Happy in their own home

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

At age 79, Leroy Pugh jokes that his life is good, but could be better if  "he had a job, and wasn't a client of rheumatoid arthritis."

Up to his mid 70's, Pugh says he had his mobility, was able to get around and manage the affairs of himself and his wife, a 69-year-old who is now relegated to using a walker to get around.

"Before, I cooked.  I ironed.  I scrubbed the floors.  I drove, and could run down the stairs, even backwards…as opposed to almost having to crawl up and down the flight of stairs now," he says.

This personal state of hardship is what he shared with Rachel Bazan, an Oak Park Township Senior Services case manager.

"My stability is not as good as I would like it to be but I would say that the range of services I receive from Senior Services have been very instrumental in bringing me and my wonderful wife, with whom I have spent 40 wonderful years, to where we are now," he said.  "And, oh wow… I would tell anyone and everyone that there is a service for seniors that is open to helping anyone who has a need."

The end of this beginning

It was when the Oak Park seniors had overlapping hospital stays that the hospital social worker referred them to township Senior Services.

"The Pughs needed a meal brought in to them until they recovered, and that is how we first got involved," Bazan said.

Since then, they have continued to qualify to receive the daily delivery of a hot lunch and the added service of in-home assistance with the Chore Program.  Thanks to  Bazan, around their necks they wear an Emergency Response lanyard, which Pugh says he has used twice so far.

"Every morning, the Pughs receive their Homemaker Services," Bazan says.  "It is a statewide program offered through the Department of Aging.  Homemaker Services and Emergency Response are both income and asset based services, so it is for seniors who are low income and do not have many assets."    

Shawn Lewis, adult protective services and case management supervisor at the township's Senior Services, says starting at age 60, people who reside in Oak Park and River Forest seeking out their help can receive those services, a bevy of others, and even one-on-one case management help to navigate Medicare, prescription drug plans and other details of independent living.

"So that is really our goal, to work on a clients behalf to keep them autonomous in this community as long as possible," Lewis says.

Some services are available to everyone for free, whereas other programs have qualifying income or asset guidelines, Lewis points out.

"We do provide a lot more services," Bazan says.  "For example, we have congregate dine-in that provides independence and promotes socialization among seniors and a curb-to-curb transportation program, as well."

For Pugh, it is also about the TLC he gets now and again from Senior Services, out of the blue.

"What we appreciate even more than the services, is the occasional call we receive to find out how we are doing," Pugh says.  "It makes me feel human, like I belong and am somebody special.  And that means a lot to me, too."

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