RPB Council Learns About Palm Beach County Senior Services

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council heard a report from Palm Beach County Division of Senior Services (DOSS) representatives last week on services available to the elderly as part of a study the village is conducting.

At the Feb. 2 meeting, Senior Volunteer Coordinator Jason Josephs said DOSS is a division of the county’s Community Services Department that provides programs and services promoting healthy, independent living for seniors 60 and over and their caregivers, although it has a waiting list for many of the services.

DOSS has four main locations in Palm Beach County — Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Belle Glade. It has been serving older adults in Palm Beach County since 1977 and has been designated as the lead agency to administer programs for the elderly by the Area Agency on Aging Resource Center and the Department of Elder Affairs, which provides money for the programs.

The department started by offering congregate meal services. Since then, DOSS has expanded its congregate meal services to 17 locations throughout the county, as well as Meals on Wheels for homebound seniors. About 175 volunteers help with the meal services.

Those services are open Monday through Friday, and participants complete a confidential registration. Newsletters are published monthly and include a variety of information such as activities, programs and services. No registration fee is required for many of the services, but donations are accepted.

The programs offered ensure that longtime participants are not alienated by change. They include games and activities, bereavement support groups, exercise classes and courses that promote lifelong learning and wellness.

Health is promoted through a variety of educational sessions and screenings on prevention, including fall prevention education, blood pressure clinics, and health and safety fairs.

Activities include book discussions, arts and crafts, creative writing, language classes, drawing and other crafts, games, dances and holiday events, and travel, such as day trips to cultural events and luncheons at local restaurants. There are also recreational and fitness activities, including tap, ballroom dancing, yoga, Zumba and chair exercise. The department also has a transportation component.

Two of the centers provide adult day care, with hourly assistance for Alzheimer’s patients and other cognitively or physically impaired participants, in cooperation with Alzheimer’s Community Care.

The multilingual case management staff members have college-level degrees to provide individual counseling to clients who qualify. The department also collaborates with the Department of Children & Families and Adult Protective Services to provide crisis resolution for seniors who are at high risk for or who are victims of elder abuse or neglect. There is even a financial assistance program to help pay utility bills for some seniors who need assistance keeping their power on.

Josephs said that 28 seniors in Royal Palm Beach participate in homebound care programs out of a total of 651 county residents in the program.

During natural disasters and other crises, the department provides transportation to emergency shelters via Palm Tran, and confirms that the client has power at their home before transporting them back.

A complete list of services is available at www.pbcgov.org/communityservices/seniorservices.

Quality Assurance Coordinator Maggie Longoria said DOSS receives funding from several different agencies that each have specific requirements.

“Each grant has its own rules that we have to go by, but for any of those services, our gateway to come and get services is the Area Agency on Aging,” Longoria said. “The clients that need help call there, and then when we have funding available, we call clients from the wait list. Unfortunately, there is a long wait list for services.”

Longoria said the services are based on the needs of the client.

“There are clients who are on the wait list longer than others because if there is one client, who through the assessment is more in need, that client will be chosen first,” she said.

The only requirement to participate in the senior center programs, including the congregate meals, is that they be 60 or older, Longoria said. For in-home care, they must undergo an assessment to demonstrate need, such as a stroke patient who is unable to dress herself or clean the house.

“The only requirement that we require is that we provide the possibility of making a donation for the services if they choose, which is true for the meal sites, too,” she said. “If you want to contribute, it’s voluntary.”

Another grant through Community Care for the Elderly has a mandated copayment based on income scale, depending on the number of services they receive. Another grant through Home Care for the Elderly provides services for a client 24 hours a day.

“We help that person with a stipend every month, and if they need some care, like if they are incontinent and need diapers, we can provide that, too,” Longoria said.

Councilman David Swift asked how seniors typically find DOSS, and Longoria said they participate in health fairs and other community events to get the word out.

“Anything to do with seniors or whenever we’re invited to meetings like these, we go out and represent our services,” Longoria said. “The Area Agency on Aging also does a lot of outreach. In my experience, it is not really the internet, because the seniors that we serve are not computer-savvy.”

Some referrals are from children of seniors who are out of state looking for services that can be provided for their parents.

DOSS was invited to make the presentation as part of a study being conducted by the village in an effort to improve services to seniors. Last month, the council contracted with Phil Gonot of PMG Associates to do a comprehensive study of senior services.