Many retired people who want to return to work, either to earn money or for the satisfaction a job can bring, have valuable assets they may not suspect. Many employers like hiring older people as temporary workers because they are reliable.
The law permits Social Security beneficiaries to earn up to $6,000 annually without any deductions in benefits. If you earn more than $6,000, there is a deduction of $1 for each $2 earned.
The temporary-service industry is one of the fastest-growing fields of the decade. Annually, nearly 2.5 million people work as "temps." The National Assn. of Temporary Services Inc. reports that many services seek out older workers because a large number of their clients request retirees.
Men and women who work as temps are sent out on a variety of assignments that maximize their contact with others, and allow them to work the hours, days or weeks most convenient for them. As a temp, you are free to accept or reject assignments. You are paid by the temporary service, not the company you report to. The main categories of temporary work are office, health-care, accounting, light-industrial, records-management, legal-support and marketing services, and word processing.
Pay ranges from around $3.35 per hour (minimum wage) for untrained clerical work up to $14 per hour for word processing.
When you go for an interview, be honest about your abilities and the kind of jobs you want. Make sure transportation is convenient and the office personnel friendly. Avoid any office where you would solicit sales of dubious products by telephone.
If temporary employment seems a good idea, register with an established temporary service such as Olsten Temporary Services, Kelly Services or Volt Temporary Services that have a substantial number of clients with opportunities to choose from.
If you need help selecting a service, ask your local banker or Better Business Bureau. If you have any questions about temping in general, the National Assn. of Temporary Services, 119 S. St. Asaph St., Alexandria, Va. 22314, is an excellent source.
Q: My elderly mother is diabetic and allergic to penicillin. I'm afraid that in a medical emergency she may be given the wrong treatment. How can I keep this from happening?
A: Your mother should consider joining Medic Alert. This nonprofit organization, established in 1956, has a 24-hour emergency telephone system to help people with health conditions such as epilepsy, heart problems and allergies receive appropriate medical treatment in an emergency.
Each Medic Alert member wears a bracelet or pendant inscribed with his or her conditions and a 24-hour emergency number. Each also carries a wallet card with the same information. Trained telephone operators have an emergency medical file with a description of the person's conditions.
A lifetime membership to Medic Alert costs $15. If a person is unable to pay, free membership is available. For further information, write Medic Alert Foundation International, P.O. Box 1009, Turlock, Calif. 95381, or call (800) 344-3226 (in California, (800) 468-1020).
Q: My husband has Alzheimer's disease. I have been advised that it will get increasingly difficult for him to carry out even simple tasks. Any inexpensive suggestions on ways I can adapt our home to his needs would be appreciated.
A: There has been little research on how to adapt households for people with severe impairment of memory and judgment and changes in behavior. What may be successful for some Alzheimer's people may not work with others. Each patient differs from all others, and time causes further changes. It will be necessary to experiment to determine what is most effective.
To generalize, simplify the home and make tasks as non-frustrating as possible. The use of well-placed directional signs that are simple and easy to read, bold-faced clocks, a large wristwatch and a calendar with the days marked off may be useful.
Arranging tasks in a sequence attempted one at a time may relieve some of the frustration in carrying out simple chores. For example, table place settings should be given to the person in a sequential order to eliminate confusion. This also applies to putting on clothes and grooming, where a number of items are called for.
It is helpful to eliminate clutter, but make sure that furniture is left in familiar places. You might consider introducing a chair that rocks or swivels, as this can be helpful in reducing agitation for some people. Make sure it is sturdy and has no sharp edges. Because of increased wandering, it is important that floor surfaces are in good repair and not slippery. Remove or tape down scatter rugs.
The stove can be dangerous, so you might remove the knobs on a gas stove or install a switch on an electric one so it won't operate. Also helpful are appliances that automatically turn off, such as electric tea kettles and irons. There are also telephones with automatic memory dialing that can aid a memory-impaired person.
Remember that one reminder is often insufficient and the use of numerous cues may be helpful in reinforcing a specific behavior. A combination of verbal reminders, signs, color coding, labels or appropriate pictures depicting a task may be most effective.