During the holidays, we naturally reach out to others – with a hug, a gift or an act of service. This warm spirit of giving often extends beyond our family circle and into the community. We look out for each other.
Starting this month, Axis Health System invites community members to help look out for older people through Senior Reach. This new program is for La Plata County residents who are 60 years or older with a wide variety of needs. It offers support for the well-being, independence and dignity of older adults. AHS is working to respond to the local need for this age group to receive preventative care before they are in crisis.
“Some seniors are isolated and struggle to reach out when they are in need of support,” said Brittany Brumfield, a licensed clinical social worker and the Senior Reach point person for AHS. “For some older adults, the holidays can be an especially difficult time. As a family member, friend, neighbor or acquaintance, I think it’s important to be aware of this and spend some time reaching out to those who may be in need of some support.”
Senior Reach is a bridge between agencies, businesses and community-minded individuals. The program includes a range of services to fit a variety of needs:
Short-term counseling.Connection and referral to resources.Depression screening and short-term treatment.Support and education for family members regarding Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.Educating family caregivers on specific skills to assist in caring for their loved one.Identifying prescription drug or alcohol misuse.“I’m excited that Axis is now able to offer this program,” said Jen Shupe, coordinator of Senior Reach for AHS. “In our rural community, looking out for each other is crucial. At the same time, we may see someone struggling but not want to intrude, or maybe we don’t know how to offer help. Our referral line makes it easy to do something when you’re concerned.”
People who identify an older person at risk may contact the call center to discuss concerns. Seniors may also call directly to seek help for themselves. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable broaching the subject of Senior Reach with a family member or neighbor, they can contact the call center and give the senior’s name and phone number. A staff member will reach out to the person, tell them a bit about the program and see if they are interested in participating. If the person agrees, the specialist will help connect them with appropriate services. Case managers can coordinate public transportation, community volunteer opportunities or changing medical plans.
What makes Senior Reach effective is that counseling is provided in homes or other comfortable meeting places. For many people, it is challenging to ask for support when going through a difficult time. Older adults in particular may hesitate to reach out because they are afraid of losing their independence. Senior Reach provides short-term support and encouragement to stay involved in activities – all in support of maintaining independence.
Senior Reach is designed to be a grass-roots program. Neighbors can be the eyes and ears in the community and help spread the word, or pick up the phone if they know someone who might benefit. Brumfield says even a small effort to connect can have a big impact.
“Taking the time to say hello and asking how an older adult is doing can make all the difference in their day.”
Karla Sluis is a spokesperson for Axis Health System, a nonprofit that serves five counties at nine locations in Southwest Colorado.