We’ve heard the phrase most often applied to raising children, but “It takes a village” can and often should be applied as well to caring for people at the opposite end of the age spectrum. In either case, the “village” emphasizes the importance of family and community as key elements necessary for promoting a healthy person.
The Need is Growing
By 2020 the 60+ population will more than double. Many of our seniors have little or no support from family and friends. Even those who do have supports are not aware of the resources available to them in their community. Connecting these seniors to services often improves their lives by reducing their isolation and depression while also reducing the burden on family caregivers.
You Can Be A Vital Link
Fortunately it doesn’t take a village to make this connection – it just takes you! How can you help? It only requires three basic skills you already have.
1. Listen – without judgment, validate their feelings of loneliness, their loss of friends and family, their loss of purpose.
2. Observe – Watch for signs that could indicate that someone is in need of help. Look for changes in any of the following:
- Mental State – Confusion, disorientation, memory loss, repetitiveness
- Physical – Difficulty in seeing, hearing or walking, alcohol or other substance abuse
- Emotional – Recent losses, appears depressed, anxious, withdrawn or loss of appetite
- Social – Isolated, possible victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation
- Appearance – Unkempt, dirty clothes, weight loss
- Environment – Home needs repair, trash or debris in yard, neglected pets
- Economic – Confused about money matters and unable to afford necessities
3. Take Action!–The most important step
You may ask, why me? Can’t they do it for themselves? There are many reasons why most people don’t ask for help but these reasons are even more significant for seniors. It’s good to remember them.
- They may be concerned about losing their independence or losing control of their lives
- They may fear being placed in a nursing home
- They don’t want to be a burden to others
- They may feel there is a stigma attached to seeking assistance.
- They may feel they can’t afford assistance
- They may fear being financially exploited
- It may not be part of their culture to ask for assistance
Taking action is simply a matter of expressing your concerns about the changes you are observing and offering to help find resources.
Where to Start?
Make a referral for resources. Few older adults will reach out themselves. Connections and referrals almost always come from someone who cares about them—you.
- The Senior Reach program at Jefferson Center for Mental Health can be a good first step for information. The program serves people 60+ living in Jefferson, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Boulder and Broomfield counties.
- Call at 1-866-217-5808 to make a referral, get more information or to find out about Senior Reach programs in other communities.
You can literally be a lifeline to a Senior in need. Think for a moment if you were in their place, how helpful that would be. It all comes down to one thing.
Take Action!! Without action nothing changes.
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