United Way to help disabled, aged remain in their homes

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The United Way of Allegheny County is investing more than $2 million in a series of grants to agencies and initiatives designed to help disabled and elderly residents stay in their homes.

"It's got to be a priority, helping both seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes," said Bob Nelkin, president of United Way of Allegheny County. "In almost all cases, that's what they want to do, but they need assistance with basic needs, bathing, eating, drinking, getting to medical appointments."

Mr. Nelkin said that the emphasis on home-based care was not only desirable from a social perspective, but also offered a cost-effective alternative to more expensive institutional care in an era of government budget cutting.

"In an environment where large state budget cuts are expected, we have to rely more on neighbors and volunteers and family members to help seniors and people with disabilities, and many of these programs do exactly that," Mr. Nelkin added.

The recipients of the latest round of grants, which will represent roughly 10 percent of United Way's funding in the next year, include:

• Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh, for counseling and home safety modifications focused on the hazards of decreased vision that accompany aging.

• Catholic Youth Association, to study and seek remedies for the under-utilization of available adult day services.

• The Centers for Healthy Hearts and Souls, to create diabetes support groups in the African American Community. The agency noted that more than 15 percent of the African American seniors in the Pittsburgh region have been diagnosed with the chronic illness and another 15 percent have latent diabetes.

• Community Human Services. Working with the University of Pittsburgh, CHS offers the In-Home Homemakers Program, which serves homebound adults. For clients with mental or physical disabilities, the program provides training in homemaker skills as well was education in managing chronic health problems.

• Family Services of Western Pennsylvania with North Hills Community Outreach. In this program, interfaith volunteer caregivers are matched with seniors living at home to provide services including shopping, transportation and household chores.

• The AgeWell Pittsburgh program of the Jewish Community Center with Jewish Association on Aging and Jewish Family & Children's Service. This program provides a range of services aimed at allowing between 6,000 and 10,000 seniors to remain at home and avoid institutionalization.

• The Meals on Wheels service of the Lutheran Service Society of Western Pennsylvania. This grant will collect data from 3,000 volunteers in 29 different kitchen locations on how best to go beyond the basic service of meal delivery and assess how the program can meet the overall goal of keeping clients in their homes.

• Northern Area Multi-Service Center's Supportive Living Enhancement Program, or SLEP, which provides a variety of services, including health and wellness checks, in Allegheny County Housing Authority communities. These services target both the frail elderly and adults with behavioral disabilities.

• The Better Choices, Better Health workshops sponsored by Vintage, with the Department of Human Services/Area Agency on Aging. The six-week series of workshops are designed to help seniors better manage chronic diseases.

• A caregiver-training program conducted by United Cerebral Palsy/Community Living and Support Services in conjunction with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. This program will fund training for 100 attendant care workers who provide care for 300 consumers and 500 family or friend caregivers.

The funding will begin in April 2011.

According to a news release announcing the grant series, the funding will extend over a 12-month period. The grants are renewable through June 2014

Politics Editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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