A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
Aging can be a difficult thing. Whether it’s harder on the one growing older, or their loved ones, I’m not sure. When a spouse or a parent grows older and starts to need help with everyday tasks, there are many difficult decisions to make. You want them to be close, to have as much independence as possible and you want to be there as much as you can.
Many families are dealing with these decisions today. As the Baby Boomer generation has aged, South Dakota is seeing a growing need for services. That need will continue to grow: By 2035, it is estimated that within our state the number of elders (65 and older) will increase by 84 percent and the number of elders with disabilities is expected to be 71 percent higher than it is today.
Anticipating these changes, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that South Dakotans can access a variety of long-term services and supports. Last year, I signed an executive order to establish the Division of Long-Term Services and Supports, within the Department of Human Services. This reorganization aims to create a more integrated approach to providing long-term services in South Dakota and to ensure that people get the services they need within their own communities. The Division supports individuals 60 years and older as well as adults with disabilities.
Following the reorganization, we have focused on a program called “Dakota at Home” which assists elders, those with disabilities and caregivers by pairing them with services offered in their communities. These services are designed to help people stay in their homes as long as possible. For instance, those who qualify can receive assistance with day-to-day household tasks like grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, vacuuming, sweeping and dusting. “Personal care” is available as well for individuals who need a hand with routine personal hygiene tasks. We also work with our local partners to offer “adult day services” which allow individuals to spend a part of their day outside of the home through structured activities. And Emergency Response Systems are available for those who may be at risk for falls.
Caregiving can exact a heavy emotional, physical and financial toll. It can be especially difficult for those who are juggling full-time work schedules while acting as caregivers for other family members. To make things easier, we offer caregiver services throughout the state. “Respite Care” is available – which can provide some temporary relief for caregivers who need a break. Counseling and training is also available. Some caregivers may be eligible for a program which provides financial assistance for supporting everyday activities.
There’s no need to navigate the system on your own. The process of aging is difficult enough as it is, so we have people throughout the state who are ready to help. You can reach the Dakota at Home advocates by calling 1-833-663-9673 or visiting DakotaAtHome.org. Call today, and find help to allow more South Dakotans to live longer, healthier, more fulfilled lives at home in their own communities.