Program raises awareness for seniors

Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2005

An 83-year-old man closed his bank account but later accused the bank of stealing his money.

A mail carrier found an old woman's mail accumulating.

A police officer spotted an 80-year-old man in his shorts standing on a street at 3 a.m.

To help struggling seniors like these, Southeast Senior Services provides counseling, care coordination and chore services. The agency recently received city funding to give "Gatekeeper Project" presentations to 15 Juneau businesses to teach people to watch for radical changes in routines and signs of deterioration in seniors around them. The funding for the presentations is just for this year, but the services are continuing.

"No matter whether you are a meter reader, a police officer, a bank teller or a neighbor, everyone is a gatekeeper in the community to keep the seniors safe," said Mary Miller, supervisor of Bridge Adult Day Program. She has been giving presentations to banks, power companies and medical clinics.

For more information

call Southeast Senior Services at 463-6177 to arrange a gatekeeper project workshop.

"Dementia can prevent isolated elders from seeking help," Miller said. "Some are afraid that people will put them in a nursing home. Connecting them with the right services helps them live independently as long as possible."

Miller said the indicators of an elder in distress include:

• confusion or disorientation.

• loss of bowel and bladder control.

• inability to manage finances.

• inappropriate clothing for the weather.

• home in disrepair.

Miller urges people who notice the signs to call Southeast Senior Services and tell the agency the name of the elder and their concerns. The caller's identification will be kept confidential.

"First, we will build a supportive relationship with the elder," Miller said. "Normally they are very happy to have somebody visit them. Then we will assess their mental, physical and financial health. Once we understand their situation, we can provide the support system they need."

Miller said the agency won't force its help if the elders refuse it.

Miller recently made a presentation to the staff of Southeast Medical Clinic. Dena Miller, a nurse of the clinic, said the information is very helpful.

"I don't know there is one facility that puts things together and is able to help," Miller said. "I actually knew a few people that might need it."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at

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