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The long-term-care puzzle: Elder Care Expo designed to put pieces in place

Making choices as we — or our parents — age about where to live, get the care we need and how to pay for it are just part of life. Read more… By Kay Harvey 

Making choices as we — or our parents — age about where to live, get the care we need and how to pay for it are just part of life.

But for many elders and their adult children, the first question is, “Where do we start?”

Julie Groshens has been there. When her aging mother faced a series of decisions, she and her nine siblings, one a geriatric social worker, thought they had all the resources a family would need. But in years of trying to navigate the system, they found it a frustrating task. The lesson they learned, she says: “It’s not an easy thing.”

The family struggled to sort through a vast network of living options, services, industry jargon they didn’t understand and, at times, with just making things happen. For Groshens, a St. Paulite who works as a company conference program director, the experience became the seed of a big idea. It will bloom this week with a two-day mega-event offering dozens of workshops, seminars and exhibits designed to acquaint people with a wide range of  resources for finding the care and solutions they need. 
Leave with a plan
Minnesota’s first Elder Care Expo will debut from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Education Building at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Tickets are $8 (discounts available online) and may be purchased online or at the door. In 90 educational sessions, experts will focus on a wide range of topics, including elder-care basics, Medicare Part D choices, long-term-care facilities, home health care, housing, reverse mortgages, new technology and understanding insurance, financial and legal issues.

It will include free face-to-face elder-care planning consultations led by experts and long-term care consultation that will enable participants to leave the expo with a plan.

More than 100 booths will provide information about services offered by state and county agencies, long-term care facilities, technology companies and other programs and businesses.

The expo is the first-ever educational event to put together state and county agencies, community aging organizations and elder-care experts under one roof to help people make long-term-care choices, organizers said.  The event is the creation of Groshens and a team of partners with a blend of expertise in gerontology, education and consumer events. Groshens calls the format “very how-to.”
No easy assignment
Almost everyone will face decisions about their own care or a loved one’s, she says. When it was her turn, she didn’t anticipate the complexities. She didn’t realize that after she and her siblings helped their mother choose a place for her to live, she’d be on a waiting list. Or that her mother, who has Parkinson’s disease, would need to move several times.

Many people don’t know what “a Medicare bed” is, she says. Or how to talk about a need for changes even when they become apparent. “How do we make these decisions?” she asks. Or the degree to which financial resources can color an elder’s choices. “It’s a lot of work, so people put it off,” she says of laying the groundwork for long-term care. “To me, the whole thing should be easier.”

All of that led her to create the expo, she says.  She suggests going with a sibling, spouse or a friend. “For support and to start talking about this.”