Victory Memorial Hospital, now Vista Health, investigated the unmet needs of elders living in northern Lake County, Illinois in 1998. They banned with the Catholic Charities, the Northeastern Illinois Area Agency on Aging, Lake County Health Department, and other senior service professionals so they could be as accurate as possible. This inquiry found there were three significant unmet community needs: a trained friendly visitor program to decrease isolation in homebound elders, escorted transportation to medical appointments, and free in-home respite for low-income family caregivers. In addition, mature adults over 65 years of age are at risk of losing independence due to failing health, disability, and limited economic resources. Vista ElderCARE Volunteers was created to respond to these needs.
Vista ElderCARE Volunteers provide a quality support system and a dependable safety net in the Waukegan community. They respond to needs in a cost-effective and direct manner that makes a huge difference to the elders served. Trained volunteers from more than 43 churches are now connected to isolated, homebound elders. Family caregivers who are overburdened risk their own health when trying to care for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic illnesses. So, in 2000, TIMEOUT:Volunteer RespiteCARE was added to provide in-home respite to low income family caregivers as well as the patients.
From July 1988 to May of 2001, this program has had a phenomenal impact. Over 1,000 homebound elders have received assistance. The volunteers served both male and female clients who on the average are over 76 years of age and have very low incomes. There have been over 800 ElderCARE volunteers who attended training. That includes 35 volunteer RNs, 40 TIMEOUT respite volunteers, over 100 transportation volunteers, and more than 40 volunteers from three schools along with general volunteers. The Vista ElderCARE Volunteers have given more than 26,100 hours of service and escorted seniors to over 1,900 medical appointments. There have been more than 70 in-home RN wellness visits using a new ElderCARE Geriatric Assessment tool, and more than 130 have signed up for Lifeline Emergency Response services. Sixty family caregivers and loved ones have received free, in-home respite through TIMEOUT, also.
This program connects the community neighbor by neighbor. To date, the Vista ElderCARE Volunteers have 10 major areas of service. They have Friendly Visitors, Help for Family Caregivers, In-Home Wellness Visits by Registered Nurses, Volunteer Shoppers, Escorts to Medical Appointments, Telephone Reassurance Calls, Information and Referral, Yard Work and Household Chores, Medication Inventory and Evaluation, and Personal Response Services.
Vista provides a variety of free or low-cost community-based services, which help promote health, encourage independence, and reduce isolation. By recruiting, training, and coordinating volunteers from faith communities and the community-at-large, Vista works cooperatively with community organizations in developing needed services that will have a lasting impact for elders in need.