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Happy Mother's Day: A call to action for Oregon's Seniors

Activists across the state are invited to be trained as key support in seniors lives. The "friendly visitor" program can help keep people in their homes and bring safety support to Oregon's seniors as the cuts to services become deeper and more dangerous.

Happy Mother's day!

This is a call to action to come to the aid of seniors and the disabled in your community.

Many of the people we are cutting from services in this state are women. Most were mothers. Women are more likely to be living only on social security. They are more likely to have only Medicaid for medical coverage, or only medicare for long-term care. They are more likely to be the people to be most adversely affected by the recent statewide cuts to services. (That is not to say that elder men and disabled men are not also affected). Many women who are now seniors worked their whole lives and received much less pay, and now have fewer resources as elders.

The generation that is being affected by these cuts to social services is the same generation that built the infrastructure that we survive in everyday - our roads, hospitals, schools, universities. It is time for all of us to make sure they are not ill-treated.

This email is more than rhetoric explaining the effect of the collapse of services to seniors and the disabled in Oregon, it is call to action to begin to train every concerned citizen on how to pick up some of slack in services to this population, so that no more people will have to die or be hurt by the cuts.

If you are not aware that people are being adversely affected by the cuts, please look to the end of this message to see links to websites documenting the issues, problems and adverse affects since the cuts in services began. See also a commentary by the Oregon Elders in Action president.

What I want to focus on now, is teaching people how to respond and get involved in helping out in their own communities. In this email you will find:

* Summary: what has happened in the last year
*What is in place that prepare individuals to begin to help
*Training outline on "friendly visitors" program
*Looking around and becoming aware of who needs help
* Who to contact in your community for assistance
* Putting out the call in your own community

I have worked and volunteered to care for seniors for almost 30 years in Oregon. I am currently finishing a Masters degree is social work with an emphasis on gerontology. A year ago I had grave concerns about what would happen if services to seniors and the disabled were to disappear from our communities. Now I am seeing the worst of my fears. Seniors and the disabled dropped from services beginning to die or be seriously hurt by the cuts. We have been very dependent on systems that were heavily supported by our state and local taxes. Many of the workers who visited seniors and the disabled were paid case managers and care givers, or caregivers monitored by paid case managers. Protective services were supported and paid for by local, state and federal taxes. Many of these people have now lost their jobs.

Much of the infrastructure is gone now. At the same time incidences of elder abuse and neglect have shot up. There is much evidence that with the current social service cuts, the incidence of neglect is way up. The very agencies who were monitoring elder abuse are now cut down to the bare bones. So, it is not known how many people have been adversely affected by lack of services.

There are those who will say that the very vulnerable need to go into nursing homes if they need services that are no longer available. But everyone needs to know that many nursing homes are not accepting low-income seniors whose only source payments for care comes from Medicaid. Many people who had Medicare and the Oregon Health Plan have been dropped from doctor's care. The nursing homes and doctors groups complain that the payment for these plans is not enough to cover the costs of treating or assisting people.

It is now up to communities to support and protect our most vulnerable populations.

Some work has been done to help keep seniors and the disabled safe. However, this valuable training was available to a very few important people who had contact with seniors. The training called "Food and Friends" or "Friendly Visitors" was used to train volunteers who deliver meals to place bound older adults. These volunteers were taught to perform simple health-related interventions to assist the food recipients in continuing to live independently. The in-depth training is still available in many meals-on-wheels community agencies, and some senior services offices. At the end of this email I will list local seniors services offices that still have volunteer services available and who will train you be help the seniors in your community.

I believe this training needs to be available for all people in the community who would like to be part of a community-wide effort to help seniors while the budget crunch lasts.

The complete training is also being developed by OSU Extension Service and is presently being offered in Southern Oregon (1) The communities in this part of the state have been quicker to act on the break down of services and affect on Seniors and the Disabled. I believe it is time to make sure all parts of Oregon start responding to the needs of elders and the disabled.

