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Movin' On With Nellie: 'Friendlies' make all the difference

Posted: Saturday, Oct 27th, 2012

Outside the window where Pretty Bird’s cage looks out on the silver lace vine, sparrows, yellow fly-catchers, and wrens perch during the most recent blustery of nights.

As I checked on the feathered friends through the midnight hours, I found that they puffed up and clutched the thin vines throughout the night. Their poses were all the same as they tucked their heads, beak and all, into their chest feathers and calmly breathed. As soon as the sunrays graced the peaks of the Sangre de Cristos, their flight was imminent.

I am reminded of those who carry sage advice and often exist alone in their homes through the windy intervals that blast the Valley—senior citizens. They are not always kindly remembered or cherished; and for some retirement is a shock. The empty nest syndrome may have begun the isolation for so many.

On the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org) web site, the effect of being alone, lonely, and/or without support as a senior can be devastating. A whopping 6.5 million seniors will be thrown into depression this year. Some will have had episodes of depression throughout their life and others will first meet depression when they enter octogenarian life.

On the website for the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH.NIH.GOV), statistics tell more of the story. NIMH asked the question: “How common is suicide among older adults?” The answer is tragic:

“Older Americans are disproportionately likely to die by suicide.”

Furthermore, “Although they comprise only 12 percent of the U.S. population, people age 65 and older accounted for 16 percent of suicide deaths in 2004.”

It’s clear. Seniors though perhaps nestled in homes may need help – even if we do not hear much from our relatives.

Symptoms of depression in seniors often go undetected because of other medical diagnoses or lack of diagnoses. Arthritis, dementia, thyroid disorders and strokes are among problems that often hide the depression.

I learned this week that in Alamosa County, we have additional senior resources besides Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP—directed by Patt Morgan-Lloyd in Alamosa), and the Alamosa Senior Center. The Alamosa County Department of Human Services also has applications for additional help like Options for Long Term Care (OLTC), housed in the Public Health Building. The process starts with an application and a visit with a case manager like Darlene Gomez or Amy Gallegos.

In an interview process, the OLTC case manager, someone like Joleen Trujillo, connects with the prospective client and asks a series of questions about mobility, mood, abilities, daily life, and living spaces. The primary care provider is also contacted for medical statements. Once a prospective client is approved, a wealth of resources is available including home health and medication monitoring, personal care providers, transportation, and even modifications to the home for easy access. The director of OLTC in Alamosa is Kim Canty and the director of Public Health—Julie Geiser.

With the welcoming receptionists at the Department of Human Services who greet everyone with a smile and with dignity, there’s no reason not to apply for help. Once approved, services may include Medicaid, which incorporates visits to physicians and counselors. OLTC has connections to senior activities in the county as well.

We have our share of blustery days in the Valley, days that rattle the window eves and flood the house with dusty air. These are days that rush a soul and try a soul’s stamina to withstand the prairie. But it is good to know, that even when we are uncomfortably isolated, there are “friendlies” in our service: smiling and caring workers at Alamosa County Department of Public Health, OLTC, and Human Services.

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