by Francy Dickinson www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Dear Francy: I got the notice of losing my job yesterday. I have a month before I am without a job and I have no idea where to start. I give my mother $500 a month to go toward her living expenses, what will she do?
You are talking to someone who was giving her mother $600 a month to pay for her drugs when my husband was retired and I was working part time. I have been there and it is so upsetting to have to go through all of the care issues with your mom on top of your own financial worries. I understand but lets just review some ideas.
First, you have to be open and honest with your senior about your job loss. No money is no money and it is pointless to ignor it. You can let her know that you might be able to spare $50 or $100 a month but you do not know how things are going to be on unemployment. Tell her you are worried and yet you feel that something will come along and you are willing to look for work and/or get retrained.
That said, how can you help her. Well first of all, most states have reduced income, senior food stamp programs. If her money can go towards rent or bills and the state can give her food each month -it would reduce stress.
Medications can be free. Here is what you do, you talk to her doctor about making sure all of her meds are generic and that will keep the costs down. You make some calls and find the drug store that can give you the smallest charge for generic, Target, Walmart, Costco have great programs. (by the way, you do not need membership at Costco to use their pharmacy) If you still have a couple of expensive drugs that are not generic have the doctor give you a form to fill out for the maker of the meds. The drug company has a program that if you are on a low income they will actually give you the drugs each month. You will have to fill out a background check, you just call the maker of the drugs or check their website and it will show you how to fill out the forms to qualify. A budget has to be provided to show your family member is really on a low income.
Senior services; each area has senior services that are different. Sometimes different faith groups have support for their seniors. Call and find out. I know that one of our local churches has a high school group that does weekly work in the community for seniors. Like moving lawns, taking out trash, fixing loose steps or painting. Find out what your family member has in their area and sign them up for help. Having your mother pay for a fix it man is expensive and this could save a lot in the long run.
Need a new stove or washer? Our area has a Technical school that runs a repair school. I had a cousin that was in dire need of a new frig and when I called the school they were happy to deliver a repaired refrigerator to her home-No charge. They even said, thank you to me. They were looking for people financially challenged- to give away their repaired appliances.
Heat is very expensive. Take a look at what they have to heat their home and see if a change can be made. Maybe a simple visit from the furnace man could update the system a little bit. Old coils can be replaced and the furnace cleaned and it will give out more life and cost less. Maybe you can turn off the central heat and use a newer space heater that is easy to use and safe for seniors in one or two rooms. Buy a new wall mount heat control, you do not need to have a new heater to use a new heat control. It will be able to program the house on your senior’s awake schedule and keep the heat at an even level. Remember to turn down the hot water dial on the tank and wrap the pipes so cold weather will not freeze them.
Buy flannel sheets and one of the new electric blankets that can sense when the body is cold and move the heat around to that area! Get a good light throw for the senior’s lap while watching TV. Update their wardrobe with warmer clothes. Get them some good fleese instead of old light sweaters to keep their shoulders warm. Balding heads make senior men cold, give them stocking caps for inside and fun baseball caps for outside. Summertime means heat and a possible health issue for seniors, replace their ceiling light with a ceiling fan, watch the thrift shops for one, or check the box stores for sales. The new fans can really make a difference in the temp of a small home or apartment.
Change their light bulbs, that can be pricey up front but can save up to 40% in monthly electric bills! Start a program that you cook two larger dinners a week and take the left overs to your mom. That will break down her need to cook and to spend on food.
If there is an extra car in the garage, give it away. No one should be paying for insurance, gas and upkeep on two cars if they are driving less and really just need only one. Or if they are not able to drive they need to sell or gift their older car to the Universe and let it go.
Your senior maybe used to going out for lunch, movies or other treats that no longer are in the budget. Make sure they are connected with a Senior Community Center or Faith Center that will feed them once a week and give them a great day of cards, bingo or small trips – FREE. Life needs to be fun, but fun can be adjusted to a smaller budget.
I hope these ideas have helped, because I know the worry that so many families are now facing with their own income reduced and then the reflection of that onto the care that have been providing their elders. I bless you on this and please visit my website for more information and tips on care giving. www.seniorcarewithspirit.com
Thank you, francy