TAMMY MINAHAM PHOTO Volunteers help rake leaves for seniors with the Better at Home Program.

‘Better at Home’ is growing on the North Island

The program is expanding its range of services for seniors

Little tasks that were once easy to accomplish can be a big challenge for seniors and elders who live at home independently.

“My personal experience with working with seniors is that they are happier and healthier when they are living in their own homes,” said Tammy Minihan, Better at Home (BAH) co-ordinator. “We don’t want our 85-year-old elders getting up a ladder to change a light bulb. So we are just providing assistance and helping to keep them independent in their homes as long as possible.”

BAH is a program for seniors over the age of 65 that provides non-medical services such as housekeeping, transportation, yard work, home repairs, and any other services that help support seniors to stay living independently in their homes.

Minihan said BAH aims to fill the gaps in seniors services that other agencies and health authorities don’t necessarily provide.

“They need to be able to get a ride to get medications from the drugstore or to get groceries, and some basic tasks are very difficult for seniors at home like mopping the floor, or cleaning out the bathtub,” explained Minihan.

The program has been providing services in the North Island since 2014. Minihan took over as co-ordinator in September.

BAH originally only paid contractors to provide housekeeping services for clients, but now Minihan has expanded the program to include a wide variety of tasks that seniors find difficult including transportation, yard work, and even friendly visits to help keep isolated seniors integrated in their communities.

“I have started a recreation program within the Rotary Housing to try and get the seniors to socialize within the housing and hopefully educate them on the things that are going on in the communities,”said Minihan.

She also noted that the program is particularly important for North Island residents.

“It’s really important up here because we don’t have a lot of options in terms of daily assisted living or seniors housing, so seniors need to stay in their homes as long as possible so they are not looking to relocate down island,” she said. “Lots of seniors have volunteered their whole lives and been a part of community services and it’s nice to be able to give back to them because they have built these communities for us.”

BAH is available for seniors throughout the Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) and currently has 47 clients in the North Island.

“We did have a waitlist of 15 people when I started but through just co-ordination and time management I’ve been able to clean that up so we no longer have a waiting list,” said Minihan, noting that she’s also been doing information sessions with various seniors’ groups to let them know the service is available.

The program is accessed by seniors themselves, but also takes referrals from family or health services, and the cost is subsidized on a sliding scale determined by annual income.

Minihan said she hopes to recruit more volunteers in 2018.

“I’ve been working with seniors for over 10 years and every day I’ve been learning so much from them,” said Minihan.

“With some stability within the program, recruitment and collaborating with other agencies, I think BAH is a seed and I think in the years to come we are going to grow and provide a lot more services.”

BAH is a provincial government-funded program, managed by United Way Lower Mainland, overseen by the RDMW, and offered to seniors and elders by the North Island Crisis and Counselling Centre.

•••

Those interested in becoming involved with BAH, either as a client or volunteer, can contact Tammy Minihan at the North Island Crisis and Counselling Society at 250-949-8333.

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