The Division on Aging administers two services introduced in 2002 to broaden the City's outreach to its older citizens. One program, the Senior Companion Caregiver Program, acknowledges the growing trend of younger family members who often must take on the responsibilities of caring for older, ailing relatives and the difficulties that undertaking presents. The other program, The Senior Injury Prevention Program in conjunction with the Berkeley Fire Department, identifies elders who often live alone and have no one else to turn to when they become ill or injured.
The Senior Companion Caregiver Program
The Senior Companion Caregiver Program at the South Berkeley Senior Center provides culturally considerate services for all in a predominantly African American senior community. Senior Companions are matched with a Caregiver/Care-Receiver pair and provide a variety of vital services. The results are impressive. In the first nine months of operation, four Senior Companion volunteers and one part-time, bilingual staff person delivered 140 outreach contacts, 244 information and assistance contacts, 511 hours of respite, 116 hours of visiting with caregivers, 69 hours of homemaker services and three placements.
Services are primarily provided to South and West Berkeley residents, in part to address the health disparities in previously underserved African American and Latino households. Currently, additional funding is being sought to expand the program throughout all of Berkeley based on this community-based model. The City of Oakland's Senior Companion Program and the Center for Independent Living are key partners in this collaborative venture. The City of Oakland's program provides ongoing training to Berkeley-based Senior Companions in addition to administrative support such as the dispensing of travel and meal stipends. The City of Berkeley's Senior Companion Caregiver Program also provides valuable training and comprehensive assessments in collaboration with the Center for Independent Living, long known for their work in the disabled community.
For more information please call the South Berkeley Senior Center at (510) 981-5170.
The Senior Injury Prevention Program
During the spring of 2002, the City of Berkeley’s Fire Department together with the Division on Aging and Health, Housing & Human Services launched an exciting collaborative Senior Injury Prevention Program.
Senior Injury Prevention is a Public Health issue that addresses identifying older adults at risk and then targeting assistance to them that will help the senior to maintain their independence and quality of life. When a senior’s independence, mobility or mental outlook is impacted by poor health or limited resources, the older adult can end up in a downward spiral that may lead to institutionalization or death. In the United States, one out of every three persons over the age of 65 years falls each year, and two-thirds of those who fall do so again within six months. Among people over the age of 65 years, falls are the leading cause of injuries and injury deaths. The prevention of falls is multi-faceted and includes physical activity, proper nutrition, adequate hydration, medication management, assessment of vision, removal of tripping hazards in the home, adequate lighting, and the reduction of substance abuse/misuse.
The City of Berkeley’s Senior Injury Prevention Program consists of four phases:
Education of front-line Fire Department staff who make referrals about vulnerable older adults in the community to the Division on Aging. Division on Aging staff at the North and South Berkeley Senior Centers, and/or West Berkeley Service Centers provide a follow-up assessment to the older adult.
The Resident Emergency Information form is distributed to seniors and includes information such as any current medical condition that is vital to first responders in the event of an emergency. The form is completed and affixed to the inside of the medicine cabinet or the back of the bathroom door.
Presentations to Senior groups by Fire Department and Division on Aging staff about injury prevention and home safety.
Education about geriatric health concerns to fire department staff.
During the first six months of this collaborative program, 32 cases have been referred by the Fire Department to the Division on Aging. Of the 32, seven were fall victims; others had various health challenges including dizziness, weakness, and disorientation. Nine of the referrals have gone into long term care. Four cases have been referred to Adult Protective Services. Many of the referrals do have some family or paid care-giving available to them; however, the level of assistance is inadequate for their current needs. All referrals or their family members have received information and assistance from the Division on Aging on a variety of services that are available through the City of Berkeley or other organizations that serve older adults.
As one participant who was referred to the Division on Aging by the Fire Department said, "…when the firefighter asked me if I’d like someone to call me from the Division on Aging, I never believed that I would actually hear from someone. I was sure surprised to learn about all of these services!"