HELP LINE: There might be help available if you need it

THIS IS GOING to be one of those “gobbledygook” columns, meaning that it’s going to be about a couple of specific programs.

If everything is going just fine for you, yours and everybody you know, then this is just going to give you a headache.

If not, hang in there with me.

Most of you who have paid any attention to my ramblings throughout the years know that I define a caregiver as “… somebody who is taking care of somebody who needs to be taken care of, whether they like it or not.”

That somebody who is being taken care of is referred to, in typical bureaucratic terms, as a “care receiver.”

Does any of this sound like you to you? Yes? Stay with me.

These caregiving arrangements aren’t always a walk in the proverbial park.

They can, in some cases, be exhausting for the caregiver, and take a scary heavy toll on them.

What’s more, in many cases, the care receiver knows it.

He or she knows what’s happening to this loved one who’s going down the tubes, trying to take care of them, but what’s he or she supposed to do? Say, “OK, never mind?”

He or she can’t. They need the care. They need the help.

What happens is that we just go on, day by day, getting through the day, and trying not to think too much about tomorrow, because tomorrow can look pretty dark.

Well, maybe it doesn’t have to.

So, Care Receiver, let me talk to you for a minute: What if there were a program that could get your caregiver a little relief?

Relief in the form of respite, help with housework, shopping, a “personal emergency response system” (“panic button”), equipment and supplies, or “personal care” for you, while your caregiver does something frivolous like sleep, go to the doctor for themselves or … whatever.

Does that sound like it might be worth the doing?

Or, what if you’re alone, meaning no caregiver.

The fact is that you need some help and you know it. You’re not too thrilled about thinking too much about tomorrow, either, because you’re smart enough to see where things might be going. You can’t really afford to pay for help and you’re just a bit over income to qualify for Medicaid, so on you go, day by day, because what choice do you have?

Maybe you do have a choice.

If you, Care Receiver (or, person alone, so I’m just going to keep saying “Care Receiver”) are 55 or older, live at home (whatever and wherever “home” is) and bring in $2,313 or less per month, and your assets are equal to or less than $53,100 ($108,647, for a married couple), there just might be some help on the horizon.

Stop: “Assets” don’t count your house or the land it’s on, your car or your stuff.

It refers to money in the bank, stocks, bonds, other properties, etc.

Still with me? Good.

I know what some of you are thinking: “This is beginning to sound like Medicaid …”

Well, this is beginning to sound like Medicaid because it is Medicaid, but there is no estate recovery, participation in the cost of care or anything like that … so, you really don’t have anything to lose.

For those who care, this program is called “Tailored Supports for Older Adults” (“TSOA,” for those of us who reside in the nether world of acronyms).

There is a subset of this program called “Medicaid Alternative Care” (Yes, “MAC”) for folks who are already on Medicaid medical, but I don’t really care whether you remember these silly acronyms.

I do care that if any of this sounds like it might do you some good — or do your caregiver some good — that you know this is out there.

I’m not going to go any further into the weeds of eligibility because it will only make us all crazy.

The fact is that if it sounds, so far, like you’re in the ballpark, you probably are, so: If you’re smart enough to know help when you see it (or, in this case, read it), what do you do?

Well, what I would do is call a genuinely decent human being and talk it over.

If you mention “TSOA” (assuming you can pronounce it), it might be helpful, but it isn’t mandatory.

You can just describe your situation, and go from there.

If you like what you hear in the conversation, you can pursue it. If you decide you don’t, that’s the end of it — no harm, no foul, no cost and absolutely no obligation.

And who are these “genuinely decent human beings?”

Well, if you’re in the West End (Forks, etc.), you want to talk to Susie Brandelius at 360-374-9496 (toll-free at 1-888-571-6559).

If you’re in east Clallam or Jefferson counties, you can reach Renee Worthey at 360-417-8559 or Shay Kaushagen at 360-417-3378 (toll-free for both at 1-800-801-0070).

That’s all. It’s free and it doesn’t hurt, I promise.

What does hurt? Being afraid to think about tomorrow.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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