The Elder Law Forum by Professor Michael Myers Editor's Note: The Elder Law Forum is a public service of the University of South Dakota School of Law, an extension of the SENIOR LEGAL HOTLINE available at no cost to persons 60 and older at 605-677-6343 and firstname.lastname@example.org during regular business hours. The Elder Law Forum delivers information and educational material by radio, a weekly newspaper column, and Law School research papers placed on the USD School of Law Web site. Professor Myers teaches Elder Law at the School of Law.
Older Americans Act
The role of a caregiver � often one spouse caring for the other � can be debilitating, even fatal. It is not unusual for the
"healthy one" to die before the "sick one." Faced with day-and-night, round-the-clock responsibility for another person's most basic needs can break down the spirit, the emotions, and the body. The unrelenting stress can be overwhelming.
A recent e-mail to the Senior Legal Hotline is illustrative: A woman in her 70s describes her second marriage after being widowed, stating, "Things seemed to be doing okay until my husband started losing his memory. Now, he has become worse, my health is failing, and I have had to go on blood-pressure medication. I went to the hospital one night thinking I was having a heart attack. It turned out it was stress."
I referred her to Katie Bloom, director of "Day Break, Adult Day Services," a program delivered by The Center for Active Generations, Sioux Falls, and a godsend for persons who are providing care to � or worrying about � elderly family members. Now, two afternoons a week, the caller drops off her husband at Day Break, leaving her time to shop, visit with friends, stop at the library, or simply return home for some quiet reflection. As for her husband, he has found companionship and quality care in a safe, home-like environment.
Bloom, appearing on the Elder Law Forum radio program, delivered a "gospel of respite," informing the public about Day Break and similar programs available across the state. They are financed in part by the federal Older Americans Act.
"No one is turned away," said Bloom. "We negotiate charges that are appropriate for the family." Sometimes the family is without resources to pay.
A day at Day Break begins with "stretching" exercises, coffee-and-newspaper time, then participation in discussion groups and educational programs that permit learning and sharing. Lasting friendships develop among the cohort of some 65 persons in the program at any given time.
Music, field trips, arts and crafts provide a daily enrichment not often found in the private lives of retirees. Services also include regular nursing assessments, assistance with activities of daily living, in-house blood draws, nutritional support and social work services.
Similar programs are found in Aberdeen, Yankton, Huron, Madison and Spearfish. They are funded in part through contracts with South Dakota Adult Services and Aging. Importantly, Bloom pointed out individual funding is available for persons living anywhere in the state.