Caring for the elderly with chronic illness or disability is a growing concern for families in the Long Beach/South Bay community. LSS-CCC in Long Beach continues to receive numerous requests for programs addressing the needs of the elderly and their caregivers. In response to these requests for help, a needs survey was sent to community agencies, hospitals, churches, health-care professionals, and senior citizens. Six specific areas of need emerged from the survey responses. They include: family and caregiver issues; grief and loss; illness, disability and health care; mental health issues; living and care options; healthy aging.
These core issues were used to build the foundation of a comprehensive program, Elders and Their Families: A Program of Care and Caregiving. This program promotes healthy aging and strives to improve the overall health and well-being of seniors and their caregivers. Workshop and support group topics address topics of the six core areas identified in the needs survey. The program began in May 2002 with a two year grant from the Weingart Foundation. Currently this program provides workshops, support groups, information and referral for seniors, their families, and caregivers at the LSS/SC Long Beach Center and surrounding locations throughout Los Angeles County. Low-income ethnic minority participants from the community who have many needs and often fewer resources have expressed great appreciation for the project. These participants have gained much needed support and assistance which is contributing to the overall health of their families.
The following are some of the Outcomes of the Elders and Their Families: A Program of Care and Caregiving: families and their caregivers have reduced stress associated with caregiving; participants have increased ability to utilize health and community resources, including support groups to help with illnesses; participants and caregivers possess effective problem solving and coping strategies, have social support, and improved physical and mental health; participants have the ability to select appropriate living and care options; participants have improved family relationships and communication; participants have made changes in nutrition, stress reduction, attitude, and exercise for positive aging; participants have understanding and knowledge of major mental illnesses (such as depression and anxiety) and also substance abuse and have the knowledge of treatments available; participants have received referrals for treatment and are receiving treatments for mental illness and/or substance abuse; participants have improved home environments, nutrition and health; participants have reduced isolation and loneliness; participants have the capacity to remain in their home with adequate support and prevent premature institutionalization.
Our partnership with another community agency, Faith in Action/Volunteer Action for Aging, has enabled us to provide even higher quality services for the seniors and their family members of our community. For over three years we have served on the Advisory Board of this organization, and we partner together working on several community projects. This organization is operated through Independence at Home and is designed to assist seniors and disabled adults in their efforts to maintain independence in their homes and communities as long as possible. Volunteers are recruited to provide weekly telephone contact or home visitation. In March 2007 we began another partnership with Faith in Action/Volunteer Action for Aging which has been very successful. Lutheran Social Services provides emergency assistance (food, clothing, hygiene items, and slippers) to low-income seniors without adequate resources and Faith in Action/Volunteer Action for Aging and the other components of Independence at Home provide case management and mental health services with professional counselors and staff.
Funding for Elders and Their Families: A Program of Care and Caregiving has been received from California Endowment, California Wellness, the Ralph Parsons Foundation, and the Josephine Gumbiner Foundation for the years 2004-2006. Additional funding is now needed to continue this valuable program.