Vol­un­teers fuel se­nior ser­vices

Project HEARTH, Tele­phone Re­as­sur­ance Pro­gram help boost se­niors’ health

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English

NORRISTOWN >> Tele­vi­sion doyenne Betty White once quipped: “My mother al­ways used to say, ‘The older you get, the bet­ter you get, un­less you’re a ba­nana.’”

And, no ques­tion, the 96-year-old A-lis­ter was in fine form on stage at the re­cent Emmy Awards. But, real­is­ti­cally, if you’re a se­nior cit­i­zen who isn’t Hol­ly­wood roy­alty, you’re prob­a­bly less in­clined to make jokes about ag­ing when once sim­ple chores like chang­ing light bulbs and mak­ing beds have be­come any­thing but.

In truth, many se­niors strug­gle to ac­com­plish such tasks. Phys­i­cal im­pair­ment makes some im­pos­si­ble, their chil­dren — or other close rel­a­tives — live out of the area, and they can’t af­ford hired help or as­sisted liv­ing.

That’s why vol­un­teer ef­forts like Project HEARTH (Help­ing El­derly Adults Re­main in Their Homes) and the Tele­phone Re­as­sur­ance Pro­gram of­fered by Fam­ily Ser­vices of Mont­gomery County — both avail­able to county res­i­dents 60 and up — are so im­por­tant, says Deb­o­rah Solo­dar, Fam­ily Ser­vices’ di­rec­tor of se­nior ser­vices.

And just as fund­ing such out­reach ser­vices is a peren­nial headache, vol­un­teers are their lifeblood.

Project HEARTH vol­un­teers give se­niors “con­crete sup­port ser­vices, such as trans­porta­tion to med­i­cal ap­point­ments, gro­cery shop­ping as­sis­tance, friendly vis­it­ing and mi­nor home re­pairs, such as in­stalling bath­room safety grab bars …” Solo­dar ex­plains. “In ad­di­tion to keep­ing se­niors safe and in­de­pen­dent in their homes, these sup­port ser­vices al­low se­niors to stay con­nected with the com­mu­nity and im­prove their emo­tional well-be­ing.”

No ex­ag­ger­a­tion, re­cip­i­ents agree and uni­formly de­scribe their vol­un­teer helpers as kind, help­ful and po­lite.

“My HEARTH vol­un­teer … drove me to sev­eral doc­tor ap­point­ments that were des­per­ately needed,” says one lo­cal woman. “I don’t know how I could have man­aged it with­out the HEARTH pro­gram.”

Vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties for Project HEARTH are avail­able dur­ing the day and evening, in­clud­ing week­ends. Vol­un­teer driv­ers must have a valid driver’s li­cense and in­sur­ance, but in­di­vid­u­als of all ages, as well as church, com­mu­nity, cor­po­rate or youth groups, are wel­come.

“It was awe­some to see how much my work meant to them,” re­calls one area mid­dle school stu­dent who vol­un­teered with Project HEARTH dur­ing a day of ser­vice. “It gave me a new per­spec­tive … and I hope to come back an­other time.”

Tele­phone Re­as­sur­ance vol­un­teers — re­quired to be 18 or older and have day­time avail­abil­ity — are trained to ask “how the se­nior is do­ing, whether they are eat­ing well and whether they need help with any­thing at home” dur­ing pe­ri­odic phone chats.

“If the se­nior were to have an is­sue that re­quired ac­tion, the vol­un­teer would con­tact Fam­ily Ser­vices, and a staff mem­ber would speak with the client be­fore con­tact­ing a des­ig­nated fam­ily mem­ber or friend,” pro­gram spokes­men add.

The time com­mit­ment for both pro­grams is flex­i­ble.

“Vol­un­teer­ing with … Project HEARTH and [the] Tele­phone Re­as­sur­ance Pro­gram is not a huge time com­mit­ment,” says Vol­un­teer Co­or­di­na­tor Aaron Shostak. “We can work with vol­un­teers to find a match or op­por­tu­nity that fits their sched­ule.”

Project HEARTH staffers re­port a 5 to 10 per­cent in­crease in the num­ber of se­niors or fam­ily mem­bers seek­ing as­sis­tance over the past three years. They point to data from the 2016-2020 Four Year Plan com­piled by Mont­gomery County Of­fice of Ag­ing and Adult Ser­vices: “The pop­u­la­tion in Mont­gomery County in the past four years for age 65 and older has in­creased from 15.1 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion to 16.4 per­cent. Cur­rently, an es­ti­mated 176,411 per­sons over age 60 live in Mont­gomery County.”

