By Matt Kinshella
Many of us spent time with parents, grandparents or older loved ones over the holidays. During that time you might have noticed the pills in their pill box didn’t seem to match the days of the week. Or maybe their conversational skills seemed a bit off and they had an unexplained injury. It was enough to make you take pause, and now that the holidays are over you can’t get it out of your mind.
Seeing people we love get older can bring about a lot of questions. Maybe there’s something going on that needs to be addressed. Or maybe everything is fine and we just need to plan for the future.
In Multnomah County, there’s a place we can get answers to those questions and more: the Multnomah County Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) Helpline.
What is the ADRC Helpline?
Anyone can call 503.988.3646. Or, if you’re like me, you might prefer to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All contact made with the helpline is free, confidential, 24/7 and multilingual.
More than 40,000 people reached out to the helpline last year. And more than 6 out of 10 people were calling for someone else.
The issues people are most likely to reach out for are:
- Medicare Information/Counseling
- Case/Care Management
- Utility Service Payment Assistance
- Food Stamps/SNAP
- Long Term Care Options Counseling
Additionally, there is always a spike in calls in November, December and January from people who are concerned about older folks with whom they spent the holidays.
Signs you might want to reach out
You might be unsure what constitutes potential cause for concern. One or maybe two stand alone issues might not be something to worry about. But several issues together might be a reason to give us a call.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some red flags concerning older people:
- Seems socially isolated
- Is refusing doctor visits
- Seems confused or is repetitive in their questions and conversation
- Looks underweight, frail or weak
- Has an unclean physical appearance
- Has a vague or no explanation for injury
- Poor medication management
- Experiences frequent falls
- Poorly maintains their home, animals or self
- The home is in need of major repairs
- You suspect a misuse of money or financial neglect
- You see signs of hoarding or extreme clutter
What happens when you do reach out
The ADRC staff you communicate with are trained to find you the resources you need. They’ll ask you questions about your loved one, go over your options and give you the contact information of places to call.
You don’t even need to know exactly what you’re looking for.
“It’s fairly common that someone who doesn’t know exactly what they need calls and finds out about services they didn’t know about,” says Sarah Milhouse, an ADRC community information specialist.
Sometimes the ADRC staff might connect you to what is called Options Counseling.
Whether it’s a sibling, parent, grandparent or a conversation between siblings about an older loved one - these conversations can be really difficult. It helps to have someone who’s impartial and experienced like options counselors.
Counselors also work directly with older folks. They work together on an ongoing basis so they are able to follow up. They’re also able go out to a person’s house to evaluate their situation and, if necessary, assess the need for additional care support in the home, a community care setting or nursing facility.
Additionally, options counseling might be a great resource if an older adult (or someone acting on their behalf) is:
- Seeking information on residential facilities or in-home care,
- Looking for assistance with long- or short-term planning,
- Interested in multiple services and payment options,
- Needs assistance with transportation, meal delivery, in-home help, and possibly other basic needs.
Adult Protective Services
If there’s an ongoing issue with an older adult taking care of themselves the ADRC staff might make a report to Adult Protective Services (APS). APS could send an investigator to a home or make a call. This could be a good option if you don’t live locally or are unable to get to a loved one.
APS is also there if you are concerned that an older person isn’t getting the care they deserve or if there is personal or financial neglect.
For instance, imagine you’re a younger sibling of an older adult. You have recently visited and noticed that a new caregiver moved in and has taken over your sibling’s finances. The caregiver has convinced the older adult that what she was doing was within her responsibilities. Yet, you’re not sure if that was right. APS can step in and assess the situation.
In addition to the ADRC helpline you could also call 503.823.3333 for a police welfare check. This is a good option if you need someone to make face to face contact with an older person. It can be scary when a loved one isn’t picking up the phone or you haven’t seen neighbor or lights on in a while. It’s important to know, however, that police officers will be in uniform.
Lastly, if you or somebody you know is having trouble functioning, you can call the Multnomah County Crisis Line at 503.988.4888. A team of mental health professionals is prepared to help anyone experiencing mental health issues at any time, in any language.
When you call the Crisis Line, you get:
- Free, 24/7 mental health support
- Interpretation services for non-English speakers
- Referral to low-cost or sliding-scale agencies
- Help finding mental health providers
- Information about non-crisis community resources
Aging is a part of life. We’ll all experience it. The ADRC helpline is here so that you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re bothered by nagging questions or are just interested in learning more reach out to the helpline at 503.988.3646. Or email them at email@example.com.