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Friday, June 19th, 2009

Program is 'Safe Haven' for senior citizens

By Janie Southard
St. MARYS - Safe Haven actually began a couple years ago when an elderly man on his way to Cincinnati got lost in Paulding County.
Safe Haven is a security program where seniors register names of contacts of who to call in an emergency. It was formed by a group of community members.
"He lived in Springboro (south of Dayton) and started out one day to visit his family in Cincinnati. He got to the Interstate but he turned north," said Stacie Powell, marketing manager at Golden Living Center Valley in St. Marys.
Somewhere along the line, the 83-year-old got off the Interstate and spent several hours lost. Finally he stopped for help at the police station in Paulding County. Someone there gave him general directions back to Interstate 75.
"He somehow got to St. Marys on the back roads and our police picked him up for driving the wrong way on the road. He was so confused, didn't know his name, and hadn't eaten in hours," Powell told the newspaper earlier this week.
The police department has no overnight accommodations except a holding cell so they called Golden Living Center at 3 a.m. looking for a warm, safe place for him.
"Of course, we would not turn him away. Once he got some food he began to feel better. And after sleeping he was much better. Using a lot of resources the next morning we were able to find his family and they drove up from Cincinnati to pick him up ... Truly, we were so glad to help," Powell said.
An offshoot is that if no one can be reached to help a senior in distress, Golden Living Center will provide safe shelter for one night.
It was shortly after that incident, in 2007, that a group of community members formed the Neighborhood Nursing Home Advisory Council to look at ways to help area senior citizens. Meeting only quarterly, they determined to take on one project a year. That first year they established Safe Haven.
"An emergency happens when the caregiver husband, for instance, is taken by ambulance to the hospital. That leaves the wife alone and she isn't able to care for herself. This situation comes up a lot. What happens is that a police officer stays at home with the spouse until they can figure out who to call," Powell said.
The main goal of Safe Haven is that seniors have made a plan for times of emergency and posted their contact numbers and medical information on a refrigerator magnet. It's along the same principle as File of Life, which lists an individual's specific medical information on a magnet.
National statistics show that about 60 percent of calls for emergency help come from senior citizens.
"It's important that people keep their information up to date. If your son or daughter has moved to another state or city, it needs to be listed. It doesn't help if the number reached is no longer working," Powell said.
Who to call locally became the advisory council's 2008 project, Auglaize County Senior Services Resource Guide. It's a bright orange, 11 by 8-1/2, 40-page booklet listing police and fire department numbers, along with all sorts of contact information for organizations of interest to seniors. Included are area pharmacies, senior housing, support groups, disability services, among many others.
"You may be surprised to see children and youth services and schools listed. Many, many area grandparents are raising their grandchildren either full time or part time and need to know who to call and how," Powell said adding seniors of today are a lot more educated with varied lifestyles. "Some use the Internet, but still many don't know how."
The guide was a big undertaking and certain members of the group met much more than quarterly. "The number of revisions alone was amazing. Candy Kuck volunteered to coordinate the project and, believe me, she did a great job. None of us actually realized the scope of this project," Powell said.
The group's first printing was 1000 copies funded by a grant through Golden Living Centers and donations from the Auglaize County Council on Aging, Joint Township District Memorial Hospital and Robbie Burke of Burke Insurance Agency.
After Powell spoke to St. Marys Rotary recently, more donations including the hospital again will enable another 2000 copies to be printed.
"Some people have asked if we'll update it next year. No, we just don't have the time/staff to do that ... I'd say we'll try for an update in five years. The last seniors' resource guide was printed 12 years ago, so I think we're doing okay," she said.
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