Navigating health care: Senior Health Advocate Volunteer Program
The Senior Health Advocate Volunteer (SHAV) program, which I have written about in past articles, has developed a trained volunteer advocate base that provides elders and their caregivers information and education about appropriate local community resources available to them to meet their needs and promote healthy, independent, active and safe lifestyles. This activity meets the Reno Senior Citizen Advisory Committee strategic plan goals and objectives relating to eliminating information gaps for seniors and caregivers and improving access to senior-related information to improve health outcomes. In addition, the SHAV program works to identify and develop partnerships, health advocacy programs, and financial sponsorships to support senior services that promote healthy, independent, active and safe lifestyles as well as increase volunteer opportunities for education and advocacy by and for elders. It especially helps elders advocate for their own health and wellness as well as help their peers secure the appropriate and timely services and programs that are needed.
We have found through county and city strategic planning processes that not knowing what services are available, contact information, eligibility requirements, and costs are tremendous inhibitors of obtaining the appropriate services for seniors. Our goal is to empower elders with the tools, educate, and train elders and their caregivers about services available. When the services are not available, help develop alternative methods to make them available and affordable to meet their needs. In order to accomplish this we have built partnerships with community organizations to seek resources to meet the ever increasing senior service needs.
The dominate needs of elders in our community include developing untapped resources that can be mined for senior services such as a volunteer base that can provide for multiple needs. Such identified needs as transportation, socialization, healthy behaviors and activities, educating seniors about available resources, and expand programs, facilities, and personnel to meet those needs can be achieved through the SHAV program. The SHAV program advocates for enhanced services to meet the ever increasing needs of our growing senior population and educate them as to what currently exists. The SHAV enhances communication, educates the elder in need about the available senior resources, provides tools to determine service eligibility, and educational methods for improving health and wellness.
Senior Health Advocacy services promotes the health, dignity, rights and quality of life of seniors and disabled, services that make a difference in people's lives. In previous Senior Spectrum articles I have introduced the Senior Health Advocate program that we now provide through AmeriCorps VISTA support. The services that are provided at no cost by trained volunteers (Senior Health Advocates) make a significant difference in people's lives. This program is also supported by the City of Reno Senior Citizens Advisory Committee, Truckee Meadows Park Foundation, and the national AmeriCorps VISTA program.