How many times have questions popped into your head about aging? Does it happen when your birthday comes around each year; a dreaded day for some who just want it to pass as quickly as possible without people noticing or mentioning it to you? Or does it strike a different chord, when we see a loved one struggling to cope and keep up in a fast-paced, non-stop society - one that they may not be physically and-or mentally equipped for anymore? Most all of us have been there, or we've been close to someone that is dealing with these issues on a daily basis with family or friends. But instead of watching your loved one continue this battle alone, or yourself trying to help in vain with your busy schedule and family life, there is hope and reason for optimism.
Albright LIFE, (Living Independently For Elders), gives seniors the chance to live safely in their own home by providing the services that they require, including physical, personal, medical and social needs. Albright LIFE, 901 Memorial Ave., serves all of Lycoming County and 10 zip codes of Clinton County.
Who might be eligible for the LIFE program that Albright provides? Anyone 55 or older that misses appointments and is forgetful of their doctor visits that are needed to maintain or improve their physical or mental health. Also, individuals that are in need of nutritional, physical, occupational or speech therapies are good candidates for the program.
RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
At top, Arianna Lewis, left, and Kate Bolden work on a craft project during a recent visit by the YWCA to Albright LIFE. Above, physical therapist Becky Baker, left, assists seniors at Albright LIFE in the physical therapy room. This is just one of the features Albright has to offer seniors in the community.
Does the senior have a problem remembering, or is he or she resistive in taking their prescription medication? Do they possibly have an over-extended or overburdened support system by family or friends that could benefit from more help? Maybe the individual needs socialization and interaction with others that the adult day program would provide, has complex or chronic medical needs that require constant upkeep and monitoring or requires transportation to and from their medical appointments and check-ups.
"What the LIFE program is essentially, is a wellness program to provide a broad array of services that help them to continue to live a healthy and independent life in whatever place they call home whether that be their apartment, home, or living with their family," said John Ressler, executive director for Albright LIFE.
Albright LIFE can be thought of in a four-step process that includes the Adult Day Center, where seniors participate between two to five days a week, which is determined by the interdisciplinary team in a safe, secure environment where socialization is encouraged, coupled with therapeutic recreation assistance as well as spiritual support.
The second step is medical care for the senior and individual case management. There is a primary care physician five days a week with a full staff of nurses that are all on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Prescriptions are monitored closely and integrated with all other forms of medical care, which include, but aren't limited to, physical and occupational therapy and dietary and nutritional education. Social workers are on staff to help with the senior's mental health and any obstacles that may arise in that regard.
The third step of the process is transportation to and from medical appointments and to and from the center, which directly links to the fourth step in the process of in-home care, where home care aides assist in bathing, toileting and meal preparation. The aides would also help the senior with such things as laundry services, which can also be taken care of on-site at the center, grocery shopping and cleaning.
Transportation to and from the home it isn't simply picking them up at the curb and dropping them off, it involves getting the participant settled in, getting their dinner out of the freezer and taking their coat off, pouring them a glass of water and making sure they've got everything that they need.
"The critical role that our drivers play is that typically they're the eyes and ears of the program inside the home, they let us know of any problems that may be happening inside to help keep them safe," Ressler said. The service is called "door through door," which is much more involved and an important part of the LIFE program performed by the drivers, who are also nurses aides.
How does such a vital program and service to the community get funding to operate and how does it keep up with the inflated and sometimes insurmountable costs of healthcare?
Various programs are accepted including Medicaid, Medicare, some long term-care insurances and also private pay. The intake coordinator determines what programs a participant will qualify for and what options might work best for them.
Albright LIFE is a non-profit organization that has 22 employees, 19 of which are full time. There are also many volunteers that assist in the various activities for the seniors.
Donations to Albright also are accepted and are an integral part of keeping the program running as well. There has been a long-time partnership with the Lycoming County United Way, which has funded and continues to fund the door to door transportation system that is core to the success of everything Albright LIFE does. Part of the facility that seniors also have access to is the library, which has been funded by Brodart, a local manufacturer in the Williamsport area.
So what does this all mean to the executive director and to you? The mission statement of Albright LIFE is "to encourage abundant living by anticipating and responding to the needs of the aging and frail." This mission continues to be accomplished by giving the seniors the support they need. "We focus on allowing the individuals to do as much for themselves as they possibly can, we still want them to keep their independence with our support," he said.
Ressler has been working in the heath care industry all his life, and has been in his current position at Albright in Williamsport for two years, he said he felt a calling to be where he's at now.
"I really felt like I wanted to move into the senior care industry, it was something I felt tugging at my heart strings and I'm thoroughly enjoying being here. The people in this program are not financially well off, they need assistance in keeping them healthy, keeping them in the community, and quite frankly I love this program and I love being a part of this program and being able to provide what they need," he said.
There have been many success stories in the program, but one sticks out in the director's mind that he finds particularly rewarding.
"There was a woman who was basically in what we call a frequent flyer position, she was a diabetic who was unable to control her blood sugar levels and making constant trips to the emergency room, once she enrolled in the program we were able to provide the intensive daily management that she needed in order to keep her blood sugar in control and she continued to thrive in this environment for years. It was such a radical change for her that the physicians at the hospital thought she had passed away because they didn't see her anymore, she is a tremendous example of what we can bring to an individual to keep them healthy and active in the community," Ressler said.
Some of the activities that seniors at Albright LIFE participate in benefit both themselves and the community. Last year participants knitted 21 hats and 42 scarves that they donated to needy children. Once again it's about being active in the community. "It's important to understand that they really want to give back," Ressler said. Recently participants measured out the distance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Once they had walked the same distance inside the center they had a "rock and roll" party to celebrate their accomplishment.
The Adult Day Center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Snacks and meals are included in the fee, and are tailored to each participant's nutritional needs, as well as many daily activities.
It's important to note that there is no referral needed from a doctor to get into the program, to find out more about everything that Albright LIFE has to offer call 322-5433 or visit www.albrightlife.org.