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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Senior Resources of West Michigan

We're highlighting the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies used by the 2018 recipients of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week we're focusing on the Senior Resources of West Michigan's Care Connections In-Home Personalized Companion Care program, winner in the Social Engagement category.

The Senior Resources of West Michigan team created a unique program in Muskegon, Michigan to help older Americans avoid social isolation and maintain independence in their own homes. The Care Connections In-Home Personalized Companion Care program matches companions with older adults based on mutual interests, personality types and potential for compatibility. Once participants are matched to companions, the two individuals can participate in activities they both enjoy. Some examples are gardening, cooking, assisting with computer and internet use, walking, caring for pets and much more. This companionship program has made a positive impact on many lives.

Support coordination staff at Senior Resources of West Michigan saw a strong need to address social isolation with the older adults in their community several years ago, which led to its creation of this program. Early steps began in 2015 with the development of a business plan and by August of 2016 a program manager was hired.

The companions are often retirees who are not looking to boost their careers or add to their professional skills but want to connect meaningfully with an older adult and make a difference in their lives. Therefore, the application calls for only a few paragraphs from potential companions to learn why they are interested in the job and does not require a formal resume.

The program has been so successful that the team at Senior Resources of West Michigan has seen participants' health improve because they become engaged in activities that they wouldn't have otherwise. The program has averted nursing home placement due to improved cognitive function and physical health of participants.

The program has adapted over time to serve as a respite for family caregivers. The companions have found it helpful that they can set their own hours and gain a feeling that they truly helped someone. Because of its success, the program is being replicated in a nearby county. The team emphasizes that the key to developing a great companion program is matching the participant to the right caregivers for them. When the participant and companion form a genuine bond, that is the true success.

To learn more about the Care Connections In-Home Personalized Companion Care program, contact Pam Curtis, CEO of Senior Resources of West Michigan's at pam@seniorresourceswmi.org.

To learn more about last year's winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community!

 

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