Woman holds onto independence with help from Rural Resources

Senior ServicesMarguerita Brady was working in her yard when the man she would come to regard as a second son introduced himself.

Jeff Michaelson, program manager of adult and long-term care at Rural Resources Community Action, told her that it looked as though she could use some help.

Six years later, the 82-year-old widow and grandmother continues to take Michaelson up on his offer.

Before Michaelson’s visit, Brady had never thought to contact Rural Resources, a non-profit corporation dedicated to helping people with basic needs in rural Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties.

Since that day, Michaelson and Rural Resources’ Senior Services division has responded to a number of Brady’s needs that, left unmet, might have unraveled her independence over time.

Through the home repair program, she was able to get a hand rail on her back porch and other small improvements to the Northeast Washington home she has lived in for the last 40 years.

A transportation service for seniors gets her out shopping and to medical appointments and meals with friends.

She received home-delivered meals while she was ill, vouchers for low-cost meals at local restaurants, help finding health insurance and a prescription drug plan, and a Magnification Reader that allows her to go through her mail and scan the newspaper.

“They’ve done so many things for me,” said Brady. “It’s been a God-send.”

It’s also been a God-send to Brady’s two grown children, who try to look out for their mother even though they live in other cities and have families of their own. They’re comforted knowing that Rural Resources staff members are close by and able to routinely check on mom to see how she’s doing.

Brady is somewhat unique in that she’s not homebound or facing imminent nursing home placement even though she has some potentially debilitating health problems, Michaelson said.

“We support her with different services so that she’s able to put nursing-home care off for as long as possible,” he said.In addition to the programs Brady has used, Senior Services also offers case management, including assessments and individual care plans, as well as respite care or relief for family and other unpaid caregivers.

Keeping older adults in their own homes not only helps them, it also helps the community, Michaelson said.

“Home is where they want to be. And it’s less costly,” he said, noting that nursing-home care costs a minimum of $4,000 a month.

Typically, someone will enter a nursing home and spend his or her life savings in a matter of months, he explained. After that, the state picks up the tab through Medicaid.

Beyond dollars and cents, keeping seniors in their homes promotes community diversity, he added. ” We’re keeping them engaged and involved.”

In the rural counties served by Rural Resources, seniors are particularly prone to isolation, he said. “Young people move to where the jobs are. Mom and dad get old, and oftentimes, the family doesn’t realize that their parents need help.”

To fill the gap, Senior Services is trying to build an informal “gatekeeper network” of business owners and others in the community who are in positions to notice whether their older customers or clients need some attention, Michaelson said.

They can then call Rural Resources’ Senior Information and Assistance line at 1-800-873-5889 for information, help and referrals for people age 60 and older. Callers can even request that a staff person to go out to person’s home, if necessary.

Brady has lived all her life in Northeastern Washington, raising a family and working some outside the home. Her children moved to Spokane and Seattle and had children of their own, over time giving Brady 10 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

Eventually Brady plans to move into a retirement community close to her daughter in Spokane. Until then, she’s happy to know she can call on Rural Resources if she has a problem or just needs to get out of the house.

It sure beats sitting around day in and day out with just the TV for company, she said. “I call Rural Resources and tell them I need to go shopping. I don’t let myself get down.”