Low-income seniors need help this holiday season

2013-12-15T00:00:00Z 2014-01-07T13:38:05Z Low-income seniors need help this holiday seasonBy Loni Nannini For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Barring intervention, “Bah, humbug!” may be the holiday theme for more than 100 low-income seniors and disabled residents at Catalina Village.

“It looks like this year we might just have hot chocolate and cookies on Christmas Eve,” said John Bartlett, Catalina Village’s life enrichment and social services director.

Catalina Village is the only assisted-living facility in Tucson dedicated exclusively to clients of the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS), a program that serves indigent people at least 65 years old and the disabled. The facility provides individual apartments and three daily meals, along with assisted-living services such as activities, assistance with personal care, laundry and medication management.

Each apartment is furnished with a bed, dresser, nightstand and lamp as well as a small refrigerator and microwave. Basic cable service is provided , but televisions are not.

“Our residents don’t fall under the scope of those who need skilled nursing and can manage fairly independently on their own, but many come straight from the hospital or other health-care facilities with nothing whatsoever, and the apartments we provide are very basic,” Bartlett said.

Most residents average about $100 in disposable monthly income, Bartlett said, which must cover needs such as clothing, personal items, snacks and co-pays for medication.

“These residents are grateful for all the little things they have. Most shop at thrift stores across the street for clothes or books. They don’t ask for much, and they are good people. Many have worked their whole lives and then a medical situation such as a stroke or heart attack changed everything in an instant,” Bartlett said.

He said he feels compelled to increase community awareness about the needs of residents at Catalina Village.

“I have had many people tell me they don’t know this place exists. During the holidays, there are so many groups competing for help: seniors, the disabled, the homeless and children. It is hard to see so many people in need vying for the community’s attention, but any donation is appreciated here,” he said.

Tucsonans interested in supporting seniors in need can also consider contributions to the Pima Council On Aging Community Services System, which serves about 1,200 seniors annually.

The Community Services System provides home-based services designed to help keep seniors independent and in their homes including case management, housekeeping, personal care, visiting nurses, home-delivered meals, shopping services and an emergency alert system. It also offers adult daycare and respite for individuals caring for a loved one.

The typical profile of a Community Services client is an 80-year-old female with a fixed income between $800 and $1,000 a month, said Angie Sytsma, director of community services. Sytsma said that upon enrollment, clients may need only moderate assistance with housekeeping, but their needs increase as they age.

Most clients find it difficult to ask for help and minimize the need for assistance, she said.

“Our seniors are often the members of the community we take most for granted. Individuals we serve are still getting requests to help their adult children or grandchildren, often to their own peril. ... We had one case recently where mom could hardly pay her own rent but couldn’t say no to her daughter when she called and asked for assistance. She sacrificed her own housing stability for her daughter and grandchildren.”

By the time someone calls the council’s Helpline (790-7262), their needs are much higher than what they indicate, Sytsma said.

Contributions to the Community Services System, which uses some volunteers, benefit the recipients and the entire community by providing a safety net to ALTCS. Currently, needs exceed program capacity, and there is a waiting list of prospective clients who need services.

“A gift to this program makes a profound impact on the lives of individuals and families. This is a program with very low overhead, and gifts are felt directly at a programmatic level in the community,” Sytsma said.

She said she hopes the community will help PCOA bridge the gap left by cuts of more $1.8 million in city, federal and state government funding since 2010.

“Government funding continues to decrease and the need continues to increase,” she said. “It is a perfect storm, especially with baby boomers entering into our Community Services System.”

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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