April 25, 2006 > ELDERSafe
by Suzanne Shenfil
Sometimes older adults need help but are unaware of the resources available to them. ELDERSafe is a public education campaign designed to identify at-risk seniors, in the Tri-City area, and put them in contact with community resources to help them remain independent. The ELDERSafe project attempts to connect the older adult to those resources, through the use of a Senior Help Line at (510) 574-2041.
A project of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Fremont Class of 2006, the ELDERSafe campaign will be launched on April 27 when 150 Fremont Postal Carriers previewed a 15 minute DVD and brochure. These tools are designed to educate people such as postal workers, bank tellers, meter readers, neighbors and faith workers who come into frequent contact with older adults. Warning signs are illustrated indicating physical or emotional issues which may be affecting safety and well-being. "Our hope is to have many businesses use the video to train their employees," says Andrew Draeseke, who has been helping to coordinate the project.
"We also plan to incorporate the video into Fremont's Neighborhood Watch, and CERT and PEP programs," says Lt. Mark Riggs with the Fremont Police Department. "We hope that Newark and Union City public safety officials will be interested in doing the same." Both Draeseke and Riggs are members of the Leadership Fremont class.
The extension of life expectancy is probably one of the greatest achievements in the 20th century. The fastest growing segment of the population is now persons over age 100. While people are living longer and healthier lives, statistics tell us that many seniors will eventually become frail, ill and in need of extensive community support. Many seniors in our community live in their own homes, apartments or with extended family and have a good support system of family, friends and neighbors. Others are not as fortunate. These folks are isolated.
Signs of an older adult who needs help may be interpreted through sometimes-subtle clues. Older adults may appear forgetful and confused; have difficulty staying on topic or even repeat phrases over and over. Uncharacteristic behavior may signal difficulties; an individual may appear nervous, fearful, hostile, or agitated and fidgety. Physical appearance offer clues too; difficulty walking even with a cane or walker, or having difficulty seeing, hearing or speaking. Dirty clothes, bad odors, bruises and sores may also be clues. Look for changes in home maintenance such a seriously neglected yard, newspapers and mail lying around uncollected or a house in need of major repairs.
What can you do? The Senior Help Line at (510) 574-2041 is staffed by professional care managers in the City of Fremont Human Services Department Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Your call could prevent a serious crisis. Give the name of the elderly person, age if know, phone number, address or direction to their residence or whereabouts and a brief description of your concerns. It is okay if you wish to remain anonymous. Staff can let you know once the initial contact has been made. If at anytime you feel the concern is life threatening, call 911.
What happens after the call has been made? A care manager will make every effort to contact the individual. The staff is highly skilled in establishing relationships with the elderly and overcoming initial resistance from older persons who maybe suspicious, hostile or fearful. After contacting the individual, a care manager will conduct an initial home visit and begin an assessment process. The goal of the ELDERSafe project is to help maintain the dignity and independence of the older adult being referred.
Remember anyone can call the Senior Help Line! Neighbors, mail and newspaper carriers, bank tellers, delivery people, pharmacists and grocery tellers are just a few examples of people who can identify an older adult in need of help.
To obtain a copy of the free educational video and written materials describing warning signs which may indicate an older adult is having difficulty, contact the City of Fremont Human Service Department at (510) 574-2052, or firstname.lastname@example.org