Senior Forum

When it comes to planning for one’s aging years, there are many questions that can come up, such as where to live and how to plan for the future.

The new Franklin County Senior Forum wants to give the community direction when it comes to addressing these complex situations.

Senior Forum board member Barbara Hellmann said people may want to know about long-term care policies, housing, legal matters, health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and trusts.

“A lot of people don’t have their affairs in order, and that is a very, very big concern,” Hellmann said, adding that many people don’t have a living will in order.

The forum is available at no cost, and there is no limit to the topics that could be discussed. It will be held on a continuing basis at different locations throughout the county.

The forum targets seniors themselves and their families, said Franklin County Senior Forum Board member Gordon Upchurch. It can help people at a time when family roles start to reverse with aging parents.

The purpose of the group is to “empower families” with information so they can make good decisions, Upchurch said. Since the forum will discuss a wide range of issues, a good characterization is to call it a “kiosk for services,” he noted.

People are glad that a dialogue has been started on these issues, according to the early feedback on the effort. Hellmann said people have suggested future forum ideas dealing with issues ranging from insurance to trusts.

“We’re trying to help families through a very difficult (time),” said Upchurch, who came up with the idea for the forum.

Questions such as what type of senior housing is available and how much does it cost will face many people at some point.

“The questions are endless,” Upchurch said, adding that some people do not start thinking about these issues until they are forced to.

It is best to plan now rather than waiting until a problem, such as a medical condition, arises, Upchurch said.

The first forum has already been held. It included information about multi-unit housing, and local providers were invited to take part. This gave the public an idea of some of the housing options available.

It’s not just home or the nursing home, Upchurch said, noting that there are a multitude of living arrangements available.

The next forum will be June 18 at 6 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Washington, and it will include a panel discussion.

The discussion will include members of the Franklin County Senior Forum Board answering questions. Topics will include what does a caseworker do, what do facilities cost and when should family discussions take place.

Hospice and Alzheimer’s are other areas the forum will discuss in the future. Upchurch said a lot of people have no concept of what a will is.

Family dynamics can come into play when planning for the future of an aging family member.

“How do you get to services? How do you find out what’s available?” Upchurch asked.

The forum allows people to come together and exchange information and ideas without being obligated to a particular business, Upchurch added.

“We’re not tied to any financial organization or business,” he said.

The Franklin County Senior Forum has a 10-member board, which includes representation from different disciplines such as physicians, social workers, teachers, counselors, registered nurses and case managers.

Forum participants can provide board members with written feedback in terms of what they liked, disliked and would like to see as future discussion topics.

The forum is not going to have all the answers but will do what it can to connect people with the right services.

Many times people may have private questions, and the forum allows them to meet privately with board members.

It gives people a chance to know they are not alone in some of the challenges they are facing and that behaviors exhibited by seniors are not unusual.