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Lutheran Social Services provides Dassel’s nutrition site

July 21, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Dassel’s senior nutrition is one of several programs provided by Lutheran Social Services in Meeker County, according to the service’s 2007 annual report.

Jan Novotny, a Lutheran Social Services caregiver coordinator, told the county board of commissioners Tuesday about its various programs during the organization’s annual report. Novotny also introduced Allison Fett of Dassel to the board. She is an intern with the senior nutrition branch of Lutheran Social Services and studying at St. Cloud State University.

Novotny, Fett and Diane Shuck, program manager of the foster grandparent and senior companion program, detailed the Lutheran Social Services activities throughout the year for the board.

The five programs receive funding from the area Agency of Aging, Novotny said. Seniors over 60 pay $3.25 for each meal provided by the nutrition programs, Fett added.

All the rest of the resources come from volunteers, Novotny said.

Novotny coordinates the caregivers’ support program serving McLeod, Renville and Kandiyohi counties.

“According to the American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatrists, one of every four American families cares for someone over the age of 50. . . In 2000, the Census Bureau reported just under 35 million Americans were 65 or over,” reported CNN.com/health.

The Meeker County agency provides not only support groups for caregivers, but also respite services for caregivers who need a break.

Shuck said the senior companion program, another service from Lutheran Social Service, utilizes people who are 60 years of age or older to assist others through caring and companionship. They help people to remain independent in their homes as long as possible, she said.

Shuck said the companions are paid a stipend of $2.65 an hour for 15 hours a week, and receive 38 cents a mile for transportation. Most are volunteers, so they don’t have to be locked into 15 hours every week, she said.

Companions also receive a $2 allowance for meals. When County Commissioner Jim Swenson heard the amount paid the companions for meals, he questioned how much food $2 could buy. Shuck agreed the $2 allowance was only a token payment.

Shuck also coordinates the foster grandparent program in the area school districts. Seniors volunteer to serve in elementary schools, not as teachers or aides, but to give students extra attention, as grandparents do, she said.

In other business regarding senior citizens, Social Services Director Clark Gustafson asked a volunteer guardian/conservator, Christine Bouley, to tell the county commissioners about her efforts in serving vulnerable adults.

Bouley also works in a sister program to Lutheran Social Services, Americorps. She has been a mental health practitioner for the past 20 years, and has been a volunteer guardian in Meeker County for seven years. Bouley also is currently finishing her degree at St. Cloud State University, she said.

Bouley said a guardian is responsible for decision-making for the vulnerable adult. A conservator is responsible for financial decision-making. In the past, guardians focused on elderly people with no family, Bouley said.

Lately, however, most of the vulnerable adults she is guardian for have been financially exploited, she said.

County commissioners are planning to pay the volunteer guardians for mileage. Bouley’s presentation was part of a proposal from the adult services department for mileage reimbursement.

Odds and ends

In other business, the county board:

• heard a report that Wal-Mart had donated $1,000 worth of fluorescent light bulbs to be distributed with the food distribution from Zion Lutheran Church of Litchfield.

• noted that Gustafson will be honored in August for his 25 years as a social services director. He has served in Meeker County for 23 of those years, and is the county’s longest serving director.

• granted full-time status to Kari Wold, effective Friday, Aug. 8. She is a social services employee who works with mentally ill people.

• paid for two more county burials, usually $2,200 each. This year, the county has had 11 burials, compared to the previous highest number of burials at this time, nine, Gustafson said.

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