Septem­ber is Healthy Ag­ing Month, but Fam­ily Ser­vices staffers have found Project HEARTH and the Tele­phone Re­as­sur­ance Pro­gram boost se­nior health on a con­tin­u­ing ba­sis.

“What makes Project HEARTH unique is its two main com­po­nents — pro­fes­sional men­tal health coun­sel­ing and vol­un­teer sup­port ser­vices,” Solo­dar says. “Through [its] men­tal health com­po­nent, a li­censed clin­i­cal so­cial worker vis­its se­niors in their own homes to help them cope with anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, chronic ill­ness, iso­la­tion, lone­li­ness and loss.”

Ac­cord­ing to Solo­dar, Project HEARTH “re­mains one of the only pro­grams in Mont­gomery County that pro­vides pro­fes­sional coun­sel­ing to se­niors in their own homes.”

Cre­ated in 1994, it is cur­rently funded by The Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts, the Pottstown Area Health & Well­ness Foun­da­tion, the VNA Foun­da­tion of Greater North Penn, the United Way of Greater Philadel­phia and South­ern New Jersey and the Mont­gomery County Of­fice of Ag­ing and Adult Ser­vices.

“The pres­ence of de­pres­sive and anx­i­ety dis­or­ders in se­niors of­ten ad­versely af­fects the course and com­pli­cates the treat­ment of other chronic dis­eases,” she con­tin­ues. “Many se­niors do not ac­cess tra­di­tional men­tal health ser­vices be­cause they are iso­lated, phys­i­cally frail, im­pov­er­ished or have trans­porta­tion dif­fi­cul­ties. Through Project HEARTH, se­niors can re­ceive treat­ment, sup­port, in­for­ma­tion and re­fer­rals while in the com­fort of their own homes.”

Back­ground checks and ref­er­ences are re­quired for all Project HEARTH and Tele­phone Re­as­sur­ance Pro­gram vol­un­teers. The two ser­vices are avail­able to all Mont­gomery res­i­dents 60 or older. Solo­dar in­vites po­ten­tial vol­un­teers or county se­niors who “have ques­tions about how to age at home safely” to con­tact her at 610-630-2111 ext. 242 or dsolo­dar@fs­montco.org.

Fam­ily Ser­vices of Mont­gomery County was es­tab­lished in 1900, and the agency re­ports its pro­grams for chil­dren, se­niors and fam­i­lies “make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the lives of 12,000 Mont­gomery County res­i­dents each year.” Ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion is avail­able at fs­montco.org.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FAM­ILY SER­VICES OF MONT­GOMERY COUNTY

Vol­un­teers from ON Semi­con­duc­tor Corp. in Spring House com­pletes yard work and mi­nor home re­pairs for a Project HEARTH client in North Wales. The group’s mem­bers also sur­prised the re­cip­i­ent of their ser­vices with a gift of mulch and mums for the home’s flowerbeds.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FAM­ILY SER­VICES OF MONT­GOMERY COUNTY

A vol­un­teer from ON Semi­con­duc­tor Corp. in Spring House com­pletes yard work and mi­nor home re­pairs for a Project HEARTH client in North Wales. The group’s mem­bers also sur­prised the re­cip­i­ent of their ser­vices with a gift of mulch and mums for the home’s flowerbeds.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FAM­ILY SER­VICES OF MONT­GOMERY COUNTY

A vol­un­teer from ON Semi­con­duc­tor Corp. in Spring House com­pletes yard work and mi­nor home re­pairs for a Project HEARTH client in North Wales. The group’s mem­bers also sur­prised the re­cip­i­ent of their ser­vices with a gift of mulch and mums for the home’s flowerbeds.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FAM­ILY SER­VICES OF MONT­GOMERY COUNTY

A vol­un­teer from ON Semi­con­duc­tor Corp. in Spring House com­pletes yard work and mi­nor home re­pairs for a Project HEARTH client in North Wales. The group’s mem­bers also sur­prised the re­cip­i­ent of their ser­vices with a gift of mulch and mums for the home’s flowerbeds.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.