Friday, May 4, 2012

Friends indeed for secluded senior citizens

Take a look around your town and country. Chances are, says the recent Washington Census, that upward of 10 of every 100 households you see are occupied by senior citizens who are living alone. It's a fact, too, that the senior-citizen population is exploding. Baby boomers among us who haven't OD'd on teeth-whitening treatments or been sent off to that Great Woodstock Revival in the Sky on account of power-yoga mishaps are swelling like nobody's business the ranks of the Matlock-TV set.

Your friendly neighborhood HDC Advance here maintains that most senior citizens, all apologies to Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, don't want to be alone.

State Rep. Jim Moeller in recent years has won widespread public, legislative and gubernatorial support for the writing of laws designed to halt exploitation of senior citizens and other potentially vulnerable men and women. He's worked with a task force of southwestern Washington citizens and other concerned individuals and organizations to build protective standards against that very immoral, criminal behavior. And Moeller along the way has seen all too well the pain that torments folks who live in seclusion, who lack for companionship. Today he welcomes a powerful new ally.

ElderFriends is a Southwest Washington program launching this month, according to its website, "to relieve isolation and loneliness among elders who wish to live in their own homes and remain independent for as long as possible." Single people 65 or older are matched with a volunteer who visits them every week, maybe playing games or sewing together, doing some light cooking, going for a little walk, or perhaps just chatting. The younger friends are not there to do chores or run errands. What the program is about is companionship. It's about something as basic, as fun and as fundamental as friendship.

Here's a Columbian newspaper item -- Program helps seniors who need a pal -- that's chock-full of info about ElderFriends.

Photo credit: Pacian

Continuing his work to strengthen Washington laws protecting vulnerable adults, Moeller in the recent legislative session steered House Bill 2578 unanimously through the House of Representatives. He worked to get House Republicans as steadfastly on board as his own House Democrats. Unfortunately, though, the measure fell victim to Senate Republican shenanigans toward the end of session. Moeller said he'll work to overcome such GOP hijinks in the next Legislature.
His 2012 vulnerable-adults measure would have directed the state Department of Health or health professions boards or commissions to suspend a health-care provider's license if the provider is barred from employment in caring for vulnerable adults based upon a finding of neglect, abuse or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults.

Moeller explained that "there's currently some confusion among employers and the public as to why someone who is prohibited from working unsupervised with vulnerable adults could still have a license from the Department of Health to practice his or her profession. The bill would immediately suspend the person's license until there has been a fair disciplinary hearing with full due-process. The legislation establishes a dependable, consistent standard to strengthen patient safety."