Seniors in the Community
By Harmonia Collaborative Care
July 26, 2020

As we age, we often need increased help with daily tasks, mental health, and physical health. This support is vital to ensure independence, well-being, and good health. Harmonia Collaborative Care is working to meet these needs. Through both our Senior Care Coordination and CarePanion Services, Harmonia is committed to helping seniors remain independent in their own home and assisting with positive lifestyle changes. From mental health services, dedicated case managers, and personalized, in-home support such as cleaning and grocery shopping, we work to enhance the lives of seniors in the Southtowns and throughout Western New York.

Senior services are needed for many reasons. When seniors in Western New York and Central New York were surveyed about their needs, the need to stay independent was clear. Specifically, seniors said they need accessible transportation, the ability to continue living at home, opportunities to be mentally and physically active, help with social isolation, connection to others, accessible healthcare, and help with chores and tasks. Jennifer Gunia, Senior Service Program Coordinator explains, “Our trained case managers are senior specialists. We are the link between the client and the programs that are available in the community. Our goal is to complete individualized care plans that meet the needs of our rural senior population.” When these needs are met through organizations like Harmonia, seniors are more likely to stay in their home, and have improved mental and physical health outcomes. When Harmonia’s clients were surveyed about their needs being met, 29% of them shared that they would be in a nursing home without Harmonia’s programs.

A significant concern among seniors are mental health issues, where nearly 20% of those 55 years or older struggle with some kind of mental illness. When looking at mental illness in our older populations, it is important to know the signs. Often, mental illness often presents differently in older adults and is mistaken for dementia, making it difficult to recognize. Some signs include:
1. Changes in appetite, energy level, or mood
2. Feeling emotionally “flat” or finding it difficult to feel positive
3. Trouble sleeping, sleeping too much, or difficulty falling asleep
4. Short-term/recent memory loss
5. Anger, agitation, or increased aggressiveness
6. Problems with grooming or household maintenance

As adults age, mental illness is a great concern because life events associated with aging such as losing loved ones, isolation, and poorer health can trigger these mental health challenges. “Connection to reliable psychotherapy can alleviate symptoms in older adults, so much so that clients who move out of Southern Erie County to another area request to continue their services” says Harmonia geriatric psychotherapist Dr. Cherie Ruben. When matched with the right mental health services 80% of all people with depression can be successfully treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of both. Senior Care Coordination can match people with health providers and other needed services, to improve both their physical and mental health. Additionally, there are ways we can all help older adults struggling with mental illness. We can support our seniors by listening with love, inviting them to social gathering, scheduling regular social activities, planning and preparing healthy meals, encouraging medical care, and watching for changes in mental health.

Clearly there is a need and services that can keep seniors safe in their homes. The Town of Hamburg and Erie County Senior Services provide limited funding to Harmonia’s Senior Services and CarePanion programs. This funding is not enough to support the program now, much less expand to serve more seniors in need, however, we are grateful for their support . “We value the worth of our seniors and the maintenance of their independence. Assisting them is a manifestation of communal kindness, which enriches their lives and adds meaning to our own. If Hamburg is indeed the Town that Friendship built, it is also the Town that kindness sustains”, commented Jim Shaw, Town of Hamburg Supervisor. It is important that we make seniors a priority in our communities. Ask your government officials to remember senior services a part of their budgets. Consider making a donation to Harmonia so the seniors in our community get the help they deserve.

At Harmonia, we are passionate about the elderly having access to adequate senior services to remain independent, treat mental illness, and stay healthy. Through Harmonia Collaborative Care, these goals can be met. If you or a loved one could benefit from these services, please go to Harmonia’s website here. Learn more about the organization on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see this organization in action. Please support mental health, senior services and health navigation by making a donation to Harmonia here