Services can help us face the trials of aging

Your grandmother isn’t eating well anymore because she won’t go to the trouble of cooking for one. She’s losing weight. How can you get her the nutrition she needs? Your parents are getting older and want to remain independent but still need some help. You’ve noticed that your elderly neighbor is having more trouble finding rides to her doctor’s appointments. There’s only so much you can do to help. Who can you call? 

No one can escape the effects of aging, but you don’t have to face it alone. You no doubt have an elder in your life currently, will have one in the future or, hopefully, will become one yourself.  

It can be confusing to even look for help, and you may think there are no resources on the Island. But you’d be wrong. The Vashon Social Services Network is here for you. 

We’re holding our third community forum this Friday afternoon at Vashon Community Care. Senior services is this year’s topic, and we’ll cover the basics — food, transportation, housing and health and wellness. There will also be a representative on hand from the Senior Services’ Senior Information and Assistance line to explain how this county-wide resource works and how it can help you. 

It has been said that when becoming a parent, there is a nine-month period to prepare yourself for this new role in life. But when you become an adult child caregiver, that role can be yours in an instant, in the time it takes your aging parent to fall down. 

Some time ago, I took this difficult journey myself. When my mother fell and broke her hip, I had no idea where to turn. I had to learn quickly, but it was very stressful and made an already difficult and emotional situation much harder. I wish I’d educated myself before I was in the middle of the crisis. 

Recently widowed, my mother lived 3,000 miles away. I was the natural choice of her three daughters as I’d been a private caregiver for five years. When I arrived I quickly came to the conclusion that despite that experience, I still had a lot to learn about the ins and outs of elder care. I was in a panic. It soon became obvious that even after her hip healed that she would need more help than her small North Carolina town could provide. We decided to move her to the Seattle area, but that was no small task. 

I learned how to sell a house — my childhood home — and the 40-some years’ worth of living that occupied it. Long distance, I found an assisted living facility to move my mother into upon our arrival in Seattle. And fairly late into the process, I learned about the Seattle Senior Services’ Information and Assistance line (1-888-4ELDERS). 

Had I known about that service, my struggles would have been lessened. They have a huge amount of information dealing with all aspects of aging. I am certain now that they would have helped alleviate the doubt and second-guessing that seems to come with making such major life decisions without any experience. 

I think we all know that clear thinking and personal/family crises do not necessarily go together. We can smooth out this state by equipping ourselves with resources before the crisis hits. 

Our Island is a unique place to live, and the Vashon Social Services Network knows what special situations we may face and how to help our community by providing access to social services information. No question is too small or too big. We look forward to hearing from everyone.


— Ava Apple is a local private caregiver, Vashon Senior Center board member and participant in the Vashon Social Services Network.

A forum on senior issues will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Vashon Community Care, located at 15333 Vashon Hwy. S.W.