Wrap-around philosophy supports seniors

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mrs. Jones, a regular customer at the bank, is always well-groomed and alert, and she balances her checking account to the penny. Nevertheless, recently she appeared at the bank unkempt and confused, and her account was overdrawn. The bank teller notices that Mrs. Jones isn't her usual self and becomes concerned about her safety. The teller knows that Mrs. Jones lives alone; so she calls Senior Wrap-Around Services for help.

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Senior Wrap-Around Services are personalized home-based services designed to prevent seniors from "falling through the cracks" and to assist Juneau's most vulnerable elderly citizens to live safely in their own homes. This program includes three distinct goals: 1) to locate Juneau's most frail, isolated elderly citizens and offer services; 2) to make it easy for seniors and those concerned about seniors to receive needed services; 3) to offer a client-friendly set of services specifically geared to each individual.

The wrap-around philosophy stresses the importance of community members as active participants in meeting the needs of our most frail elderly. Gatekeepers are employees of businesses and individuals who come into contact with older adults during the course of their everyday work activities. They may include neighbors, mail and newspaper carriers, heating company staff, police department personnel, bank tellers, apartment managers and telephone company employees.

As the Wrap-Around Services project leader, Jessica Hadfield of the Senior and Caregiver Resource Center, is responsible for training employees or "Gatekeepers" to become keen observers of elders' personal appearance, conditions of the home, mental and emotional state, physical losses, personality changes, economic problems, caregiver stress, alcohol and other drug abuse, any of which may indicate an older adult needs assistance. Her office phone, 463-6177, is the one number for citizens to call on behalf of a senior citizen who may need help.

The case of Mrs. Jones is one example of how Senior Wrap-Around Services work. After the bank teller makes a referral to the Senior and Caregiver Resource Center, the staff calls Mrs. Jones to offer assistance and to screen for safety. One or more of the Wrap-Around Services Team Members is contacted to make a home visit. The Case Manager conducts a comprehensive assessment in the home, evaluating medical, emotional, mental and social functioning as well as home safety and develops a plan of care, arranging services to uniquely fit the senior's needs and resources. The Counselor addresses the confusion and anxiety and provides ongoing emotional support. The In-Home Services Coordinator provides light housekeeping, keeps the home free of clutter to prevent falls, makes sure the kitchen is sanitary and stocked with food, and assists the elder with phone calls, mail and paperwork to remain connected with the community.

Through the assistance of the Wrap-Around Services Team, the cause of Mrs. Jones' confusion is addressed, she receives help with managing her money and is able to continue to live safely and in her own home.

Senior Wrap-Around Services are operated by Southeast Senior Services and are made possible by a grant from the city of Juneau. For further information about the program, or to arrange a Gatekeeper Training for your employees, contact Jessica at 463-6177.

• Marianne Mills is the program director of Southeast Senior Services, which offers home and community-based services for older Alaskans throughout the region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service and assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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