BROOKVILLE — Extra precautions to protect Jefferson County’s most vulnerable citizens are being implemented by the Jefferson County Area Agency on Aging.
Molly McNutt, executive director, described two new programs the JCAAA is providing to the elderly.
Grab and Go emergency kits were distributed in June to about 160 residents who are currently receiving home-delivered meals through the agency.
“These are what we consider summer emergency kits,” McNutt said. “A severe thunderstorm, where the power might go down, could be an emergency because there is nothing warm.”
Each of the kits, packed in a small bucket, contains essential emergency items, such as a blanket, a whistle, dust masks, a flashlight with batteries, a note pad and pen, an overnight hygiene kit, towelettes, water and food bars, a first aid kit and even duct tape. “The duct tape is there in case someone needs to tape something over a window,” she said.
The compact emergency kits can be placed on a kitchen counter, in a closet or other easily-accessible place in the home. “In an emergency you don’t have time to run to multiple places to get these items. Having everything in one kit provides added safety, an extra layer of preparedness,” she said. “We haven’t had anyone actually have to use their kits yet, but people are very appreciative to have them, because they are easy to grab and use what you need.”
She said, “Talking about emergency preparedness is something all of our care managers do when they talk to our consumers.”
McNutt said, “This is something we have been wanting to do for a while. We considered putting these packs together ourselves,” but found “we were able to purchase these through our food provider, Nutrition Group.”
She said although the kits were “kind of pricy,” they were delivered “free of charge to everyone receiving the home-delivered meals in June. We consider this part of our meal program, because we targeted those we feel are already dependent on us to receive those meals on a consistent basis. There is water and a ready-to-eat meal in the kit, and that is why we felt they should be the first to receive these.”
The emergency kits “were paid through our federal funds for meals,” she said. “Our home-delivered meals are always free, but we do send out letters monthly to ask for a donation. People can choose to donate or not, but it doesn’t affect the delivery of their meals.”
McNutt said she is looking into the possibility of having a Blizzard Box later this year. “It would include more winter type items, such as warmers for the hands and feet, a blanket and some additional things that would help in the event it was cold outside.”
She said the Blizzard Boxes will “depend on funding. It might be something a local business would want to help sponsor.”
A new service for seniors just became available last week. “We just got official word from the Department of Aging that an emergency consumer map is now available to all Agencies on Aging,” she said. “When our care managers do an assessment, there are some additional critical questions they ask. We are asking them if they are meal dependent, medication dependent, electricity dependent, oxygen dependent. These individuals would be in a real tough situation if we were to have an emergency like a power outage for a long period of time.”
She said “by collecting this information, we can now look them up on a map. Say, if we ran a report and had consumers who are oxygen dependent, if the power was going to be out for a period of time, we would be able to quickly see who those individuals are and contact them or their emergency contact. We could then determine if they needed additional assistance at that time, if they needed additional oxygen tanks or a safe place to go.”
McNutt said “this is something the Department of Aging has been working on for a while, so we are just now able to utilize it. Our consumers are the most socially and economically vulnerable seniors in our area, and this is just another layer of protection for them, to allow us to get in touch with them and make sure they are safe.”
She stressed that while there are 12,000 seniors over the age of 60 in Jefferson County, “we can only do the search based on the individuals we’ve had contact with. There are other vulnerable people out there, and we encourage families, neighbors and friends to check on older adults. But this will allow us to check on the persons who are receiving services from us, to target if they might need additional assistance in the event of an emergency.”
McNutt said she is excited about the new programs. “We are trying to do some new, creative things to help older adults. Our mission statement is to maximize the life, independence and safety of older adults, and we are taking that very seriously.”
Anyone who wants more information about the services available to senior citizens can contact the JCAAA at 849-3096.