Living at Home volunteers serve 400 at rib dinner fundraiser

As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the field of geriatric care is booming. Professional care to help seniors age and provide the services they are not able to do themselves takes the stress off families and the senior. Aging comfortably and sa...

Living at Home voluntyeer Dick Rutherford serves barbecued ribs to a guest. Nearly 400 people were served Friday night. The service helps seniors and disabled persons live at home. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, the field of geriatric care is booming.  Professional care to help seniors age and provide the services they are not able to do themselves takes the stress off families and the senior.  Aging comfortably and safely are the goals of eldercare.  Living at Home in Park Rapids provides eldercare services to help seniors remain independent.  

“It’s a great service with great volunteers,” said Chrys Mortensen Friday night during the barbecued ribs fundraiser at the Park Rapids American Legion.  

As the tantalizing aroma of ribs filled the Legion hall, several people sang the program’s praises to interim director Connie Carmichael.  “We have the best volunteers in the world,” Carmichael agreed, adding that she has not met all the volunteers yet.  

“It’s not just about the cause or the ribs,” said Park Rapids resident Amy Yerkes, who attended the Friday night feast.  She said the dialog between children and aging parents is a valuable one and should be an ongoing conversation.  “What would you need to continue living at home?” is how she recalls starting that dialog with her parents.  Both of Yerkes’ parents volunteer at Living at Home, as many seniors do.  Transportation to doctors’ appointments is the service most recipients mentioned they’re grateful for, whether it’s the local clinic or an appointment in Fargo.  

“It makes my heart smile all day long,” Carmichael said. “We just have helped so many people.”  Living at Home has also built ramps for disabled individuals. The service designs and builds the ramps. Recipients only pay for the materials. The labor is furnished at no cost.  Living at Home volunteers also offer respite relief, giving caregivers a much needed break.  The local program is 24 years old and holds two rib dinners a year as major fundraisers.  Around 400 people are served.  “They know who I am so I don’t need a nametag,” grinned volunteer Dick Rutherford, donning a red apron. He took a place behind the food line, asking guests if they wanted more helpings of ribs.  Carmichael said during winters the program helps 135 to 200 repeat customers, although getting an exact handle on the numbers helped proves somewhat elusive. There are around 250 active seniors helped by the program.  Seniors who go south for the winter may or may not be counted.  


Because of the isolation and snow, there are more requests for business in the winter, Carmichael added.  And although checking on the senior population per se isn’t a service Living at Home offers, through other services, the volunteers are able to keep a handle on seniors who may or may not need help.  “You can minimize the work but get the same result,” Rutherford noted.  From June 2014 to July 2015, volunteers drove 18,000 miles, Carmichael said, taking seniors and disabled persons to doctors’ appointments. Those volunteers tabulated 3,000 hours of service, Carmichael said.  A vast array of services is offered such as conducting functional assessments and designing individualized care plans.  

The service also advocated for clients are coordinates care.  That’s the purview of Laurel Hed, a licensed social worker who is Living At Home’s Geriatric Care Manager.  Hed conducts initial assessments at no cost to the client, to determine their needs.  A typical service plan begins with a three-month initial package providing 25 hours to manage that client’s particular needs. Additional hours, if needed, are billed at an hourly rate. After the three months, each case is evaluated to see if the client needs additional services.  A coalition of area churches assists Living at Home. The program connects clients and families with community resources, healthcare providers, state and federal entitlements, social activities, and financial and legal concerns.  

Volunteer Joanna Abresch smiled as she cleared away a table of food at the rib feast.  “How long have we been here?” she asked to nobody in particular.  Forever, most recipients might say.  Living at Home offers geriatric care management to residents in southern Hubbard, eastern Becker and parts of northern Wadena counties.    

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