The actor Bette Davis famously stated, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Davis may be right, but older adults need companionship and assistance to thrive. This past year has particularly challenged Long Island’s seniors.
If you’ve sensed that an older friend or family member is struggling in this way, or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, there are ways to help. Warning signs include loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable, sleep disturbance, under or overeating, and feeling sad or anxious.
When this happens, people’s inclination is to reach inward rather than reach out. It’s important to talk to a trusted friend, family member or physician. Things can get better. No one has to live like that.
Contrary to popular belief, depression and anxiety are not part of getting older. Most seniors age well, can learn new things, and benefit from counseling and psychotherapy.
The pandemic has normalized isolation, exacerbating mental health issues. Most at risk are older adults who live alone without ready transportation or regular visitors. When COVID shut down services and community gathering places frequented by older adults, FCA mobilized staff and volunteers to phone seniors to keep them connected.
At Family and Children’s Association, the mission of its Senior Division is to protect and strengthen Nassau County’s seniors through services that ensure safety, maximize independence, respect the right to self-determination, and improve the overall quality of life. FCA staff help seniors navigate the ever-changing health care system, manage finances, cope with mental health concerns, and connect with resources to support living at home safely. Seniors are a vital part of the community, and with a little assistance, continue to thrive, remain active and contribute to the community.
FCA provides these services to seniors and caregivers regardless of income level or ability to pay. Generational and cultural barriers remain, however, keeping some from seeking support from outside of their family unit.
Many who have struggled with mental and psychological challenges over time find that their coping strategies no longer work for a variety of reasons.
They may have transportation issues, adult children who have moved away, or lost a spouse or friends. Multiple chronic medical conditions may require a host of medications. A shortage of psychiatrists who take Medicare or insurance and a lack of geriatricians compound the issues.
FCA’s Senior Division excels at connecting consumers with the right community services.
FCA’s Linkage Project coordinates community resources, advocacy, and counseling for homebound seniors who struggle with mental health or substance use disorders. Program staff make home visits to evaluate and assess needs, help develop a personal care plan, connect seniors with services that will help them stay safely at home, and facilitate connection to long-term care supports, emphasizing overall health and wellbeing.
EISEP Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program provides case management and in-home services for isolated homebound seniors. EISEP can provide up to 20 hours of home care services with a cost share based on monthly income and expenses. FCA’s Chore Workers assist with light housekeeping, cooking, shopping, and laundry.
With the support of a Newsday grant, FCA is able to help seniors schedule COVID 19 vaccine appointments and assist with transportation. The program, administered by a licensed social worker, can provide counseling and support for seniors experiencing COVID-related isolation, stress and anxiety.
FRIENDLY VISITING PROGRAM
FCA’s Friendly Visiting Program matches volunteers with homebound seniors for mutually rewarding socialization and personal connection. For many clients, their only social interaction is with the volunteer and the caseworker.
Our older neighbors’ life experiences, insights and ideas enrich and contribute to the lives of those around them. Pay a visit, pick up some groceries for them, offer a ride to their place of worship. If you know seniors who could benefit from the wide variety of services available at FCA or in your neighborhood, a phone call could help get them access the services they need to thrive. FCA’s Senior Division can be reached at 516.292.1300.
FCA’s Senior and Adult Services are made possible with funding from the Nassau County Department of Human Services, Office for the Aging through New York State Office for the Aging, and the U.S. Administration on Aging. Programs are also supported by grants received from the Fay J. Lindner Foundation, PSEG, Manhasset Community Fund, NY State Office of Mental Health, NY Division of Criminal Justice, Huguette Clark Foundation, Federal VOCA Victim and Witness Assistance, New York State Office of Victims Services, and Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc., NY State Office of Long Term Care Ombudsman Program
Lisa Stern LCSW-R is Assistant Vice President, Senior & Adult Services with Family and Children’s Association (Garden City), one of Long Island’s oldest and largest social services agencies. www.fcali-org