Elder Options Inc., a care management company connecting elders and their families in El Dorado County and the greater Sacramento area with needed services for the past 25 years, is introducing the Gatekeeper Program to the Western Slope.
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The Gatekeeper Program, which was conceived of by Ray Raschko, MSW, at Spokane Mental Health’s Elder Services, in 1978 and which has since been adopted both nationally and internationally, helps to provide employees of businesses in regular contact with elder individuals with contact information for community resources that may assist elders in maintaining an independent lifestyle.
The Gatekeeper Program originated in Spokane, Wash. after Raschko observed a need for it in the community and convinced employees at the Washington Water Power Company to train their meter readers to recognize signs that an isolated elder may be in need of assistance, whether it be for their physical or emotional well-being.
The need for The Gatekeeper Program exists in El Dorado County, which has a senior population of about 16.5 percent, as compared to 12 percent for the state overall, according to the United States Census Bureau’s 2012 estimates. Connecting those individuals to such services as transportation, nutrition and other support can help them to maintain their independence for as long as possible.
“Many older adults live alone on property a distance from their neighbors. Others may live with neighbors nearby but haven’t gotten acquainted (with them) or are disabled and unable to get out. Their only links to the community are the meter readers, garbage men, postal workers, UPS drivers, etc. (who visit their property in the course of doing their jobs). They are the only ‘eyes and ears’ that this person can depend on when there’s a need. Calling 911 in an emergency is critical but when an ambulance or law enforcement is not necessary, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a good phone number to call?” said Carol Heape, director of Elder Options.
Since the above-mentioned individuals come into contact with elders on a regular basis, they can serve as front-line observers to ensure that they remain safe.
For example, a PG&E utility worker was able to come to the aid of an 85-year-old woman who had been trapped in her bathtub for two days. She was rescued and sent to the hospital after the worker heard her yelling as he came into her rural yard to read her meter. He was able to get into the house to assist her and called 911 to have her transported to the hospital for care. Following a four-day stay, she returned to her home with a Vital Link pendant to use in the future, should she find herself in a similar situation.
To this end, Elder Options has identified and contacted over 25 of these “front-line” businesses on the Western Slope and will be distributing at-your-fingertip style bookmarks to them, listing contact information for numerous support services that cater to the needs of elders.
To download the information on the bookmark visit the resources page on the Website at elderoptionsca.com.
For more information on the program contact Elder Options at 530-626-6939.