Seniors from all over Belmont County gathered in the community room at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville Feb. 4 for an education day.
More than 80 senior citizens showed up to listen to guest speakers from the Area Agency on Aging for Region 9 of Ohio. The Centerville Senior Center members provided coffee and a variety of cookies for all the attendees, and Belmont County Senior Services used the opportunity to roll out its revamped newsletter "Golden Times."
Carol Baker, a planner for the AAA, spoke about the purpose of the agency and some of its programs. Baker focused on Passport, a medical waiver program that strives to keep seniors living in their own homes. Only 5 percent of adults 60 and older need to reside in assisted living facilities, though that number jumps to 20 percent to 25 percent for adults 85 and older. In the United States, the 85 and up segment of the population is the fastest growing.
Photo by Mollie Warner
Guest speakers from the Area Agency on Aging answered questions from seniors on Education Day at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville. From left are Lisa Durben, Carol Baker, Pat Lake and Laurel Dubeck.
Passport services include personal care, homemaker services, home-delivered meals, minor home modifications and repairs, medical equipment and an emergency response system. Passport has contracts with 165 agencies in nine counties.
Baker then moved on to discuss the issue of falling, which is the leading cause of injuries leading to emergency room visits, hospital stays and deaths among Ohioans 65 and older. Ohio is the worst state in the country for falls.
"I am of the firm belief that nobody should reach the age of 80, 85, 90 and above, and die from injuries from a fall. If you've lived that long, falling should not be what takes you out. But, unfortunately it does," Baker said.
In an effort to combat falls, Ohio now has the Steady U initiative. Steady U works with state agencies and local partners to minimize fall risks and offers "A Matter of Balance," a class at senior centers to help seniors learn about fall prevention.
Laurel Duvac then spoke about the caregiver program, which offers free support for any individuals who provide care to family, friends, or neighbors. Caregivers can receive individual consultations, skills training, educational courses and literature, and speakers for groups. Duvac stressed that the Caregiver program is not just for paid professionals.
"A caregiver is anyone who does anything for someone who cannot do it themselves," she said. "We don't think of ourselves as caregivers unless we're providing care seven days a week, 24 hours a day in our home, and those are not the only caregivers."
Duvac said the most common inquiries the caregiver program receives are about how to deal with dementia and safe transfer of a loved one.
Pat Lake then took the microphone and transitioned into the importance of caregivers taking time for themselves, and how to deal with negative emotions.
"Sometimes we don't feel like loving. Sometimes we are angry, or upset. ... We set very high expectations of how our golden years are going to go, and then it just doesn't happen, " Lake said. "It's very hard to deal with those role reversals, where the children become the parents, or the wife has to take over what the husband was doing. I tell all of my caregivers, there are no easy answers."
In addition to the consultations and training, Lake is working on getting a caregiver support group started in Belmont County.