Better at Home helps link seniors with services

The Shuswap’s Better at Home program is expanding its outreach to better assist seniors to remain independent

The Shuswap’s Better at Home program is expanding its outreach to better assist seniors to remain independent.

Better at Home co-ordinator Wysteria Scholtz has arranged bi-weekly drop-in dates for Sicamous, Salmon Arm, Sorrento, Blind Bay and Enderby, in order to meet in person those seniors who are in need of the services that are co-ordinated through the program.

There are 60 Better at Home programs run throughout the province, each funded through the B.C. Ministry of Health and administered by the United Way. The program is intended to assist seniors “with simple day-to-day tasks so they can continue living at home.”

Jeanne Rokosh, general manager of Shuswap Better at Home, says her role is to help co-ordinate the delivery of non-medical services for seniors who would like to remain in their homes. These services include things like housekeeping, lawn work, the provision of transportation, minor home repairs, grocery shopping and friendly social visits.

Rokosh says research done by the United Way found seniors could live in their homes for a longer duration if they had an avenue through which to access such services.

“What we learned through some of the research was that people were having to move from their homes and into what we might call residential service for seniors when they might simply have needed someone to help with their lawnmowing or grocery shopping,” explained Rokosh. “So what came out of that was this notion of, why couldn’t we provide more co-ordination of services and support for seniors so they wouldn’t have to relocate.”

Depending on the services needed, and the financial status of those needing the service, Rokosh says there is one of two paths that may be taken.

“One is that we may have volunteers available who may be able to provide that support or resource. And the other path is… if there is finance limitations on behalf of the senior, we may be able to assess them and see if they are eligible for subsidy – we have a limited amount of subsidy available as well.”

The three-year Shuswap program is nearing the end of the first year of operation.

Rokosh says one of the challenges the program has faced, one that was anticipated, has to do with the size of the region the program serves and the lack of transit and transportation for those living in smaller communities. This, Rokosh explained, can make the provision of a service difficult when long distances are involved.

“For example, we’re thinking about snow shovelling this winter. We’re certain seniors are going to need that kind of service, but to be able to have a company or a person or an organization that works regionally in all the areas, I think we’re hard-pressed to find them,” said Rokosh, adding distance and transit challenges makes it difficult to get service providers to seniors on a steady basis.

“With the cost of gas, it’s cost-prohibitive for people to even think about providing the service.”

Asked what services have been most requested, Rokosh said initially most calls were for housekeeping. However, requests for friendly visits are now on par. She says this is something many involved in the provision of care for seniors are seeing.

“The incidences of seniors experiencing loneliness is quite high,” said Rokosh. “We have about an equal number of inquiries from people who are living with someone as from people who are living alone, and I think now, more than ever, we’re seeing seniors with family members who are living far away.

“Their family is not within the vicinity of where they’re currently living. They’re aging without a whole lot of support, and that’s not uncommon. Health care would probably echo that, as would other sectors.”

Rokosh says the roll out of bi-weekly drop-in dates throughout the region corresponds with the opening of the Copper Island Seniors Resource Centre in Blind Bay.

Sholtz is scheduled to be there Tuesday afternoons between 1 and 4 p.m. She will be in Sicamous Mondays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Eagle Valley Resource Centre, at the Enderby Seniors Complex on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 4 p.m., and in Salmon Arm at the Seniors Drop-in Centre on Hudson from 11 to 2 p.m.

To book an appointment or for more information, call 250-253-2749, or visit