aging in appalachia

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Across most of central Appalachia, the population is declining as young people leave to find work. Those who stay, are rapidly aging. In West Virginia, for instance, about 16 percent of the population is 65 or older, according to a Department of Health and Human Resources report. Seniors are expected to be about a quarter of the total population by 2030. 


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Direct care providers work with some of our most vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and people with disabilities. But recruiting and retaining quality caregivers like Taylor Reynolds is becoming increasingly difficult in West Virginia.

Reynolds has been working as a caregiver for people who have severe Autism for five years and says she loves her job at a care provider called Autism Services. But three years ago, she went back to school to prepare for different work.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

For families struggling with Alzheimer’s in Appalachia, the road can be lonely and long. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that is the most common cause of dementia in older adults. Patients with the disease can live as long as 20 years after diagnosis.

In the next installment of our occasional series Windows into Health Care, health reporter Kara Lofton spoke with hospice nurse Lori Carter. Carter has been a hospice nurse for 20 years. She said for her and for many of the hospice nurses she knows, the work is a calling. She said some of what she does is straight-up nursing -- managing pain, dressing wounds, and addressing symptoms of end-stage disease. But the most subtle part of the job is helping families navigate one of the most intimate and emotional times of their lives.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Hollywood tells us that love stories are about the beginning -- catching an eye across a crowded room, a first date, a dramatic proposal. We see little, if anything, after the fairytale wedding. But for many, the greatest testament to love is not the first moments, but the last.

And, for some of us, navigating the last moments means asking for help.

Courtesy of Faith in Action

Caring for loved ones as they age can be incredibly demanding. It can also leave the caregiver feeling forsaken by society -- especially as families move away from the home base, leaving fewer people to share responsibilities.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Cheryl Powell lives in senior housing in Nitro. She’s  63 years old and has been receiving Meals on Wheels for a couple of years.

 

“Because I’ve had strokes and different things wrong with my body,” she explained.  

After her strokes, Powell really couldn’t get out to grocery shop. Or go anywhere for that matter.

“I’m blind in this eye and I’m getting cataracts in this one, so it’s hard,” she said.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, on last night’s episode of “The Legislature Today,” discussion was focused on racism and discrimination. This was in reaction to the anti-Muslim poster and materials displayed during West Virginia’s GOP Day at the Capitol last Friday. Host Suzanne Higgins spoke with three of West Virginia’s faith leaders: Rabbi Victor Urecki, Father Brian O'Donnell, and Ibtesam Sue Barazi, Vice President of the Islamic Association of West Virginia. We hear an excerpt from the interview.

KaraLofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This story is part of an ongoing series examining aging in Appalachia. You can read more here.

As we grow old, many of us will find we need help with everyday tasks, like cooking, cleaning and bathing.

In West Virginia, there are few programs that can help, and those that do serve the state’s aging population are overburdened -- with waitlists that can stretch months or years -- or require applicants to qualify for Medicaid.