Health services for teens and senior are available in Jefferson County | United Good Neighbors 2021

By Leslie Kelly Special to The Leader
Posted 11/24/21

 

 

As Baby Boomers begin to hit that magical age of needing help, there’s an increasing need for in-home care givers.

But very few younger people are choosing caregiving as …

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Health services for teens and senior are available in Jefferson County | United Good Neighbors 2021

Posted

 

 

As Baby Boomers begin to hit that magical age of needing help, there’s an increasing need for in-home care givers.

But very few younger people are choosing caregiving as a career.

That’s what Robin Gibson faces every single day. Gibson is the service director of long-term care for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.

“In home care services is a significant need in Jefferson County,” Gibson said. “These are the people who allow seniors to remain independent and living in their own homes.”

But nonprofits like Catholic Community Services are in direct competition with nursing homes, assisted living centers, physician’s offices, and other private in-home care agencies for the few individuals who choose to work with the aging population.

Gibson said she could place five to six caregivers in jobs today, if she had them.

“Caregiving is a very hard job,” she said. “Not everybody can do it.”

In the past few months, Gibson hasn’t been able to find caregivers.

“Zero,” she said, referring to the placements made. “It’s just a growing issue.”

Gibson said she’s been working with WorkSource, and other job placement agencies, to find caregivers, but hasn’t been able to.

“For some reason, the younger generation isn’t interested in home care,” she said. “It’s not a career that young people want to do.”

The job requires physical and emotional strength, Gibson said. Lifting someone into a bathtub, helping them with bathroom needs, dressing them, giving them their medications, and making sure they have nutritious meals can be part of the work.

“It’s a hard job,” Gibson said. “And while it pays more than fast food work, it’s a job where you have to work with people, not just flip burgers.”

Recruiting and maintaining caregivers who often serve an elderly population that relies on community organizations and nonprofits for care, is difficult.

“We aren’t able to offer or provide as much (pay and benefits) as the private companies can, which that makes finding caregivers even that much harder,” she said.

Gibson doubts things will improve soon but hopes that younger persons and physically fit mid-career individuals will consider becoming in-home caregivers.

Another need of the aging population is transportation to medical appointments, and medical equipment that they may not be able to afford on  their limited incomes.

That’s where ECHHO comes in.

Ecumenical Christian Helping Hands Organization (ECHHO) is a nonprofit that helps seniors get to their medical appointments by providing rides. And it also has a lending program for medical equipment, including wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers.

“When COVID first started, the number of calls for help we got went way down,” said Nancy Budd-Garvan, a board member of ECHHO. “Everybody was hunkered down and nobody was going anywhere.”

But, she said, after the vaccinations were available, seniors began seeing their doctors and scheduling their elective surgeries that had been cancelled due to the pandemic.

“We are back closer to our pre-pandemic numbers,” Budd-Garvan said.

At the end of September 2021, the organization had made 1,130 trips to medical appointments. It loaded medical equipment to seniors or others who needed it 1,428 times. Volunteers had clocked 2,000 hours and had driven 35,650 miles.

Throughout the lockdown times, ECHHO was able to maintain its staff and keep its programs operating for those who did make it to medical appointments or needed equipment.

“We did lose volunteers,” Budd-Garvan said. “But some of our drivers continued to drive.”

The biggest change was that ECHHO put safety protocols in place.

“Our drivers carried disinfectant cloths and wiped down everything in the vehicle between trips,” she said. “Drivers and our clients wear masks, keep distance between each other and they have a window open in the vehicle. And we are keeping our precise cleaning protocols in place indefinitely.”

Every piece of equipment that is loaned is cleaned and disinfected when it is returned to ECHHO, each time it is loaned.

Board of director members have gone overboard to let people know about the safety regulations, she said, and riders have to show when they were last vaccinated.

“Someone doesn’t have to be vaccinated to get help,” Budd-Garvan said. “But we let our volunteer drivers know and they can decide whether to sign up to take an unvaccinated rider.”

The need for ECHHO services is expected to continue to grow.

“Every year when we read our city’s profile, we see an influx of seniors in our city,” she said. “We have a lot of retires and people over 65 and as they age, they are only going to need more help.”

When it comes to helping youth in the community with their mental health needs, The Benji Project is one of the services available.

The Benji Project, named for a local youth Benji Kenworthy who died by suicide, offers stress management and resiliency training to teens through mindfulness and self-compassion. The curriculum “Making Friends with Yourself,” is offered through the Post Townsend Public School District during health classes. It is being expanded to Chimacum schools soon.

According to Heather McRae-Woof, during the coronavirus shutdown, classes were offered virtually, but this fall students have been back in the classroom learning in person. The core format is an eight-week class, two hours per week usually offered two to three times a year for high school students.

Also offered are youth mindfulness circle sessions during which small groups in sixth to 12th grades discover practices that offer grounding in times of stress, and comfort in times of upheaval. Meetings are in-person held outdoors in Port Townsend.

“Having classes be virtual had mixed reactions from the students,” said McRae-Woof. “I saw some students kind of like the cocooning. They liked the idea of remote classes because it allowed them to be in their safe place. The important thing is, regardless of whether it’s in a remote session or in person, the students continue to express their feelings and be kind to themselves.”

Teen years are stressful time no matter what else is going on in the world, she said. Less internal criticism and countering that critical voice with kinder words and thoughts is the goal of many of the programs The Benji Projects offers.

Besides classes in the public schools, The Benji Project also hosts summer camps. This year those camps were held outdoors, under coronavirus protocols, for students ages 11 to 14 years of age. Another session for high school students also was added this past summer.

“We hadn’t been able to have summer camps in 2020,” McRae-Woof said. “We were really glad to have them back this year.”

The pandemic led some students to feel more isolated, she said. Some of them saw no one but family for months. And teens also were subjected to the social media focus on division and not unity.

“Teens grapple with the same social awareness of conflict that all adults are,” McRae-Woof said. “Social media seems to stress division over unity and that can be stressful.”

In a recent survey by The Benji Project of 10th-graders, few of them said they feel they have a trusted adult in their lives that they can go to. That led to The Benji Project initiating community connections between teens and trusted adults.

“We want to create relationships between the adults and the youth in our community,” she said. “We need to listen to our youth and help them explore ways to be kind to themselves.”

McRae-Woof said adults willing to help can contact her at teachers@thebenjiproject.org.

“We also have a need for board members with development and finance backgrounds,” she said. “And to serve on the Program Advisory Committee.”

There’s a short video on the project’s website, thebenjiproject.org, in which students speak about their experiences and their feelings during the pandemic.

McRae-Woof applauded those who support the Give Jefferson campaign and the funding that The Benji Project has received.

“That is so important in developing the programs we have,” she said. “We recognize that many adults are helping us financially and that shows how they care.”

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