Review by Binny Goldman
All of us fervently wish that as the years gather, we could gracefully embrace and be embraced by them. Today we learned how to do just that in our own homes and to actually do so as gracefully as possible,
at any stage of our aging.
Shanie Levin, the JSA Coordinator of the session on ‘Aging in Place’ welcomed an overflowing crowd gathered in the JCC Dayson Boardroom on January 22, interested in learning how to do just that. Partnered with the JCC Seniors, the JSA presented a panel of experts on the subject.
Donna Cantor, Senior Outreach Counselor at Jewish Family Service Agency was the Moderator. After briefly outlining her ongoing connection with the JSA, she introduced the panel, with a brief outline of each presenter.
The first to speak was Debbie Sharp, Field Supervisor for the United Way “Better at Home” program, which offers support by paid staff and unpaid volunteers for seniors, 55 and older, who want to remain at home while aging with the ability and dignity to do so. The United Way offers programs which are funded by the BC government in up to 68 communities across BC, and can offer help in a range of non medical services on a siding scale of fees. Some programs are offered free.
The specific services offered reflect the different needs of each community. Some of those offered are: yard work, minor home repair, light house keeping, grocery shopping, friendly visiting, snow shovelling, transport to appointments. Thus, they are hoping to ensure that seniors can play an active role in their communities and continue to enjoy living at home surrounded by family and friends.
The next panelist was Julie Hirschmanner – Occupational Therapist at Vancouver Coastal Health who listed ways in which we can stay at home safely.
They can provide health care needs that families cannot such as: nurses, Physio and Occupational therapy, Care Managers to help with bathing.
She recommended equipment which would make each step of aging easier for all: grab bars, raised toilet seats, and general advice. In stressing that prevention is the best tool seniors themselves can use, she listed certain hazards we tend to overlook in prevention of falls:
- rushing to get things done
- rising too quickly from a seated position
- getting overtired
- carrying too much in both hands so being unable to use rails
- climbing onto furniture to reach for things too high up
- wearing slippers with no backs -hence no support
- dimly lit areas
- incorrect or overuse of medication
- clutter in pathways or stairs
She also reminded us that people can call 911 if they have fallen and cannot get up. However she highly recommended a Medical Alert bracelet if one lived alone
The next presenter, our own Charles Leibovitch, of the JSA Peer Support Services spoke and it is interesting to note how many of the services needed were incorporated into the services being offered by the graduates of the Peer Support Counselling after an intensive mandatory 11 week training course. This program was initiated by the JSA and set up by Charles Leibovitch in 2011 after much research using his extensive training in the field.
The Peer Program Support group offers four support services:
1)Peer Counselling; in which trained individuals are matches up with clients requiring the service.
2) Friendly Home Visits; which will involve a trained graduate to visit a senior’s home, one usually too frail to venture out on their own and assist with shopping, light errands, banking or accompany them on medical appointments.
3) ‘Shalom Again’–Friendly Phone calls; where the loneliness and isolation of individuals is alleviated simply by someone keeping in touch with them. These can be daily, weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly.
It is important to allow time for conversation, some socialization or perhaps even, encourage a slow reintroduction into community activities. This is at NO COST to the client receiving these services.
There have been three graduating classes with about 13-15 in each class with a new class starting this week and there are 30 clients at present, with a waiting list. The clients are matched up with the counsellors and followed up by Charles and Lynne Moss, his assistant after the initial introduction. The client will also receive Charles’ cell phone number to be used if anything urgent comes up.
Donna Cantor remarked that she has met many happy clients of these match ups.
Lisa de Silva, a private Occupational Therapist-our next speaker, described her staff as 4 trained UBC people who offered the services required pre and post surgery, and can be booked just for individual needs and not on an ongoing service as it is quite costly. This may be covered partially by Blue Cross or similar coverage. They too offer all the at home care that others do. She did say they speak four languages which may be helpful in times of stress
Our last presenter, Devorah Goldberg, who as an interior designer incorporates function and beauty, specializing in design for seniors, uses ergonomics to ensure each client has a home best suited to his or her own needs.
Some excellent suggestions were:
- cupboards custom built lower down
- no gas stove
- labelling any items to be used or colour coding them so they are easily identified
- sensor lamps beside the bed
- large dial phone..with numbers and FACES of DEAR ones for speed dialling
- grab bars in bathtub/toilet and extra shelves to house toiletries with in easy reach
- no soft sofas… too difficult to stand up once seated.
Leah Deslauriers, Coordinator of the JCC Seniors, who had been using her wonderful sense of humour throughout the presentations, individually and collectively expressed her thanks to the panelists and presented each of them with a token of our appreciation. There had been many questions by the audience which showed a keen interest in the topics that had been covered.