Intervening to keep the most vulnerable safe

First, you should know that many of these members of our communities need very little help to stay safe, independent and healthy. The services that were recently cut were well organized and the seniors and disabled were fairly satisfied with the level of services. For many elders what was needed was someone to come in and help with housekeeping, shopping, and rides to doctor's appointments once a week. Without these few services many of these people are now isolated and trying cope as best they can..

What you can do

Identify seniors who live close by and visit them. If you do not know these people well, start by a short visit to identify yourself. Offer to pick up things at the grocery store or find out if they need help with something in their yard or house. If the senior is adverse to new relationships, don't push it. If you have a senior near by who you think is in danger, you can still call adult protective services for help. This agency has fewer case managers, however they still can respond. Tell the case manager that you are willing to help if there is help needed.

Go to your local senior center and tell them you want to help. Many of these centers have an excellent volunteer program. Many of these programs offer the "friendly visitor" program. You can volunteer on any level you want: a few hours, one day, a week, etc.

Summary of the "Friendly Visitor " training

The training is officially called " Maximizing Brief Encounters". These trainings are offered all over the state and can differ slightly in what they offer. Here is a summary of the training offered by the by the OSU Extension Service. This is a collaborative project that includes: Southern Oregon Senior and Disability Services, Food & Friends (Meals on Wheels) program, Oregon State University Extension, Oregon State University College of Pharmacy, Oregon Health Sciences University School of Nursing, Community health and nutrition professionals. If you are interested in this training contact your local Senior Center. If it is not offered in your community please contact Sharon Johnson directly. Her contact information is available at the end of this document.

The intervention is designed to help volunteers perform simple health-related interventions to assist the recipients in continuing to live independently.
** Volunteers are trained in
**Communication
** Sensory difficulties
** Memory loss
**Depression in later life
** Medication management - recognizing medication problems
** Food safety
** Home safety
** Community resources

The program also:
*** Gives common sense information about age-related health problems
***Practical approaches to encouraging simple lifestyle and behavioral changes
***Information about how to respond to emergencies and when to refer

One of the valuable assets of these community level trainings is that at the end of the training, you will be connected to people who can help you if you run into problems. You will not be alone.

Putting out the call in your community

Now we need to organize our communities to respond to the crisis at hand. Please forward this message to your activist lists. Please send it to people you know who would be appropriate to help. If you need more information please do not hesitate to contact me. email at elleno@pdx.edu

Ellen M. O'Shea (almost MSW)

References

1. Johnson, Sharon, Maximizing Brief Encounters - realizing measurable gains - a training for helping to assist seniors and the disabled. Family and community development, Oregon State University Extension, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point, OR 97502. (541) 776-731 x210 Email: s.johnson@oregonstate.edu

Sharon has developed a curriculum to train community members to assist seniors and disabled who live independently. She is offering this training through the OSU Extension Service. The curriculum may already be offered in your community. Contact your local senior services or senior center. Probably offered through the Meals-on-Wheels program, but appropriate for anyone who wants to learn to assist seniors and the disabled.

Websites of interest

Portland Survival Website: Put together by advocates and people who have been cut off from services. - http://www.portlandsurvival.org

Oregon Department of Human Services - http://www.hr.state.or.us/

Area agency on aging - Oregon

Lists all agencies the assist seniors in Oregon. Will help you identify groups in your community that work with seniors.

Oregon - Region X - Area agency on Aging
Lydia Lissman, Acting Administrator
Seniors and People with Disabilities
500 Summer Street, N.E., 3rd Floor
Salem, OR 97301-1073
(503) 945-5811
Fax: (503) 373-7823
E-mail: sdsd.info@state.or.us

? Local Offices by County (Off Site)

Area Agencies on Aging: (with web sites):

**Clackamas Area Agency on Aging (Oak Grove) -
http://www.co.clackamas.or.us/socialservices/ads/main.htm

** Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Services Agency - (Marion, Polk and Yamhill Counties) - http://www.open.org/~mwvssa/

** Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services (Portland) - http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/ads/index.html

**Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (Albany) - http://www.cwcog.cog.or.us/cog_ssd1.htm

**Rogue Valley Council of Governments (Central Point) - http://www.rvcog.org/

** Senior & Disabled Services (Lane County) - http://www.sdslane.org/

** Washington County Department of Aging Services (Hillsboro, Beaverton) -
http://www.co.washington.or.us/DEPTMTS/aging/aging.htm

Articles about the adverse affects of cuts to senior and disabled services

An account of an elder's death due to cuts in services from Portland Indymedia A tale from a society gone mad -
http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/05/264345.shtml

Article from the Center on budget and policy priorities - STATE FISCAL CONDITIONS CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE; FEDERAL ASSISTANCE BADLY NEEDED - http://www.cbpp.org/9-20-02sfp.htm

How cuts to human services will affect counties in Oregon - From the Oregon Department of Human Services - http://www.dhs.state.or.us/aboutdhs/budget/2001-03budget.html#allcuts

From Eugene Register Guard - Plan gives workers hope as budget cuts take a toll - March 1, 2003 - http://www.registerguard.com/news/2003/03/01/b1.cr.caseworker.0301.html

From the Curry County reporter - Curry Mental Health services receive unwelcome cuts in funding - January, 2003 - http://www.currycountyreporter.com/story113.shtml

From the Oregon Advocacy Center - budget updates March 2003 - http://www.oradvocacy.org/news/blog/

On measure 26-48 a Multnomah County initiative to restore services to seniors and disable, schools, and police for 3 years. http://www.co.multnomah.or.us/measure26-48/faq.shtml

From the Southeast Examiner - Portland - an article on restoring services - http://www.southeastexaminer.com - May 28, 2003

The Oregonian -- Opinion May 1, 2003 http://www.oregonlive.com/commentary/oregonian/index.ssf?/ba se/editorial/105179044231921.xml

For seniors, vote 'yes' on May 20 CHARLES KURTZ

Article about Measure 26-48 which would restore some services to seniors, disabled, schools, police in Multnomah County

Our seniors deserve better than this. With drastic budget cuts in Salem, the Legislature has completely dropped the ball for our elders. Many of those who have sacrificed and helped build this community are losing basic services they need to live healthy, independent lives. We can't let this happen. And if Multnomah County voters pass Measure 26-48, it won't.

You may have seen stories in the news, describing how budget cuts have left senior citizens with little or no resources -- how lost housing assistance is forcing them to leave their homes, with nowhere else to go. Others are losing critical prescription drugs and home care. In fact, since February, Elders in Action's Ombudsman Services has had a 33 percent increase in requests for help from seniors who have lost lifesaving services. For thousands of area senior citizens, the situation is desperate. Allow me to share one terrible story with you.

A senior woman living in Portland recently began writing farewell letters to her friends after hearing that she stood to lose her medical assistance. "There will be nowhere for me to go -- I really would be better off dead," she wrote. Sadly, this is not an isolated case.

We cannot, in good conscience, allow this to continue. We are better than this. Measure 26-48 will help take care of some of our most needy senior citizens. It restores Oregon Project Independence, housing assistance and medical assistance for more than 3,700 individual cases, giving them the help they need to stay healthy and in their own homes instead of being forced into expensive nursing homes. This measure doesn't do everything we would like for our seniors, but it is the least we can do for those who are most in need.

This measure also is crucial to our safety and schools. It will allow dangerous criminals to be locked up instead of let loose on the street, and it will keep 800 teachers on the job. As someone who knows the value of a dollar, I am also very concerned about the bottom line. That's why I am pleased this measure is accountable -- it will include regular independent audits and citizen oversight to make sure the money goes where it's supposed to. This is local money for local services -- not a penny goes to Salem. And for seniors on fixed incomes, it is important to note that Social Security isn't taxed. We can't wait any longer for Salem to do its job. On May 20, we can take matters into our own hands by voting yes on Measure 26-48. We need it now. It's the right thing to do.

Charles Kurtz of Portland is chairman of Oregon's Elders in Action Commission.

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mother_revolution 11.May.2003 22:36

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