Advice on Aging: Holiday Time Not Always Jolly for Seniors

By Toni Lynn Davis MHA, CNHA, FACHCA

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” That is how the song goes and for many of us holiday time is a most wonderful time. Yet, studies show that holiday time also sees a rise in depression among people of all ages. Some of the known causes of holiday depression is the forced gaiety when one is struggling with personal issues, family challenges, financial constraints, medical issues, religious differences, and loneliness. Seniors are especially vulnerable to depression during the holidays. Feelings of disconnection and isolation brought on by loss, limited mobility and health concerns can be magnified in a homebound senior.

It is also a challenging time for the family caregivers of seniors who are often also caregivers of children and spouses, responsible for providing the holiday experience to all, or who may want to enjoy a much needed break during holiday time. Programs can be found to help alleviate many of these depression triggers including, home care support, social opportunities, transportation for basic services like grocery and mall shopping, and companions to escort seniors to events and gatherings.

New Jersey has recently joined a number of other states in the nation in enacting new legislation that permits Medicaid funds to be used for many home based services. Also, a new amendment to the state’s Medicaid program will enable seniors whose income is too high to be fully covered by Medicaid to set up a trust account in a bank to be used for home based services. These trust accounts with of additional personal funds will enable them to also be eligible for Medicaid support. Any income that the stay-at-home senior earns above the Medicaid eligibility level of $2,163 per month can be saved in their trust fund, and used for home care and approved home based services. These additions to the Medicaid program are part of the long-term care program that can pay for housing costs, home care services, even temporary homecare assistance that may provide family caregivers time off. Visit the Department of Human Services to learn more about what services the Medicaid and the Medicaid trust fund will cover. To establish a Medicaid trust fund use the template available on the website at www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dmahs/clients/mtrusts.html.

There are other places where you can access services for seniors to keep them mobile, engaged and involved in the community during the holidays, and all year round. Check with the Senior Services Agencies in your municipality or county. They often have transportation for seniors to grocery stores and medical appointments, programs and social events that bring seniors together. Contact your local houses of worship. They often have community outreach volunteers and senior programming.

Green Hill’s program Green Hill at Home has been offering home care medical services since 2009. Green Hill at Home is in the process of expanding it’s home and community based services to offer help with housekeeping, laundry, social opportunities, transportation and other activities in an effort to alleviate the sometimes isolating, and frustrating experience. These Green Hill at Home services give support the community choice to stay at home as long as you can. Applications to participate will be forthcoming. To learn more about Green Hill at Home’s expanding services visit www.green-hill.com.