MOUNT VERNON — In April, Knox County Job & Family Services began contracting with the Ontario, Ohio-based Area Agency on Aging (AAA) District 5 to handle Adult Protective Services (APS) referrals involving seniors ages 60 and older, who may need help due to financial exploitation, self-neglect or other issues.
Those referrals used to be handled at Knox County Job & Family Services by Child Protective Services, which overburdened JFS employees, Knox County JFS Director Matthew Kurtz informed county commissioners Thursday. Kurtz said so far it’s been a good arrangement because AAA — with its office in the old Hawkins Market in Ontario, and serving a nine-county area — is specifically geared toward providing assistance and resources to seniors. He was accompanied by three staff members who also discussed the change.
“We’re six months in and we’re feeling positive about it,” Kurtz said.
AAA has handled 151 adult protection-related referrals since April, and of that number, 94 involved investigations to assist seniors. That is triple the number of calls at the same time last year, which Kurtz said shows that a burgeoning senior population is going to need more assistance in coming years. Commissioner Teresa Bemiller asked what types of APS-related calls are most frequent, with the response being that financial exploitation of seniors is common. And that exploitation often comes from younger family members who exploit their own aging relatives. Banks work closely with AAA to help prevent these circumstances.
Another common problem for seniors involves self-neglect issues. Often, seniors lack the care they need because they do not have family available to help them and do not know where to turn for help. These often involve seniors with physical limitations or cognitive impairments.
Fortunately, Kurtz said, Knox County is very good at providing resources for seniors, such as providing meals and socialization at venues such as The Station Break. AAA is capable of finding resources to deliver food to seniors who are incapable of driving themselves.
Currently, there is just one full-time caseworker with AAA’s District 5 to cover referrals in Knox County. Those referrals most often involve in-person visits and follow-up calls to check on a senior’s well being. If cases are more complex than others, the supervisor will often assist the case worker to determine a course of action to assist the client. Case workers from Marion and Crawford counties may also be able to offer assistance. The goal is always to keep a senior as independent as possible for as long as possible. However, if mental impairment occurs, such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s, a guardian may need to be appointed.
JFS’ contract runs from April of this year through March of next year, with a budget of $82,000 for AAA to handle referrals for JFS. The budget comes from state adult protection funds, and local senior levy funds. Those wishing to make a referral to AAA involving a senior may call (740) 392-5437. The phones are answered by an employee during normal business hours Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After hours, a voicemail can be left, with someone responsible for returning the call within about 15 minutes.
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