June 05, 2013

Community Services helps seniors stay in homes

As published in The Erin Advocate

East Wellington Community Services is helping seniors age at home. That's a good thing, not only because that's where people want to live as long as possible, but because getting into a long term care facility can be a lengthy process.

June is Seniors Month, a good time to survey the services offered locally. Most Erin seniors are fairly independent, and those with ongoing health needs can often stay in their homes with the help provided by the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC).

EWCS provides a variety of other services, including assistance with referrals. For example, a new streamlined referral process has recently been started in this area for Specialized Geriatric Services provided by St. Joseph Health Centre in Guelph.

A single form can now provide access to the intake service for Geriatricians and Geriatric Psychiatrists (with family doctor referral). EWCS can help families with this process, and make direct referrals to the Community Responsive Behaviour Team.

That's a group of health professionals that provides assessment of seniors with cognitive impairment for specific "responsive" behaviours such as agitation, repetition, and wandering. This can be due to dementia, mental health issues or addictions. They collaborate with caregivers to identify strategies to manage the behaviour and reduce risks.

EWCS has rarely had a waiting list for its Adult Day Program, which provides stimulating activities, outings and a hot lunch for frail seniors and those with dementia. It's one of the supports that can enable seniors to continue living at home.

"It keeps them connected to their community," said Sherri Plourde, Manager of Seniors Services. EWCS also provides support for family members who care for seniors.

There are currently two spaces available in the Centre 2000 program, which is held Mondays and Thursdays, and can handle up to 18 people. Space is also available in the Tuesday program in Rockwood.

Participants and staff are enjoying the reliable new bus that EWCS obtained early this year. The agency is selling advertising spaces on the bus, as a way to help pay for maintenance.

"It's a sustainable sources of funding," said Erika Westcott, Manager of Community Services and Volunteers.

EWCS is hoping to expand its recreational programs for able-bodied active seniors. Current activities include Pilates classes, Scottish Dancing, Line Dancing, Yoga, In Stitches (knitting etc.) and Bridge. Call 519-833-9696 or go to www.eastwellingtoncommunityservices.com for more details.

An outing is planned for July 24 to the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge to the show Sorry...I'm Canadian, a mix of music, comedy and political satire. Contact Rick Eller at 519-856-2113.

There are four local volunteers helping provide friendly visiting and phone calls for seniors in their homes, coordinated by the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) with the support of EWCS.

More volunteers are needed, including drivers to supplement the core van service. Medical appointments get top priority, but driving can also be arranged for things like grocery shopping or banking.

EWCS knows there is a need for other transportation for seniors. In 2011 they started a bus service to bring people from Erin, Hillsburgh, Rockwood and rural areas to Stone Road Mall and other shopping locations in Guelph, for a fee of $10. The service had to be cancelled due to low ridership, but they are looking for an opportunity to revive it in some form.

Another project that has been put on hold is the Seniors Wellness Expo, which ran annually for several years. Considerable effort was expended by EWCS and various vendors and agencies, but attendance was quite low.

A couple of interesting sessions for seniors are coming up at EWCS. On June 12 from 2pm to 4pm, East Wellington Family Health Team Dietician Pat White will discuss different reactions diabetics can face throughout the day and provide a food demonstration. On June 19 from 2pm to 3pm, the Medical Care Store will speak about mobility items such as wheelchairs, custom orthotics, compression stockings and walkers, and how to apply for funding to help offset the costs.