We don’t like to think about future needs. However, the aging journey can sometimes present us with unexpected crises. Knowing where to turn for help before we need it can lessen our stress and optimize our success in meeting challenges as they arise.
Navigating the Maze: Our “safety net” of benefits and services is actually more like a “crazy-quilt” of loosely stitched patches As community needs were identified, a separate non-profit or government agency was formed to meet that specific need. This agency provides transportation, another agency provides home-delivered meals, and yet another can help with in-home care. Some agencies serve the entire county, others are limited to local communities. The Senior Resource Guide for Sonoma County is composed of nearly 80 pages of service providers, each meeting a specific need and each with its own eligibility criteria!
Please obtain a copy of the 2016 Resource Guide (available at your local senior center) and become familiar with its contents (and note that for the first time there is a separate category of listings for LGBTQI resources!!!). Keep it handy for emergencies such as if you are discharged from the hospital and urgently need home-delivered meals or transportation to your follow-up medical appointments.
Another good place to turn when you need help with a specific need is 2-1-1 provided by the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County. Just call 2-1-1 or visit www.211sonoma.org.
If you are trying to live on a very tight budget, I encourage you to go on-line to www.benefitscheckup.org. While you will be asked a lot of questions to determine your eligibility for various benefits, you will not be asked to enter any identifying information and you might be amazed at the many ways you can save on food, utilities, and health costs.
Resistance to Getting Help: We tend to internalize the values of the culture we were born into. For many of us, that means we pride ourselves on our independence and self-sufficiency. Vanity can also keep us from acknowledging our need for help with personal care or from using assistive devices such as hearing aids, canes, walkers and wheelchairs. Those of us who identify as LGBTQ may have yet another layer of resistance — our fear of how we might be treated by those who provide the services we need. Fortunately, there has been much work done in Sonoma County on making sure our aging service providers are aware of our history of alienation and sensitive to our concerns.
Buz Hermes is co-facilitator of the Sonoma Valley LGBT Seniors Group and a former staff member of Spectrum’s Senior Outreach Program. He is currently offering 8-week “Aging Together With Pride” workshops sponsored by Adult and Aging Services for LGBT seniors. He can be reached at GaryDHermes@comcast.net or (707) 227-6935