Eastern Area Agency on Aging sees increase in requests for services

Posted March 27, 2011, at 5:35 p.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine  — More senior citizens, adults with disabilities and caregivers in Piscataquis, Washington, Hancock and Penobscot counties reached out for more help in 2010 than in 2009 from the Eastern Area Agency on Aging.

Piscataquis County commissioners learned recently that the nonprofit agency’s 53 employees, some of whom are part-time, along with more than 700 volunteers, served 14,332 clients in 2010, a 29 percent increase over 2009.

Leslie Lizotte, an outreach social worker with the agency, which is funded in part by the Department of Health and Human Services and municipal donations, told the commissioners last week that the agency provides information, community outreach including minor home repairs, health insurance assistance, transportation, health and wellness and the agency’s popular Meals on Wheels and Community Cafes. Income-eligible senior pet owners also receive some help with pet food that has been donated to the agency.

‘’We really look at the whole picture,’’ when someone reaches out for help from the agency, Lizotte said. ‘’We try to find out if there are programs that can help them.’’

For those caring for people with dementia and related disorders, the agency offers respite care for short periods of time as a stop-gap measure. ‘’We have a very small respite program, small but powerful,’’ Lizotte said. The agency provided 1,571 families with respite and caregiver services in 2009.

Staff members and volunteers also spend considerable time helping seniors through insurance issues and programs. ‘’Insurance is no longer simple’’ considering all of the different insurance plans, Lizotte said.

Another area of need is provided through the Meals for Me program.  About 623 meals per day were served to seniors in 2009, both in the various dining rooms set up throughout the counties and home deliveries, according to Lizotte. In addition, volunteers and a part-time employee served 138 people with minor home repairs from installing ramps, steps, lawn care and simple home modifications.

Those home visits sometimes result in something unexpected, according to Tom Iverson Jr., Piscataquis County’s emergency management agency director. He said on a couple of occasions, volunteers have found homeowners deceased. Iverson suggested this week that the agency should provide volunteers with training on how to handle such incidents.

Lizotte concurred that training would be helpful. ‘’We could not do our work without the volunteers,’’ she said.

The 737 volunteers who work with the agency provided 58,742 hours of services, the equivalent of 28 full-time people year-round, according to agency officials.

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