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Sue Guinn Legg

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Personal Support Services aims to help seniors at risk

December 7th, 2011 10:32 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

Personal Support Services aims to help seniors at risk

Editor’s Note: The United Way of Washington County is wrapping up its 2011 fundraising campaign for 17 local nonprofit service agencies and programs. Through donations from workers and employers across the county, the United Way is working to raise $1.725 million to maintain its annual funding for the agencies’ services to local children, seniors and others in need. Today’s story on the First Tennessee Human Resource Agency’s Personal Support Services is the last in a series of reports on the services those agencies provide, the people they assist and how United Way donations help.

Personal Support Services is a First Tennessee Human Resource Agency program that provides personalized care to seniors who are referred to the program by the Tennessee Department of Human Services when their age and disability or neglect, abuse or financial exploitation by another person puts their safety at risk.
The program’s services, including help with meal preparation, grooming, laundry, housekeeping, shopping, transportation for medical appointments and household finances, are designed to help seniors live in their own homes and avoid the move to a nursing home for as long as possible. Just as importantly, the program provides protective supervision to ensure the seniors’ safety.
The following stories are those of three of 224 seniors in Northeast Tennessee who receive the program’s assistance. Their names have been changed to protect their privacy and their safety.
Minnie was referred to Personal Support Services after she was abused by her son. His crimes included financial exploitation as well as physical and emotional abuse of his mother, for which he was went sentenced to prison and banned from her apartment complex following his release.
After his release, however, Minnie’s assistant from Personal Support Services arrived at her home to find her son had indeed returned, Minnie was bruised and her money missing again. The assistant called police and when her son was arrested and sent back to prison, Minnie was glad for her own safety.
But she had been unable to be the one to report her son to authorities. She needed Personal Support Services to make the call for her and with that help she continued to live in her home, safely and without threat of further harm and exploitation.
Delores is a hoarder, a disorder that has rendered the entrances to her home all but impassable. When she was referred to Personal Support Services, her front door was barricaded and the path to her living area from the only other entrance to her home was so narrow and angled that visitors had difficulty winding their way through. Had she needed medical attention, the turns would have made it impossible for paramedics to reach her with a stretcher.
A Personal Support Service assistant was assigned to help Delores clear away the clutter. But at every visit, the assistant found Delores was filling the spaces they cleared with more things. One day as they were working, Delores confided to the assistant, “You know, it was not this bad until my husband died” and the assistant recognized Delores was collecting things to fill the emotional void and merely clearing out her home was not the answer.
Delores needed emotional support as well as professional counseling which she received through a referral from Personal Support Services. With that help, over time, Delores finally began to let go of the things that were making her home unsafe.
Shirley suffers from a progressively crippling illness. When she referred to the agency, she was no longer driving. She frequently relied on a wheelchair. Housecleaning was difficult for her. And she often fell.
But rather than give up her home and move to a nursing home, Shirley was referred to Personal Support Services and received help with her housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, pharmacy runs and other essential errands. When her need for assistance increased, the program’s services were increased and she was able to stay in the home for a few months longer than she otherwise could have.
Pat Griggs, Personal Support Services executive director, said more important than of any other services it provides, the program serves as the eyes and ears of TDHS to ensure that seniors who have been neglected or abused are safe in their homes.
Griggs said the program is made possible by a federal block grant that requires a 40 percent annual match from the community. In Northeast Tennessee, those matching dollars are provided by the United Way. Without the United Way funding, she said, “We would not have that grant and we would not have this program.”
More information about Personal Support Services may be obtained by calling the FTHRA at 461-8200. More information about this year’s United Way campaign may be obtained by calling the United Way at 282-5682 or by visiting www.unitedwayofwashingtoncountytn.org.

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