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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Seniors, disabled reach out to new hotline number

An elderly Spokane man keeps falling in his home but he doesn’t want to move to assisted living. His retirement income is a tad too much to receive free in-home care services. Yet he doesn’t have enough money to pay for help out-of-pocket.

After what the man said was 15 telephone calls with no answers or solutions, he finally rang the SpokaneHelpline, which helps seniors and people with disabilities find the services they need to stay in their homes.

Jaelen Pace, an information and referral associate with Community Living Connections, answered the man’s call and talked with him for hours. Last week, he planned to visit the man’s home with Director Lisa Hinton to figure out a solution to the complex situation.

Pace said during one of his conversations, the man asked, “What does it take for me to get help when I’m dragging myself across the floor on my elbows?”

Then the man pleaded, “Please don’t give up on me.”

Not all the calls received by the SpokaneHelpline are as complicated. It doesn’t matter. The goal is to help people connect to support and help, long before 15 calls to other places.

Community-Minded Enterprises launched the new SpokaneHelpline number – (509) 960-7281 – last month, the first time in more than three decades that the number has changed.

Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington recently awarded the four-year contract to Community-Minded Enterprises to operate the information and referral service known as Community Living Connections. Previously, Elder Services oversaw the hotline, which received about 9,000 calls per year. Elder Services will continue to provide case management and family caregiver support services.

The hotline is designed to help guardians, advocates, caregivers, family members, neighbors, health care providers, community partners and law enforcement find resources. That includes everything from housing, transportation, Medicaid and mental health services to caregiver support and meals.

“We encourage anyone to call, even if they don’t have an immediate need,” Hinton said. “We are here to help empower people.”

Besides making referrals and connecting people with services, Community Living Connections also can do home visits to help people establish trust and fill out applications and other paperwork. It hopes to make its website interactive this spring.

“I’m still amazed at how many gaps (in service) that need to be filled and that so many people are falling through the cracks,” Hinton said, while giving a tour of the new, simple office space that has at least two people taking calls during the day. If a caller leaves a message, the staff will return it as soon as possible.

One of her more recent calls was from an older woman who couldn’t find affordable housing and is couch-surfing with friends. Technically, she isn’t considered homeless because she hasn’t spent the night in the shelter.

Another woman called frightened of living alone but not wanting to go to a nursing home.

“We got the whole office involved in that one,” Hinton said, adding that the woman likely is eligible for in-home care services. “Sometimes it’s just heartbreaking.”

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