The Aging of Orange County

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Mental Health

The New Golden Years Require Assistance

Tall, shoulders slightly stooped and steadied by a walker, Paul visited the Council on Aging – Orange County in July 2010 to inquire about assistance for his wife, Helen. Afflicted with dementia, Helen lived with Paul in Santa Ana, and the couple got by on Social Security and Medicare. Their only family was each other.

Alzheimer’s Family Services Center
Alzheimer’s Family Services Center

Helen’s dementia was progressing. She tossed out Paul’s brand-new hearing aid, walked aimlessly and lost her cognitive abilities. Soon, as the demands of caring for his wife increased, Paul’s health began to deteriorate, too.

Yet the couple faced a dilemma: If Paul placed Helen in a skilled nursing facility, they would lose Social Security benefits and not have enough to live on. The process impeded both their care. With the Council’s help, in January 2011, Helen was finally placed in a nursing home, where she lived until she passed away in December 2012.

A Council on Aging friendly visitor continues to check in on Paul monthly. After languishing on a lengthy wait list, he now receives low-cost, in-home meals. As the couple had feared, Paul lost Helen’s benefits. Fortunately, the Council stepped up to connect him to resources that are helping to bridge his income gap.