“My role with my very first senior when I took this job back in 2002 really opened my eyes to the needs of some of our older residents here in Lewisboro,” Parks & Recreation Department Senior Outreach Coordinator Linda Yurus told The Ledger last week.
“My first day on the job I got a call from a woman in need of our outreach services. She was living below the poverty level in a house in a state of disrepair. She had little family support and suffered from both mental and physical health issues.”
Ms. Yurus said her very first senior was representative of some others living in a largely affluent town that still has pockets of need. “I ended up seeing her once or twice a week for 10 years,” Ms. Yurus said, “and we struck up an excellent relationship over that time. She has since passed away.”
Ms. Yurus said there are “issues behind almost every senior’s door and many need help. Our senior program provides them with some of the basic things they need, including transportation, social interaction, and referrals to essential services.”
Lewisboro’s senior program serves about 30 seniors at any given time. “Some I see routinely and others every once in a while,” Ms. Yurus said. “Everyone’s needs are different and there is no set approach. I am a very hands-on person and tailor what I do to each individual situation.”
Ms. Yurus said the seniors in her program are a diverse group. “Financially, some are comfortable but others live below the poverty line,” she said. “For that group I make sure they get all the goods and services available to them, including home heating oil, food stamps, enrollment in Meals on Wheels, Medicaid, and phone and energy bill reductions, among others.”
Some of Ms. Yurus’s seniors struggle with their finances, living close to the edge on Social Security alone, with no pension or savings to draw upon.
“When I see they are really having a hard time, I will intervene in helping them to manage what they have,” she said. “For example, I recently had a senior who was not paying her home heating oil bills and was denied delivery. I intervened with the company and straightened out her account. She was able to pay the bills, but had just lost track of things.”
Ms. Yurus said providing transportation to seniors takes up a large chunk of her time.
“I take seniors to doctor’s visits at least twice a day,” she said. “This involves picking them up, taking them to the doctor, sitting with them during the appointment as a second set of ears, and then bringing them home.”
Ms. Yurus says she believes her seniors need a patient advocate. “I want to make sure of their continuum of care and will help with follow-up appointments,” she said.
The department’s new bus, obtained through a grant and driven by Laurie Weigand, takes seniors grocery shopping and makes visits to other shops. Every Wednesday, Ms. Weigand picks her group up and takes them to a weekly meeting at the South Salem firehouse. “The meeting lasts from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes a variety of activities,” Ms. Yurus said. “It’s primarily social with a brown bag lunch, and can feature a speaker, entertainment, a movie, or even a knitting circle.”
Making sure seniors have ample food is another part of Ms. Yurus’s job.
“Meals on Wheels is a lifesaver for many,” she said. “Other avenues of support are friends or relatives that will take seniors shopping or bring over prepared food. This week, I am delivering Christmas baskets of nutritious foods, mostly protein, to seniors I know will be home-bound over the holidays. I tailor each basket to their personal preferences and needs.”
Providing individual social interaction and making home welfare checks are also important parts of her work.
“I make many home visits and welfare checks,” she said. “I keep tabs on our seniors’ different issues and know which ones need a visit. Sometimes I go by just to say hello or pop in to make sure they have food and are getting their mail. My job involves gaining their trust. Once I find out where they stand emotionally, physically and financially, I know what to do.”
Ms. Yurus said her department worked closely with the town’s emergency responders during the past two years of horrific weather events and lengthy power failures. “I can’t say enough about how the fire departments and LVAC [Lewisboro Volunteer Ambulance Corps] helped us out,” she said. “We worked as a team on welfare checks and guided some seniors into shelters.”
Seniors also get help from the Lewisboro Lions and their youth group, the Leos, who will pitch in with things like minor home repairs, yard work and snow shoveling. “But it’s the big repair jobs, like the need for a new roof, that are problematic,” she said. “People want to stay in their home but sometimes they have to move because they just can’t keep them up. People are living longer now and just outstrip their physical and financial ability to stay in their home.”
LVAC President Jim Reilly had high praise for Ms. Yurus.
“Over a third of Lewisboro’s annual ambulance calls are for seniors,” he told The Ledger. “We have a hundred seniors here, many somewhat under the radar. In most cases, an ambulance call leaves an emotional imprint. Many of these people, widows and widowers, are living on the edge economically, socially and medically. Many have no nearby family and rely on the goodwill of neighbors and friends.”
Mr. Reilly said Ms. Yurus was a lifeline for many seniors.
“I can’t tell you how many times we have responded to find Linda already on the scene comforting a frightened and confused patient and being their advocate. We may go periodically, but for Linda this is her personal commitment, monitoring the welfare of these at-risk seniors. Her caring, her empathy, and her deeply personal attachment to them honors her more than any compliments can.
“Seeing the comfort she brings with words and touch puts the rest of our work in sharp perspective. I only know Linda through these contacts, but I always think how blessed we are to have her, and others like her, as part of our extended family in Lewisboro.”
Dana Mayclim, superintendent of Parks & Recreation, also saluted Ms. Yurus’s efforts.
“Linda has the perfect personality for this position,” she said. “She is patient with the seniors, a calming presence during emergency situations and is determined to give the best care and services to residents that would really be alone if it wasn’t for her. We are very lucky to have her serve as our senior outreach coordinator.”
Ms. Yurus said what she does is much more than a job to her.
“Over the years I have had an opportunity to work with so many wonderful senior adults and become friends. I am happy our town helps them the way we do, but I would hope that as a larger community we can get to know our senior neighbors better and get involved in their lives.
“There are so many senior adults in need, but you never know who they are until you make the time to stop by one day and they open the door.”
For information on senior services, call Ms. Yurus at 914-232-6162.