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National Programs

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

The Elder Care and Elder Abuse National Initiative

T. Diane Surgeon, Esq.
National Director of Elder Care

Our population is aging; more women are at work; baby boomers are working past retirement; others are re-entering the workforce in their 50s, 60s, 70s and many adults with disabilities are seeking ways to enhance their personal and financial independence. Medical advances, better health habits and behaviors are extending our lives; hospital stays are shorter; families are smaller and our society is more mobile. The need – the problem: fewer family members are at home to help needy relatives who want to remain at home and in the community and little to no advance planning as to how this can be accomplished. The need – the problem: a long-term health care system that provides a wide spectrum of care settings, multiple agencies and providers within our health care spectrum that do not collaborate or coordinate services for seniors or disabled adults, rendering the system of long-term support and services fragmented, duplicative and complex.

One of the primary challenges for caregivers is facing responsibilities for seniors and disabled adults with little or no warning, little or no knowledge about available services, costs involved; or no time to research alternative resources to prepare the family. Second, caregivers are challenged as they navigate the tough, complex, multiple service systems, departments and agencies that do not coordinate screening, eligibility or care assessments. Caregivers are forced to call and/or visit several different agencies, repeat their story, complete different applications and produce the same eligibility documents several times because agencies do not share client information to facilitate easier access to benefits and services.

A third challenge is the failure of seniors to prepare for their long-term care needs while cognitive and before a crisis. Most will plan for who get their assets and property after they die but few plan for what will happen if they don’t die, have a stroke or chronic illness necessitating long term health care. Most seniors living beyond “retirement years” into “eldercare years” have failed to plan for this part of their lives or failed to talk to their family about their finances, true health conditions, wishes for long-term care and end-of-life preferences. This leaves family members Ill-prepared to navigate the treacherous waters of a fragmented, complex difficult-to-maneuver system for answers to “What health care, chronic care and long-term care services are available or how to get good care, whether in the home, a residential community, assisted-living facility, a child's home, or a nursing home.

The physical, emotional and financial stresses of caregiving begin, and depending on the location and needs of the loved one, may not be over for the next several months, or several years.

Public awareness, education and outreach are critical to protect elders from abuse, fraud and neglect and assist in preparation for "the eldercare journey." Legal and financial workshops and seminars are necessary to educate seniors on the importance of advance planning for long-term care so they can live a better quality of life on their own terms for as long as possible. Through this initiative, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority will impact the lives of seniors and their families throughout the country.