Holidays a time to reconnect, assess

This is a time of year when family visits become more frequent, and that can mean noticing that the elderly members of the family might be struggling with some of the challenges of daily living.

“During the holidays we get lots of calls because people tend to feel more isolated during the holidays,” said Rick Hindman, assistant director of the Buckeye Hills Regional Council. “It brings up memories of their families and things like that.”

“We always see an increase in community needs during the holidays,” said Jennifer Westfall, Buckeye Hills Aging and Disability Director. “When family members reconnect, especially those from out-of-town, they often notice changes in aging loved ones.”

The council recently sent out a newsletter to remind people of the services it provides for people in need, particularly the elderly and disabled.

“We have a division for aging, and its primary work is to keep people in their communities and homes, and keep them out of nursing homes and institutions,” Hindman said. “We provide services in the home, contract with companies to provide personal services, and we arrange for repairs to homes to keep them safe and accessible, for example building ramps if they’re needed.”

Hindman said the agency has five field assessors and three office people who do screenings and offer help for callers. In 2017 so far, the agency has performed 2,289 field assessments in its eight-county service area, of which 593 were done in Washington County.

Buckeye Hills is a resource for people who don’t know what the next step might be when they or a loved one, such as an aging parent, might be losing independence in everyday living.

“We do assessments, we check eligibility for the Passport program, and we also do broader assessments of need even for those who aren’t eligible for waivers,” he said. “We see what resources they need, such as meals, transportation for medical appointments, shopping, help with medications.”

The agency is a place to get advice and assistance, he said.

“To help families with their challenges and to provide essential resources, we are available to help,” said Westfall. “We have certified staff specialists in aging information and assistance ready to help caregivers and families connect to services. An assessor will come to the home for a free, no obligation visit. They will do an assessment of what kinds of help the person might need or what they can use.”

Services that the agency can line up for those in need include:

¯ Assisted living waiver

¯ Caregiver advocacy

¯ Farmers Market nutrition program

¯ Home accessibility and minor repairs

¯ Home energy assistance

¯ Information and referral

¯ Medicare support

¯ Working caregiver program

¯ Project Lifesaver (alert system for cognitively impaired people who wander)

Those interested in learning more can request a free in-home consultation by calling Buckeye Hills at 1-800-331-2644 or visit buckeyehills.org/aging. Buckeye Hills serves Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry and Washington Counties.

Marietta has myriad avenues of assistance for people in need, and one other agency that can help is the O’Neill Center.

“People can turn to us as a resource, we can make referrals through the community network,” executive director Connie Huntsman said. “More times than not, they come here for assistance, and we can offer resources for caregivers, we have a social services department, we have an adult day care center.”

Transportation can be an especially acute problem during the winter months, she said.

“Access to health care is a big one, getting to medical appointments,” she said.

The center also can help with arrangements for in-home light housekeeping and shopping, she said, the ordinary functions of daily life that most people take for granted.

She urged people to look in on their loved ones, friends and neighbors at this time of the year.

“Visit them more often, and especially remember to do that when it gets cold, make sure they have food, heat, the necessities,” she said.

Marietta has a rich array of assistance for the elderly, she said, in part with the help of the Washington County senior services levy, which has been in effect for the past six years to provide program funding on a local level.

“People fail to take advantage of the community resources we have here,” she said.

To contact the O’Neill Center, call 740-373-3914.

AARP list of tips and questions on caring for aging parents

At home:

¯ Can they still manage the stairs?

¯ Are there safety hazards such as dark stairways, loose rugs, clutter or fire hazards?

¯ Is there a room on the ground floor adjacent to a bath that could be converted to a bedroom?

¯ Are there modifications that could be made, such as easier-to-use handles and switches, pull-out cabinet shelf inserts, a different height toilet or a walk-in shower?

Getting around:

¯ Ride with your parents and observe: Close calls?

Driving too slow, missing signs or signals? Trouble at intersections? Are there dings or dents around the garage?

Warnings or tickets?

¯ Check for transportation alternatives for shopping, medical visits, religious services and visits to family and friends.

Health

¯ Are prescriptions current?

¯ Have the doctor and pharmacist recently reviewed medications for side effects, interactions and effect on driving ability?

¯ Problems taking medications? Consider a pill organizer to help.

¯ Check insurance coverage to be sure it’s up to date and appropriate, and offer help filling out forms if needed.

Finances

¯ Is all financial information in a place where it can be accessed in an emergency?

¯ Is the mail getting attention? Unopened mail stacking up could mean unpaid bills.

¯ Are there bills they just can’t pay?

Source: AARP.

Buckeye Hills Regional Council

¯ For help with an aging parent, relative, or for your own needs, call 800-331-2644 for a free in-home assessment; the agency can also provide help and information over the phone.

¯ The council provides service in Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry and Washington counties.

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