Several years ago, I asked Joti Bhakta, the head social worker for seniors at the Washoe County Senior Center, how our Reno committee could use some of our funds to help more Reno seniors. She told me that there are times when government funds and grants do not cover the critical needs of an atrisk elder. There are sometimes gaps in service that can prevent these frail elders from remaining in good health and living here in our community. For example, if a person qualifies for home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels) but does not have a microwave to heat the food, the county has no funds in that program to provide a microwave. If we could create a “gap fund” that could pay for low cost short-term needs like this, this would really make a difference in their lives.
The county did not have the ability to take a direct donation from our committee for this and did not have staff to manage this new program idea. I asked Dr. Larry Weiss at the nonprofit Center for Healthy Aging, if he would be willing to work with the county to receive referrals and manage the funds for this new project. He agreed, and the Elder Gap Services Program was born. Today, referrals are also received from other senior-serving organizations such as Northern Nevada HOPES and Home Instead Senior Care.
Basically, when agencies have an elderly Reno client in need of a short term, low cost “gap service”, the agency makes a referral in writing to the Center for Healthy Aging. Center staff interviews the client and involved agency workers, verifies the need for service and arranges to fill the need. Here are a few of the stories of seniors helped by the Elder Gap Program this year: