For 10 years, a critical aging serviceIf it takes a village to care for our elders, no one knows that better than the hundreds of senior citizens and family caregivers that Community Partners, the “Living at Home” program in Two Harbors, has supported since its inception 10 years ago.
By: Christine Holm, Lake County News Chronicle
If it takes a village to care for our elders, no one knows that better than the hundreds of senior citizens and family caregivers that Community Partners, the “Living at Home” program in Two Harbors, has supported since its inception 10 years ago. The program exists to enable older persons to live independently in their own homes while it also supports those who care for them.
Kirsten Cruikshank, CP’s director, was instrumental in bringing the program to life. “It’s what I set out to do in college – help seniors and community,” she said. “It’s what I wanted to do.”
To celebrate its 10 years of service, Community Partners is hosting an open house beginning at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Two Harbors Community Center. All who attend may register for a door prize quilt donated by the Emmanuel Quilters. There are other prizes.
Chat with board members, ask questions, meet Cruikshank and her staff, have a cup of coffee, a piece of cake, or other healthy snacks.
“After 10 years,” Cruikshank said, “we know there is strength in numbers, but more importantly, we know there is strength in each moment of connection between the helper and the helped.
“And when helping with an open heart, the lines between the two grow fainter and everyone is a better person for getting involved.”
Finding quality care for older family members is a growing problem. They need help navigating the maze of medicines and health care and often struggle through medical problems. They need help preparing meals, shopping, balancing the checkbook. Often, they’re lonely and isolated at home. Continuing to live at home seems impossible without help from family members, while the prospect of going to a nursing home seems too drastic or even scary.
Yet, when family members can and do step in, they often find themselves burned out caring for parents coupled with ongoing personal commitments of job and family. In time, it wears them down to the point that their own health suffers. Then no one benefits.
It’s a problem that gave rise to Community Partners 10 years ago.
What it boils down to, Cruikshank says, is supporting and fostering caring relationships during health care challenges and transitions. “Since the year 2000,” Cruikshank said “179 Community Partners volunteers have served 696 senior citizens and family caregivers, and provided approximately 4,000 hours of service each year. Thirty-three leaders have offered their time and talents as members of our board of directors.”
Putting it together
“One of the most important things we do is offer options,” she said. “We’ve identified 10 different stages seniors experience, from living at home with no help to taking up residence at a nursing home. We can help with all the stages,” she said. “What we do is organize neighborhood volunteers and provide support services, information, and service coordination.”
But what’s most disturbing, Cruikshank says, is that too often seniors and their family members are afraid to admit they need help. “They think that if they ask, they’ll end up at a nursing home. But there are so many resources available to help them stay home and independent for as long as possible.”
“The earlier you ask, the more time you can remain independent.”
Community Partners isn’t a high-budget programs that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Cruikshank said the program’s total budget is about $100,000 a year. That includes grants, contracts, donations, and proceeds from fund-raisers.
“We really need the fund-raisers to raise a local match for grants,” she says. As an example, the group sponsored a bake sale at Super One Foods in Two Harbors on Saturday. Such events often bring in about $500 of needed funding.
“It’s really an economical way of serving seniors,” Cruikshank said. “When our seniors can stay at home, the family saves and our public dollars are saved. We use the strengths available in the community.”
The program’s volunteers, of course, are among the community’s best strengths available. Cruikshank says that the program enjoys the help of about 80 volunteers throughout Lake County (it serves from Knife River up to the Gooseberry Falls area).
Volunteers can do friendly visiting, offer rides and companionship to medical appointments, shopping, and other care as needed.
Community partners also has its “First Call” emergency phone program, grocery delivery and nutrition assistance, caregiver consultation, and respite care.
Financial assistance is available for family caregivers.