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The Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services is Committed to Keeping Seniors Safe

by Kathie Sizemore , Program Officer 3, Communications, Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Humans Services
Group of elderly womenKeeping seniors safe is crucial to the mission of the Division of Senior and Adult Services. In fact, we are the only agency that provides Adult Protective Services in Cuyahoga County. We investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, self-neglect and exploitation and take protective measures for adults age 60 and older when they are facing a threat to their safety. Every year, we receive over 4,000 reports of elder abuse, and more than half of those reports result in cases needing our intervention to alleviate the abuse completely or to minimize the risk.

While our protective services are vital, there are many other ways we help older adults in our community remain safe. One example is the annual Heat and Plumb the County Program. For 14 years, a task force of over 100 heating and plumbing technicians has worked with our agency to provide free furnace and plumbing checks and minor repairs for eligible older adults. Since its inception, over 700 homes have benefitted from this impactful event, ensuring residents are able to stay safe and warm when the cold weather arrives.

Elderly woman and manAnother partnership that keeps seniors safe is our Smoke Detector Program, an alliance between the County and the Cleveland Vanguards, a volunteer firefighter organization. The County purchases specially adapted alarm units and works with the Vanguards to have them installed in the homes of eligible older adults who are visually or hearing impaired. This program provides an added layer of protection for some of our community’s most vulnerable residents.

Falls are a major safety concern for older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, causing 2.8 million injuries and 27,000 deaths annually. DSAS offers several programs designed to prevent falls. This year, we rolled out a Falls Risk Assessment for clients that looks at both physical and environmental fall risks. Clients who score high on the assessment are recommended for the free Matter of Balance Program, an 8-week class to help older adults change their perspective about falling. The class empowers older adults to enhance their quality of life by overcoming their fear of falling, taking steps to reduce their risk of falling and exercising to improve core strength and flexibility.

Lastly, DSAS serves as a safety net for our most vulnerable older adults by offering comforting supports in times of crisis. As a last resort, our Emergency Assistance Program helps older residents with basic needs to prevent homelessness and endangerment. The program can help in the event of a fire, disaster or an emergency to address pressing critical needs. Launched last year, our Emergency Food Pantry was established so our caseworkers could address the immediate food insecurity issues of their clients. To date, the pantry has served over 100 older adults, providing a nutrition lifeline while other supports are put in place.

Cuyahoga County is a great place to live. But many of us face challenges and oftentimes it is the County’s services that keep our residents safe and secure.