Chatham Council on Aging

Posted 10/11/19


Editor’s note: As part of the News + Record’s commitment to the community, we’re partnering with the United Way of Chatham County to help …

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Chatham Council on Aging

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Editor’s note: As part of the News + Record’s commitment to the community, we’re partnering with the United Way of Chatham County to help provide insight into the work of the agencies the program helps fund with a series of local agency profiles; information is provided by the agencies in conjunction with the United Way. The United Way relies on donations from individuals and businesses to meet the needs of its member agencies. Please consider a generous gift.

Focus Area:

Strengthening the Community

Name of United Way Supported Program(s):

Chatham County Council on Aging

How will Chatham County Council on Aging use United Way donor dollars?

United Way donor funds support our In-Home Aide, Caregiver Respite and Transportation services, all of which help older adults remain living in the community.

All of our programs and services support our mission of allowing seniors to age in the communities they helped build and have supported. The In-Home Aide Program embodies that mission by assisting older adults to maintain their independence and dignity at home by providing a qualified aide to help with personal care (e.g., bathing, grooming, dressing and feeding) and perform in-home tasks such as light housekeeping and meal preparation. The program empowers older adults to remain in their homes, age in their communities, and avoid or delay placement in a facility. Imagine not being able to complete these tasks by yourself and the effect on your physical, mental and emotional well-being that may result. Even though an individual may only receive a few hours of this service on a weekly basis, it may indeed be their “lifeline.” Use of in-home aides can also be a “lifeline” for working and stressed family caregivers by providing reassurance and relief from sometimes 24-hour, 7 days a week caregiving duties. Our Council on Aging contracts with State-licensed home care agencies to provide these personal care and caregiver respite services.

Another critical need is for transportation. Many seniors lose the ability or privilege to drive, which may be one of the most difficult things to overcome during aging. Other seniors may not drive due to financial or physical limitations. Lack of transportation limits one’s independence, personal schedule, and can lead to isolation, depression, and sometimes decreased health. Our Transportation Program supports mobility and continued engagement in the community through its contract with the Chatham Transit Network. The Council provides eight routes to its two Centers (Pittsboro and Siler City) Monday through Friday. Riders come to the Centers for a noon-day meal and a wide array of social, educational, fitness and other recreational activities. In addition, participants are also able to do grocery shopping on certain days. Another vital service offered through the Council are trips to medical appointments. Transportation is vital to keeping seniors healthy and active in their communities.

Why is this program essential to Chatham County?

Frail elderly who are unable to obtain in-home personal care can experience issues like hunger, health risks, and unsafe home conditions—all of which can lead to risks of hospitalization, placement in a facility, or even death. This is a particular risk for those not eligible for Medicaid but unable to pay privately for the help they need. It is well documented that there are many seniors in Chatham County in this situation. This population of socially and economically needy seniors are those we especially work to support. Another emphasis is on family caregivers who are the backbone of long-term care. Caregiving can take a toll on one’s physical, financial, mental and emotional well-being. The respite and other supports we offer can make the difference in allowing family members to continue caring for their loved ones at home. One can see the positive effect of the in-home aide and respite services in this statistic: of the 119 clients we served this past year, only 6 required placement in either assisted living or a nursing home. The funding that we received from United Way and other sources has also been critical in helping the home care providers recruit and retain aides who can provide quality and reliable care. We have made a commitment toward assuring that aides receive a fair, living wage. Any decrease in the level of funding or of services provided has a significant, negative consequence on Chatham seniors and their families and on our community as a whole.

Among the many issues facing Chatham’s growing senior population, transportation is near if not at the top. The importance of transportation support is shown in a 2010 report (sponsored by the U.S Department of Transportation), Transportation, Distance, and Health Care Utilization for Older Adults in Rural and Small Urban Areas: “There is significant evidence that health care utilization is lower in rural areas compared to urban areas. While there are a number of possible explanations for these differences, such as differences in the number of physicians available or individual characteristics, the longer travel distances and fewer transportation options available in rural areas could be a significant factor. Distances to regional health care centers in rural areas can often be great. The problem becomes compounded when a growing portion of residents in rural areas are older adults who need access to health care services but may have limited transportation options. There are an increasing number of senior citizens living in rural areas who prefer to age in place but may be forced into moving to improve their access to health care. If providing transportation to health care for those who lack it increases the utilization of these services, there could be cost benefits in terms of reduced need for emergency care and preventable hospitalizations.” Based on national statistics, it is estimated that about one in five persons aged 65 and older no longer drives. On average, older adults will live seven to ten years past the age when they can safely drive. With older adults composing about a third of Chatham’s population, this represents a significant community need.

Please share a story about a Chatham resident this program helped and the impact it made.

“The Chatham County Council on Aging provided numerous services to my mother. She received a hospital bed, walker, ‘potty chair,’ and shower equipment. The service that allowed her to continue to stay at her home for years was the Personal Care Aide Service. She had numerous Aides but the last one was like family. The companionship the Aides brought was invaluable. They brought a glimpse of the outside to my mother who was homebound for more than 10 years. The ‘Angel Tree’ was something she looked forward to every Christmas. The joy on her face when she would go through the bag was priceless. The men that came to repair the things for her and her husband kept them from having to struggle to find and pay for a repairman. Thank you does not seem like enough. I am hoping to volunteer as an Ambassador. You guys are jewels and I am grateful that you served my Mother.”

“Dad has dialysis three days a week and he longer drives. So he must be driven everywhere he goes. He must take 22 to 26 trips per month to and from dialysis treatments. COA provides transportation for a portion of those trips. Every little bit helps and adds up.”

“As a user of the medical transportation system, I want to thank you for your generous and helpful service. I learned about the system through a friend, and I find it to be the answer to my needs for getting to medical appointments. It truly benefits me as a senior citizen who needs help with driving.”

“I wouldn’t be able to get the senior center in my own car as I am sharing a car with my daughter who is working…transportation is very important for going shopping , coming to the center, etc. Otherwise I would be isolated, home alone, seniors can get depressed if home all the time, not much freedom.”

“I live alone, I wouldn’t be able to get around otherwise and I would be isolated; transportation is extremely important to me. I really don’t cook anymore, so I might end up eating popcorn for a meal which in not ideal.”

“I wouldn’t socialize if I couldn’t come to the center, living 15 miles away I would be isolated. I enjoy the meals and social time.”


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