Services for the Elderly : Agencies Provide Help to Allow Seniors to Live at Home

<i> Oliver is a Los Angeles free-lance writer. </i>

Most elderly and terminally ill patients will say that they wish to remain in the familiar surroundings of their home for as long as possible. Today, with family members often separated by vast distances and with more women working outside the home, many family members who used to care for older relatives are unavailable to provide sufficient emotional and physical assistance. Fortunately, a number of Southland agencies, services and individuals now offer help to bridge this gap, making home care a safe, economical and viable option to institutional care.

The following are local resources and referral agencies that can help you locate programs in your community; for other help, call your local senior center.

Home-Delivered Meals--Hot meals delivered to the home provide nourishment and offer the senior an opportunity for human interaction with the volunteers who bring the food. Most of the meals, delivered midday, consist of an appetizer, drink, entree with vegetables, bread and dessert. Suggested donations for the meals, which are usually delivered five days a week, range from $1.30 to $2.75, with a sliding scale based on ability to pay. Contact a local senior center or referral agency. (Kosher meals are delivered through the Jewish Family Service, ( 213 ) 937-5852, in the West Wilshire area as far west as Overland Avenue; for kosher meals in West Hollywood and parts of Los Angeles County, telephone ( 213 ) 655-1232. These meals are delivered five days a week by staff personnel and have to be heated; on Thursdays and Fridays, two meals are delivered, to last through the Sabbath and weekend. Kosher meals are also available in other parts of the Southland.)

Home Visits--When an elderly person is living alone, visitors and phone calls can provide a link with the outside world. A number of volunteer programs will provide this service. Roberta Stabbert, director of Interfaith Action for Aging in Long Beach, says the volunteer can be like a member of the family. Volunteers at the agency, which serves communities in the South Bay area, will, in addition to visiting, help a senior with grocery shopping, doctor visits, balancing checkbooks, writing letters and reading mail (to the visually impaired). Contact Interfaith Action for Aging, 2355 Pacific Ave., Long Beach, (213) 595-0939. In other areas, contact a local senior center.


Electronic Devices Linking Seniors to an Emergency-Response Center--Frail shut-in seniors living alone can be in close contact with a local emergency-response center that will give them access to emergency service--police, fire or paramedics. This Emergency Alert Response System (EARS), available in many Southland communities, provides a necklace equipped with a button, which the senior can push when an emergency occurs, alerting the participating response center that help is needed. The senior must report in daily. When no contact is made, the service calls a designated relative or neighbor to check to see if all is well. In the City of Los Angeles, contact the Department of Aging, (213) 485-4402. In Long Beach, there are two such services: Seniors Care Action Network, 521 E. 4th St., (213) 436-0424 (ask for the Multi Senior Services Program), and Lifeline, Long Beach Memorial Hospital, (213) 595-3019.

In-Home Helpers--Live-in and part-time helpers can often enable a senior to remain at home. These helpers will cook, do housework, escort a senior to the doctor and aid with baths. Seniors 65 and older who receive full Medicare (and sometimes MediCal) benefits without share of cost and who are homebound may be eligible for homemaker help; also some other insurance policies pay for this service. If you hire an individual on your own, conduct a thorough interview and require and check references from previous employers; also, make sure you get somebody who is licensed and bonded. In North Orange County, the Home Helping Hands Registry, a free referral service operated by the YWCA, provides the names of persons trained in the care of the elderly and disabled; an average charge is $6-$8 per hour or $65 per day. Helping Hands is at 132 E. Whiting Ave., Fullerton, (714) 870-7785. Other agencies providing in-home help include Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara, 123 W. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara, (805) 965-1001, and the Visiting Nurse Assn., Greater Los Angeles area, (213) 461-3040 or (818) 508-7799.

