Del Mar program makes In-Home Connections with seniors

Jeannie Walsh, member services coordinator for In-Home Connections, center, with a volunteer and a client.  Photo: Kelley Carlson
Jeannie Walsh, member services coordinator for In-Home Connections, center, with a volunteer and a client. Photo: Kelley Carlson

By Kelley Carlson

Contributor

Del Mar Community Connections’ latest program for senior citizens emphasizes that there’s no place like home.

In-Home Connections, launched in January, offers various services to Del Mar residents needing a little extra support, but who want to remain independent in their residence. These may include friendly visits, transportation, shopping assistance, meal deliveries, social events, prescription pickup, housekeeping, trusted referrals and more.

Seniors pay $50 a month for volunteers to assist them as needed.

“It’s worth it!” said June, a 90-year-old IHC member. “I have two wonderful volunteers who shop for me and help me in any way.”

Recently, June needed to pick up flea treatment for her cat from the veterinarian. A volunteer not only brought back the treatment, but also applied it to the cat for her.

“I’m so thrilled when we can take stress away from a client,” said Jeannie Walsh, member services coordinator for In-Home Connections. “We really have a great deal of empathy for clients in that predicament.”

Walsh said that when she first meets with seniors who are interested in becoming clients, she gets an idea of their weekly schedule and determines how to help achieve their goals. Walsh also informs them of the benefits of the program and encourages socialization, although it is not required of participants. Among the options are a ladies monthly luncheon, ROMEO (Retired Older Men Eating Out) and a health forum the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, all offered through Del Mar Community Connections.

“We like keeping people involved, engaged and part of the community,” she said.

After a client’s initial meeting with Walsh, a care manager goes to the person’s home and conducts a safety assessment, checking objects such as fire alarms and stairs, and taking into account whether the senior has devices to aid with mobility, such as walkers and wheelchairs. Additional recommendations are then made on how to best aid the IHC member.

Walsh then matches up clients and volunteers, taking personalities into account. Each IHC member has two regularly assigned volunteers, but may get to know as many as four.

“We make sure our clients are informed, connected and served,” Walsh said.

Residents who are interested in volunteering for In-Home Connections are asked to commit a minimum of four hours each month, and must be at least 21 years old.

“They can change the life of a senior significantly,” Walsh said.

One volunteer, Margaret, said she joined the program because she feels that one day she may need such services herself.

“It’s the joy of giving,” she said. “It’s a wonderful feeling, being appreciated.”

Margaret has taken clients to water aerobics, doctor’s appointments and shopping, and makes friendly calls at least once a week.

“As long as I’m capable, I’m going to pitch in and help,” she said.

One of Margaret’s most memorable experiences as a volunteer was taking a client who was unable to stand for long periods of time to Albertsons. The client sat in an electric chair inside the grocery store and “took off.”

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