City receives living at home grant

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/8/99.

Elderly residents within the city of Paynesville will be able to continue living at home a little longer because of a Community Living at Home/Block Nurse Program grant (LAH/BNP).

The city received a $40,000 grant for next year to help get the program off the ground.

A steering committee has been formed to help get everything organized. Committee members are Janell Hoffman, Laura Odell, Denise Hansen, Craig Heitke, Teresa Kirkpatrick, Juanita Moser, and Jim McCalmant.

Serving as coaches for the Paynesville group will be Stacey Neuhause, Grove City, and Connie Feig, Atwater, as they already have the program in operation.

If a senior citizen becomes frail and needs help with personal care or skilled nursing care, the program works with the elderly and their family arranging for nurses and home health aides.

Hoffman said there is a lot of volunteering involved in the program. It also deals with directing people to the right resources.

Malcolm Mitchell from Living at Home/Block Nurse Program, Inc. attended a steering committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 30, to explain the program to those present. Mitchell said the basis for the program is to surround elderly people in need with the resources and help of their family, and for those that don't have family, to surround them with community, "neighbor helping neighbor."

Feig suggested the following steps be followed in helping Paynesville get their program off the ground:
•Organize the steering committee
•Organize a strong board of directors
•Then move to delivering neighborly care.

The Paynesville steering committee was told it usually takes about a year to get started, then nursing services are added to the program. "Most elderly are not sick enough for Medicare and not poor enough to qualify for public assistance," Feig said.

Paynesville's grant states they must utilize $20,000 of their grant funds within the first six months of 2000 (January to June) and the remaining $20,000 from June 30, 2000, to June 30, 2001.

Bob Lorimer of Elderberry, Inc., the resource of Living at Home/Block Nurse Program, discussed how to start a LAH/BNP. He strongly recommends starting with the LAH portion of the program because it is less complex and less expensive. Once the LAH portion is established, it will lead into the nursing portion of the program.

Lorimer said Elderberry is also putting together a website and asked that the local group help by letting it know what information would be helpful on the site. It is hoped local residents can eventually learn more about the program by downloading from the website, as well as receiving printed materials via the mail.

Feig explained they have 35 volunteers in Atwater who are well past retirement age. There are others in the younger age group, but they usually end up helping with more specific projects. The day-to-day work (visiting) is done mostly by seniors. Feig discussed a walking program they have started. There are 10 to 20 people who participate, but there is as much networking being done as walking. Currently, they are working on a transgenerational program. They believe the kids need this as much as the elders do.

Lorimer reminded the steering committee that it's important we go out and talk to people about the program. This is what will make the program successful, he added.

Mitchell said a $10,000 to $15,000 fund is plenty for the first year. This is why they stress starting with the LAH side of the program. "You have the money to hire a part-time staff person, but you shouldn't look to that person to do all the work. It is a shared role with the board," Mitchell told the committee.

According to an outline of the LAH/BNP, some unique features are:
•Recognizes elders as community resources and assets, rather than "the old and needy."

•Draws upon community commitment to senior citizens by involving service groups, churches, businesses, and schools.

•Includes any person over age 65 living in the community, regardless of ability to pay or eligibility for reimbursement.

•Doesn't replicate existing services; utilizes existing agencies and services where appropriate.

•Strengthens the ability of families to meet the needs of their older family members.

•Organizes services usually not paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.

The next step for the steering committee is to form a board and elect officers. Once the board is organized, Feig stressed it will need to start making lists...of who needs help...who can help...and then connect people.

The staff person, once hired, will help connect the volunteers with the elderly needing help. The program will seek out socially isolated persons and program social contact by finding volunteers to help address Christmas cards, deliver plants, flowers, or birthday cakes, developing pen pal relationships with school children, or link older people with former social contacts.

The LAH/BNP program will be based out of the Paynesville Area Center.

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