Shared Housing--Shared housing can offer a senior companionship, financial assistance, security and assistance with maintenance chores. Alternative Living for the Aging, 937 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, Calif. 90046, (213) 650-7988, has successfully matched more than 2,600 people in shared and co-operative housing during the past 10 years. Some seniors will exchange living space in their homes for services or monthly rent. The matching service is free. The agency also has some vacancies in two co-operative houses in the Beverly-Fairfax area and in Liffman House in Santa Monica, an apartment community 4 blocks from the beach. Monthly charge at the co-op houses in the Beverly-Fairfax area is $415-$450, including five dinners per week. In Santa Monica, 2-bedroom apartments are $396 per month per person, with two people sharing.

Carrier or Postal Alert--In many Southland communities, the Carrier Alert program of the U.S. Postal Service will help keep tabs on elderly individuals or couples. This is how it works: A mail carrier who notices an unusual accumulation of mail will alert a postal supervisor, and a relative is notified. Seniors or their families interested in the service should telephone these number: in the city of Los Angeles, call the Department of Aging, (213) 485-4402; Orange County, (714) 567-7500; San Diego County, (619) 560-2500; Santa Barbara, (805) 682-2727, or contact your local post office.


Respite Care--When a loved one requires constant attention, family members may feel trapped, depressed and exhausted. Respite care, in which a trained caregiver comes into the home to care for the patient, offers these individuals time off from the responsibilities. In some communities, nursing homes will even care for an Alzheimer’s patient on a short-time basis so that the caregiver can take a short vacation. The city of Los Angeles’ department on aging has a pilot project for respite care. For other respite-care referrals contact the local Alzheimer’s and Related Disease Society, Visiting Nurses Assn., your church or physician, or consult the Yellow Pages under “Home Health Agencies” or “Nurses and Nurses Registry.”

Home Services--Home Secure, a non-sectarian program of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles funded by the city of Los Angeles and the city of West Hollywood community development departments, is a free program designed to prevent victimization of people living on a limited income. Those eligible may earn no more than $19,900 for a single person or $22,700 for a couple. Homeowners and renters of all ages are eligible. The service, offered in 11 L.A. city council districts (including the San Fernando Valley) and in the city of West Hollywood, provides and installs, without charge, deadbolt, window and sliding-door locks, door viewers and bathroom grab bars. In Los Angeles, contact Home Secure, 330 N. Fairfax Ave., (213) 937-5855; the San Fernando Valley address is 12821 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 762-5892. In Santa Barbara, SAIL, a service of the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara, assists seniors and handicapped people with home repairs and also builds wheelchair ramps; donations for services are suggested. Telephone (805) 965-1001.

In-Home Medical Care--A chronically ill or disabled person may require the attention of a specially trained nurse or caretaker. The Visiting Nurse Assn. of Los Angeles will send registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses into a patient’s home to administer ventilator care and treatments requiring skilled observation and interpretation; also provided are physical, occupational and speech therapy. The Psychiatric Homecare Program aids in treatment of homebound patients under the care of a psychiatrist. The Visiting Nurse Home Pharmacy provides intravenous drug therapy, chemotherapy and pain management, consultation, medication and screening for drug interactions. Some services are covered by Medicare, MediCal and private insurance. In Los Angeles County, call (213) 461-3040. In other areas consult the local Visiting Nurse Assn.

Local Resources and Referral Numbers--Call for more information about senior programs or assistance that may exist in your community: Los Angeles City Area Agency on Aging, (213) 485-4402; Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging, (213) 857-6466; Asian and Pacific Coalition on Aging (referrals in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino), (213) 933-4982; Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, Los Angeles, (213) 938-3370 or (213) 938-3371. Orange County Senior Citizens Information and Referral, (714) 567-7500. From West Orange County, call toll-free (714) 220-0366; from South Orange County, call toll-free (714) 768-5615. San Diego County Area Agency on Aging, (619) 560-2500. Community Resources Information Service of Santa Barbara County, (805) 682-2727. In Ventura County, call these numbers: Conejo Valley, (805) 496-1994; Newbury Park, (805) 496-1994; Simi Valley, (805) 529-0975; Oxnard-Ventura area, (805) 647-7855; in Lake Piru, Fillmore, Ojai and Santa Paula, call toll-free (800) 656-6607.