Monday, November 13, 2000

Warren examines how to help elderly

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Beverly Etter has contributed her share to society. She was a case worker at the Department of Human Services for 22 years. She calls herself the No. 1 fan of Franklin High School's football team, buying cake for her Wildcats.

        In return, all she asks is for help since age and multiple sclerosis have caught up with her. Ms. Etter, 60, is one of 229 Warren County residents waiting for help with bathing, house cleaning and other small services that can mean the difference between independence and a nursing home.

        “I'm just not ready for that yet,” Ms. Etter said. Her 81-year-old mother, who lives with her, does the laundry, but she, too, is in poor health.

        Community Services, the main agency helping seniors, doesn't have the money to meet everyone's needs, officials say. It would take an additional $700,000 to $1.2 million a year to erase the agency's waiting list, according to a report by the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio.

        The Council on Aging is sponsoring a public hearing to discuss where to find more money. A couple of possibilities include tapping the county commissioners for more than their current $431,000 allocation, or seeking a levy.

        The council also is proposing a new program to oversee elderly services in Warren County.

        Warren — the only Southwest Ohio county without a senior services levy — spends about half as much as the rest on its elderly residents, the council's report indicates.

        The senior services budget this year was $1.1 million. Contributors, other than the county, were the federal government ($500,000), United Way ($164,000) and local communities ($21,000).

        In-home services are for people who don't qualify for Medicaid but who can't afford to pay for help, said Bob Logan, head of the five-county Council on Aging.

        And as Suzanne Kunkel, a Miami University expert on aging, notes in the council's report: “Assistance for older people is help for the entire family.”

        The shortage of services in Warren means more responsibility falls to family members such as Ms. Etter's mom, or Hamilton Township resident Callie Hill's granddaughter.

        Mrs. Hill, 82, can no longer get around well enough to shop for groceries or run the vacuum cleaner, but she doesn't want to be a burden to a granddaughter who also has two children and a full-time job.

        Enter Community Services workers, who come by her knickknack-filled two-bedroom home twice a week to clean and sometimes cook.

        “They do the things I can't do,” Mrs. Hill said.

        The Council on Aging's public hearing takes place at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Community Services, 570 N. Ohio 741, Lebanon. For information or help with transportation, call 695-2235 or 925-2235.



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