New SIRCH program helps keep seniors Safe at Home

By Angelica Ingram

Nestled down the end of a long paved road stands a well kept green bungalow overlooking Coleman Lake.

The picturesque home features a few steps up to the front door complete with a self-made railing to hang on to.

Upon entering guests feel secure knowing they won’t fall down the immediate staircase which leads to the basement thanks to a metal barrier blocking the open steps.

Area rugs in the hallway and throughout the house are also kept in place with non-slip pads located underneath.

The cozy home belongs to 88-year-old Haliburton County resident John Glenn who has tried his best over the years to keep his house as safe as possible.

A retired widower Glenn lost his beloved wife Muriel to whom he was married to for nearly 60 years eight years ago and has lived in his home alone since that time.

“We were childhood sweethearts” he said.

With two children five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren (and another on the way) coming for regular visits Glenn is kept both busy and social two things he prefers to be.

However the combination of visiting youngsters and his declining health in his old age has made Glenn more than aware of the importance of safety.

In the past few weeks Glenn volunteered to have his home assessed through a new SIRCH initiative called Safe at Home.

A longtime SIRCH volunteer who is neighbours with SIRCH employee Marilyn Rydberg Glenn was approached about the program and did not hesitate about it for a minute.

The initiative includes a visit from trained volunteers who access the home for safety hazards and then submit a detailed report to the homeowner in the weeks following.

“This is the wonderful thing about this program they come in and they’re very very nice and they check the outside and inside over” he said.

The visit lasted for approximately 45 minutes as volunteers went through a checklist said Glenn.

Some of the suggestions given included putting in a hand railing for a short set of steps leading from the house to the garage and installing push handles on the doors.

“The nice thing about this whole program is it’s all free of charge” he said. “The other thing I really like about it is I can fix everything I can fix one or two things which I’m going to do or I can fix nothing. It’s just a suggestion there’s nothing here that says you have to do this.”

One of the benefits of the program in Glenn’s opinion is it allows him to stay in his home longer rather than move to a seniors’ residence.

“I know I’m old but I don’t want to spend my days with old people” he says. “So I’m doing everything I can I’m investigating every option to stay here.”

A resident of the county for the past 15 years Glenn moved from the Hamilton area to a piece of property he and his wife fell in love with.

A ski and boating enthusiast Glenn used to be on the Canadian Ski Patrol and used to frequent the area for cross-country skiing.

Glenn would not only recommend the program but has already started doing so.

“I’m so enthusiastic about it because if they can make a person’s life any safer then that’s wonderful” he said.

The program is open to anyone 65 and over and is not only helpful for seniors but for making homes safer for visiting grandchildren.

Coordinator of Safe at Home Wendy Iles explained that the program sends two trained volunteers to a senior’s home to look for any issues that can be a trip fall or shock hazard.

“The checklist is not invasive … it’s very general things like throw rugs and are there proper receptacles installed in the bathrooms” she said. “They bring the completed list back to SIRCH I go over it with the volunteers and then do up a report that based on the findings can either be presented to them by the volunteers or I may discuss it by phone and then send them the info for their records.”

Apart from identifying risks the visit can help connect seniors with county-wide programs they may not know exist such as bereavement support groups Meals on Wheels etc.

The report is completely confidential and also includes looking ahead to potential risks down the road.

“It’s not even about what they might need right now it’s also about having them see what some issues could arise” she said. “We’re just trying to prevent those things that are bringing people to the emergency department.”

The initiative is being funded through a New Horizons grant through to December.

Iles emphasizes that although the program is a SIRCH initiative it’s a tool and resource for promoting  county programs.

“It’s about helping the seniors in the community” she said.