings. “But if his funds were depleted, MEdicaid in New York would have paid the bill.”

Many clients need considerably less care or different types of services, such as help with housekeeping or shopping. “One man only needed someone to come in and bathe and shave him three times a week, and we contacted a neighborhood nursing home that knew of a male orderly.” Concerned about the high cost of home health care, Elderlink recently submitted a proposal to a granting agency for funds that would allow the program to provide services on a sliding scale fee.

Commenting on the growing demand for services to assist far-away relatives in caring for elderly family members, Ms. Fuller notes that Jewish Family Service agencies in Baltimore, Cleveland and Miami, Florida, operate programs similar to Elderlink.

“There’s really a need for a nationwide hotline that would give information on organizations and individual professionals throughout the country that provide case management services for the aging,” comments Ms. Fuller.

She notes that The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey has funded 24 hospitals across the country to develop pilot case management programs for the elderly living in the community. A limited number of elderly people will be enrolled to receive free case management services during the 3-year demonstration.

Ms. Fuller says the only agency she knows about that provides nationwide referral to social workers that case manage services for the elderly is a private group, Aging Network Services, in Bethesda, Maryland. For a fee of $200, the firm will carefully select a geriatric social worker in any area of the country who can assess an elderly patient’s condition and arrange for necessary services.

For further information about Elderlink, calkl toll-free 800-435-7666. In New York State, call collect (212) 420-5983. Elderlink is located at Selfhelp Community Services, 300 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y. 10010.

For a list of the 24 hospitals funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to offer case management services to the elderly, write to: Cindy Coombs, Montefiore Medical Center, 111 E. 210th St., Bronx, N.Y. 10467.

The nationwide referral firm, Aging Network Services, is located at 4400 East-West Highway, Suite 812, Bethesda, Maryland 20814. (301) 986-1608. For the names and addresses of other private case management firms across the country, see an article in the January 5, 1984 edition of The New York Times, entitled “Care for Far-off Elderly: Sources of Help,” available at most local libraries.

A growng number of Area Agencies on Aging throughout the U.S. are also organizing case management services–especially for lower income elderly individuals and their families. Check your local phone directory or information operator for the nearest city or county office on aging.

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