Family aids senior’s quest for independence.
Meet the Ashenfalder Family
Eighty-year-old Mae Miller lives with her daughter and son-in-law and relies on local aging services. But it wasn’t always that way. After Mae’s husband passed away in 1999, she maintained an active lifestyle; she lived in her own trailer on Route 611 and was a nurse’s aide, and later worked in a gift shop.
“As the years went on, I could see things were changing,” says Mae’s daughter, Wendy. After a few close calls on the road, Mae’s children convinced her to stop driving. Mae began taking the bus to the YWCA Bethlehem Adult Day Services Center, paying the fees out of her own pocket. She lived independently with some help from family members, but after a serious fall at home in 2012, Mae asked Wendy if she could come live with her.
Wendy and her husband, Kurt, agreed, and renovated their home to be more comfortable for her mother. Having worked in a nursing home, Wendy’s standards for care are very high: “I’d keep her at home even if I had to add all kinds of bells and whistles to the house.”
Now that Mae lives with the Ashenfalders, a bus transports her to the YWCA. The program and transportation are paid for via Mae’s aging waiver, which connects seniors with services and resources. At the YWCA, she has friends, and the seniors take walks and play games. “Once you stop using your limbs and your mind, you lose them,” Wendy says, adding that if Mae was home full-time, she’d spend her days in the recliner in front of the television.
Recently, Kurt was designated as Mae’s caregiver as part of Pennsylvania’s Participant-Directed Community Supports program. He is paid a small stipend for helping Mae with making meals and daily tasks in lieu of her receiving home health aide services, and the family uses the extra income to take Mae places like the Lehigh Valley Zoo.
“I put her first,” Wendy says. “My kids say I need to get out more, and start living my life. I know she’s getting up in age. I will be lost without her.”