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Senior ministry volunteers learn tools to enrich lives

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More than 90 volunteers who serve in senior ministries from 42 parishes gathered May 3 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna for a conference on “Enriching the Lives of Seniors in our Parishes.”

Elisabeth Horswell, a parishioner of St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria, gets asked many questions from seniors in her ministry. "I hope to learn something to help those people when they ask," she said before the conference.

Art Bennett, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, greeted the ministers, saying that the church puts its highest priority on the most vulnerable, counter to society ignoring the elderly and the unborn.

"We need to focus on Christ's desire for us to help people," he said.

Thomas West, a partner with Signature Estate & Investment Advisors, started off the day speaking about long-term care. He framed it around five questions:  Do you know how much long-term care is going to cost? Are you aware of what expenses are covered with Medicaid and Medicare? What are your plans to pay for the most hopeful outcomes from this period of care? What is your plan to pay for the realistic worst case scenario of care? and What is your plan to pay for retirement and legacy goals outside of care?

Prompting the elderly with these questions might lead to better financial outcomes or more empowered decisions, he said. If they don’t know the answers, West told the senior ministers to urge the seniors to find out.

"They can be overwhelmed and might not know to ask,” he said.

West shared figures on the average annual cost of long-term care in the Washington metro area, including $99,858 for nursing care, $44,997 for home health care and $57,120 for assisted living.

Before Melanie Bush spoke about caregiver resources, tools and support, she asked for a show of hands of how many caregivers were present. Most raised their hands. “The rest of you know someone who is a caregiver,” she said.

A care consultant with Select Senior Options, Bush said caregivers are often reluctant to ask for help from other family members. If you are not going to ask often, she said to be affirmative about your request. She also provided the senior ministers with a list of resources to provide to their clients.

The day concluded with a panel discussion on the Shepherd's Center, a nonprofit organization that assists senior adults in maintaining an independent and safe lifestyle.

Mary Stewart, diocesan director of Risk Management, said there are 28,000 people who volunteer for the Arlington diocese. She explained available insurance coverage when things go wrong and what is or isn’t covered.

Deacon Paul Gregory, a parishioner of St. Matthew Church in Spotsylvania, said he will share the list of available resources with his parish, saying there were more resources available than he thought. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017