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Caregivers who do quiet, hard work behind the scenes

I want to shine some light on them this week, because they are usually in the background, toiling away, often with little to no pay or recognition. But if you act fast, you can recognize one you know – either a family caregiver or a professional one – in a local contest.

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia is asking for nominations for this year’s “Salute to Caregivers.” The winners will be honored at the “Art of Healthy Aging Forum & Expo” on Nov. 10. Submissions, though, must arrive by Friday. You can nominate someone by going online to www.ssseva.org and clicking on “Salute to Caregivers.”

You can also download the form and mail it to: Caregiver Stories c/o SSSEVA, 6350 Center Drive, Bldg. 5, Suite 101, Norfolk, VA 23502. Or you can send a two-minute, high-resolution video by email to Jody Mazur at jmazur@ssseva.org.

Ann Grandy of Norfolk won one of the awards last year. The 67-year-old used to live in Washington, D.C., where she worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About five years ago, she moved to Norfolk because her 94-year-old mother, Ethel Grandy, had been hospitalized for heart problems.

She sensed she needed someone to keep a closer eye on her, so they now live together, and Ann ferries her to doctors’ appointments and anywhere else she needs to go.

These are some of the things Ann gave up: Freedom to come and go on a whim. Vacations of her choosing. Carefree retirement.

But what keeps her going is remembering all her mother did over the years to care for herself and her siblings, and all the sacrifices she made to send them to college.

“It’s a blessing and an honor,” she said.

But also, hard work. She battled her own health crisis, breast cancer, recently while also caring for her mom.

A caregiving report commissioned by the government and released last month called for a national strategy to educate, counsel and give respite and economic support to this growing work force. Studies have revealed a host of ailments associated with caregiving: stress, depression, sleep deprivation.

So even if you don’t nominate someone, salute a caregiver you know.

You don’t have to look far to see the need for better mental health care: people dying in jail cells waiting for a bed in a psychiatric hospital. Mass shootings in every corner of the country. Overdoses of opioids, both prescribed and street drugs.

So it’s disconcerting to hear that a mental health practice in Virginia Beach is closing.

Dominion Psychiatric Associates is shutting its doors Nov. 11 after 40 years of mental health treatment. I talked late last week with the practice administrator, Debra Bowman, who is already juggling that job with another she’ll be transitioning to after Dominion closes. She said one of the founding psychiatrists of the practice, Dr. Robert Mitchell, is retiring, which prompted the closing.

“It became a business decision,” she said. “You can’t keep the doors open if you don’t have providers.”

Even as the government is putting more money into coverage of mental health services through insurers like Medicaid and, in Virginia, the Governor’s Access Plan, there’s still not enough money to attract more people into the field. Larger health-care systems also are hiring mental health practitioners, so smaller practices often get priced out.

Bowman said it was a difficult decision to close, but she hoped the mental health practitioners could find other places to practice, perhaps bringing some of Dominion’s 5,800 patients along with them.
 
Courtney Boone, president of the Virginia Beach chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the pending closure has left many struggling to find care. She said psychiatrists, in particular, are difficult to get appointments with because there aren’t enough to fill the need.

It’s a gap that more people are becoming aware of, according to Old Dominion University’s most recent annual “Life in Hampton Roads” report.

The number of people surveyed who believe mental illness is a serious problem in Hampton Roads increased from 28 percent last year to nearly 39 percent. Another 38 percent consider it a moderate problem. Maybe that awareness can lead to the political will to find more money to fund services.

The open enrollment period for Medicare, the federal insurance for people 65 and older, runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 this year. That’s the time when people can make changes to their coverage, such as the Part D section that covers medications.

Here are some questions from the Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program to get you started:

Have your health needs changed? Will your plan cover the services you need? Are your medications still covered? Is your health provider still in network? Are premiums or out-of-pocket costs increasing?

These tips apply to people who have other types of insurance, too, such as plans under Obamacare, which has open enrollment from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2017. Employer-based health plans often have open enrollments in October and November as well.

Your Health

Press Contacts

Debbie Schwartz
Director of Development and Community Relations
757-222-4520
dschwartz@ssseva.org

Nealy Gihan
Marketing & Communications Associate
757-461-9481, ext. 105
ngihan@ssseva.org

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