BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Care for Guam’s manåmko’ or senior citizens in poor health can often be a draining experience for family members, alleviated by help for those who can afford it.
Seven out of 10 people will require assisted living in their lifetime, according to the Consumer Affairs, a U.S. for-profit business.
A Journal source in Guam is a relative caring for a family member in her late 80s in the same house, with other family members.
The relative told the Journal that the older family member — who is physically infirm and has some memory loss — became worse during the pandemic last year. “She started to deteriorate when we were in lockdown.”
The relative explored various options, including Helping Hands Adult Day Care on Rte. 16 in Harmon — an adult day care center. Helping Hands will help care for those elders who need a little extra supervision throughout the day, but not 24-hour care or a personal nurse. The adult must still be mobile and able to participate in a group setting. An example would be someone prone to falling, who needs reminders about taking their medicine, or who needs help cooking meals.
However, the relative said, to attend, the individual needs to be reasonably physically able to attend. “You’ve got to be independent.”
St. Dominic’s in Barrigada Heights provides a live-in solution with a high standard of care. The relative said the family member is a Government of Guam retiree, who also receives Social Security payments having also worked in the private sector, but St. Dominic’s charges are high for people with income. The relative said, “Who can afford that?”
What the relative has settled on for the family member is help through Case Management — a program contracted out through Health Services of the Pacific, which receives Title III-B of the Older Americans Act funding through the Department of Public Health. and Social Services, Division of Senior Citizens.
The cost of the assistance from a Case Management employee is $12.35 an hour. “I have them come from 9 to 3 and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 2,” the relative said. “She can afford it,” the relative said of the family member. “I base the number of hours on her income.”
The relative said the care is important for the family member for a number of reasons. “I don’t want her to feel neglected.” The individual who assists offers the family member companionship and helps by feeding the family member and with bathing.
Lisa A. Mesa, administrator of Health Services of the Pacific, told the Journal by email HSP has seen an increase in requests for service. “The elderly population is growing and so the need has increased. However, some clients chose to stop services due to the pandemic and risk to exposure.” Services are requested in all areas, she said. Common concerns are “Financial and supplies, such as adult diapers, wipes, under pads, gloves, dry goods and more,” she said. “Title III programs accept donations for the elderly,” Mesa said.
There are currently three centers under the Adult Day Care program under the Mayor’s Council of Guam, accepting daycare clients who have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or are frail — meaning the have had a stroke, are in wheelchairs of have renal dialysis. Maria Timoteo is the program’s coordinator. “We serve 101 patients,” she said. The number was 35 prior to the pandemic. “The majority of them are diagnosed with dementia,” she said. Timoteo would like to see the centers reopen as soon as possible for the good of her patients. “As long as they stay at the house, they kind of deteriorate.” The staff still work, she said. “We have a telephone assurance program. We call the clients; there’s at least a conversation between the staff and the client.” That connection helps, Timoteo said, particularly for those living alone. The program also sends its patients something on special occasions or “activities that motivate them.”
Timoteo said, she would like to see the centers open, and would consider a ‘cohort’ arrangement. When that will be she is not sure. “We’re waiting on Public Health.”
Sen. Amanda L. Shelton hosted the virtual inaugural meeting of the Senior Citizens Housing Task Force on Oct. 21. It will meet next on Nov. 18, and for the next 18 months before submitting a report, although Shelton said at the meeting the report could be ready earlier.
Aside from Shelton, who is the chairperson of the Legislative Committee on the Advancement of Senior Citizens; attendees included Charlene San Nicolas, administrator, Department of Public Health and Social Services, Division of Senior Citizens; Edith C. Pangelinan, president, Guam Housing Corp.; Ray S. Topasna, executive director, Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority; Diana B. Calvo, general public member and executive director, Catholic Social Services; Lourdes B. Mendiola, representative, Guam Developmental Disabilities Council; Michelle Perez, deputy director, Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities; and Margaret Hattori-Uchima, dean, University of Guam School of Health. Yet to be appointed are a representative from the Guam Association of Realtors and the Guam Council on Senior Citizens.
Pangilinan noted that about 30% of Guam Housing Corp.’s clients are senior citizens.
About 1,067 of GHURA residents are 55 years and older, which represents about 8.4% of those in public housing. Topasna told the task force, “Currently, we have 82 elderly housing units under our public housing program.” GHURA has 49 residents at Guma Trankilidat, as well as others that are not heads of household, but part of a family, he said.
Topasna again raised the option of best use of GHURA properties. “Those options are still on the table,” he said at the meeting. “Some of my ideas are politically sensitive. We believe we can house many, many more if we get creative and work together.”
Topasna told the Journal, “I shared my ideas of leveraging GHURA assets for the greater good a few years ago, and it wasn’t well-received. Here we are today as a task force trying to figure out a way to help our manamkos. The options I proposed are still on the table. I have thousands on my waitlists. I’d like to leave GHURA one day knowing I made a difference.”
Calvo told task force members that Catholic Social Services is a housing provider, to include for the elderly. “We are a contractor for in-home services,” she said. “We have been strongly advocating that is the most cost-efficient process.” However, Calvo said, “One of the challenges on Guam is most of our clients do not have the means to pay for unsubsidized assisted living.”
Hattori-Uchima said that related manpower is an issue. “The care giver workforce is an area where there’s a huge need.”
San Nicolas said that there are a lot of models the task force can consider, such as those in Japan. “They have excellent models for elderly care and aging in place. I was surprised because they were affordable,” she said. The Japanese have similar values to those in Guam she said.
The task force will also consider what federal resources such as grants are available, as well as assess data.
What would help the relative who reached out to the Journal is to know how others are coping. “I want to know what experiences other people have with dementia and Alzheimer’s.” The future is a consideration for the family member, the relative said. “The doctor said she can live for a long time. She’s got a way to go.” mbj