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Senior needs on display at annual health fair

By Everett Brazil, III

The Newkirk Herald Journal

NEWKIRK — The Newkirk Senior Citizens Center was alive with activity Friday, April 21. Inside the front doors of the facility that morning were myriad booths, with healthcare workers presenting information to a public hungry for health information, from caregiving to home health and hospice, and even clinics from eye care to dental work. It was a celebration of health, as the Center held the annual senior health fair, offering resources to the Center’s senior patrons.

Serena Welch servers as director of the Center, and with a team of volunteers, helped coordinate the event. Late that afternoon, she is tired, but thrilled by not only the booths, but also the turnout of attendees of all ages.

“It turned out wonderful, and I think we had the best amount of knowledge available,” she said. “I think the turnout was wonderful.”

In addition to the healthcare providers, the Newkirk Fire/EMS service grilled hot dogs, sausages, hot links and hamburgers for a public hungry for health information.

Caregiving seemed to be the major theme of the event. Caregivers are those who take care of another person, whether they are incapacitated, or simply need a little help. For many, it is a hard job.

“Caregiving is absolutely the toughest jon. It affects every age group,” Welch said. “There is so much investment, the caretaker can’t take care of themselves.”

Twila Doucet serves as the caregiver coordinator as part of the Long Term Care Authority (LTCA), part of the Enid Area Agency on Aging and chair of the caregiver program for support for caregivers. She is seen at the Center monthly to make presentations on caregiving, as well as publishing columns on caregiving in area newspapers, including The Newkirk Herald Journal.

“Caregiving can be anything you do for someone else, maybe taking them to a doctors appointment, or maybe they need some help in their home with cooking, laundry,” she said.

Caregiving can be much more difficult when the patient is unable to take care of themselves, leading to a heavy stress and workload on the caregiver, especially regarding personal time.

The LTCA is there for those caregivers.

“Our Respite Program helps,” Doucet said. “It can help them have the ability to have someone to care for the patient so they can have a break. Without a break, it gets too stressful, they don’t have time to take care of themselves.”

She added that it can have serious health implications on caregivers.

“It has been shown that a large percentage of caregivers die before their loved ones because of the stress,” Doucet said.

Many caregivers are there for those who are homebound, and there are home health organizations that help, with nurses who make visits to protect their health.

Jessica O’Brien is the admissions coordinator of Homecall Home Heath, and works to take care of patients at home.

“We provide nurses in the home to keep patients out of the hospital,” O’Brien said.

To keep patients out of the hospital, they visit them at least once a week to address a variety of issues, which includes working with their doctors. Illnesses and diseases they treat include COPD, cancer, Parkinson’s, congenital heart failure, pain management, anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“We even help with taking care of their medication,” she said. “We follow alongside with their doctor, and the doctor will order what the patient needs at home, and we come in and help with what they need.”

Home health is there to provide help with pain, and keep the patient comfortable, at home.

“We are trying to keep the patients out of the hospital. We want to give them the best quality of life living with chronic disease,” said Tracey Newlin, Angels Care Home Health.

There are many other issues Kay County’s elderly community could glean from the fair. Like so many others unable to have access to quality health information, they also don’t always have access to a healthy meal. The Senior Center is there to fill that void, of course, but the Wheatheart Nutrition program, based in Blackwell, provides meals for homebound seniors in eight counties, including Kay County, as well as a community meal for lunch. The meals are made in Blackwell, and served to locals at Elmwood Homes, or distributed to homebound seniors.

“We give meals to seniors 60 and over, and we work in donations, so there is no cost,” said Wheatheart Nutrition representative Terri Dans. “Some seniors don’t have anyone to help them with anything, so we step up with a meal.”

They do much more than meals, however, and have many further resources available to the community, including for eye care and dentures.

“The LTCA helps us with a lot of this, as well,” she added.

Those who need a leg up of any kind of help can turn to RSVP, or Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Members in the community volunteer to help seniors, all though the program.

“We provide information and help for seniors, whatever they need,” said RSVP representative Ginny Engle. “This could be an insurance question, or a ride to a doctor.”

They also provide educational meetings for those helping the seniors.

“We have conferences for caregivers, Alzheimer’s and insurance questions for seniors, anybody older who needs help,” she said. “We had a (recent) conference and invited caregivers to come, a sounding board place, seeing if there is anything they need, they can get it.”

The Department of Human Services had two representatives at the event. MaryAnn Briscoe is Kay County’s coordinator for the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act, or MIPPA, and helps seniors save money on prescriptions.

“It is a social security program that helps people with Medicare save money with Part D prescription drugs,” she said. “I also assist people in the Medicare savings program which helps them save $164 a month. That is how much Medicare charges for Part B.”

It is an important program to help seniors save money, especially in a fixed income.

“It’s going to help them save money because there are a lot of seniors who choose medications over food,” she said. “That shouldn’t have to happen, because this program will help them get prescriptions at a reasonable rate they can afford.”

Luis Vargas presented information concerning COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We facilitate the vaccinations for homebound individuals and their caregivers,” he said. “There are a lot of people that want information on Covid, and we can provide resources and free assistance.”

Many of the seniors who attended enjoyed the fair and received valuable information, some receiving knowledge they hadn’t known.

“There is a lot of good information we don’t know about unless we have these types of events,” said Pamela Pitts. “I did not know about Kansa helping with elderly abuse.”

The Kaw Nation was indeed available with the Family Trauma Healing Center. Holly Sweezy-Duran is the Later Life Program coordinator and domestic violence advocate.

“We assist anyone in Kay County who is experiencing elder abuse and exploitation,” she said.

One way they help is through power-of-attorney, which can be detrimental to senior victims.

“Oftentimes, abusers use POA against the victim, and we can have an attorney transfer POA to another attorney,” she said.

It doesn’t help they Kay County is a rural area, making it difficult for seniors to seek help.

“Abuse tends to happen in more rural areas, and seniors are more isolated. This gives caregivers  a chance to be more abusive and not get caught,” she said. “Our program is here to assist with elderly victims.”

If someone one knows a victim of elderly abuse, there are resources available.

“They should contact the Oklahoma Adult Protective Service, and make a report,” she said. “They  can also contact local law enforcement and adult protective services and they will get them to our agency.”

The Newkirk Police Department also had the safety of seniors in mind, including phone and computer scams.

“They are the biggest thing right now. People know they are on a fixed income, and devise a scheme to get money from them, and a lot of people don’t have computer skills, and people try to swindle them out of their money,” said Police Chief Kevin Main.

Other organizations available at the event were Mayer Eye Clinic, Newkirk Dental Center, AirEvac Lifeteam, Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Humanity Hospice and Hearing Group Ponca City.

Seniors participating were thrilled about the presentations.

“I think it was a smashing success. There were presentations about how to care for people who are getting older, and to know what to do if a person is incapacitated we are caring for,” Carolyn Kahle said.

It was much more for those who are caregivers, or simply those seeking assistance who had the most to gain.

“It’s a lot of information in one event,” Welch said. “You cannot make an informed decision without all the information, especially with seniors.”



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