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Help is here: Senior Services’ Help Line provides answers during uncertain times

By Stephanie Ntim

The Senior Services’ Help Line helps to meet the needs of an aging and more diverse Forsyth County by identifying community resources to support seniors and their loved ones as they move through their daily lives. The help line service is a direct community resource that provides information and referrals to older adults in the Forsyth County area, their caregivers, and professionals.

For the past 32 years, individuals in Forsyth County have contacted the help line to seek  assistance and information from aging resource specialists. The staff has grown to three full-time specialists dedicated to connecting users to various human service agencies and organizations in Forsyth County. In addition, the help line publishes the Senior Services’ Directory of Services for Older Adults in Forsyth County, a print and online guide to local resources in the Forsyth County community. In the 20th edition, residents will find organizations and resources listed that specialize in transportation, personal care, meals, nutrition programs, long-term care facilities, home repair services and more.

Aging resource specialists help users understand eligibility and coverage for Medicare and Medicaid, explore options to help seniors stay in their home for as long as possible, and identify resources to solve challenges and answer questions related to aging for older adults and their caregivers. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to significantly impact Forsyth County communities, the help line also connects users to COVID-19 resources as they become available.

As communities all over the United States first grappled with one of the largest public health crises in history, here in Forsyth County, the Senior Services Help Line was already in place, prepared to assist seniors in finding answers to many of the common questions related to the pandemic. Even though Senior Services closed their building to the public in March when Gov. Roy Cooper issued shelter-in-place orders to prevent community spread of COVID-19, the help line staff continued to be there for the community. “Our staff didn’t miss a beat,” said Sandra Rinaldi, vice president of aging resources at Senior Services. “We seamlessly transitioned to remote work and continued to be fully operational and address users’ concerns.”

As the pandemic has evolved, so has the type of questions asked by individuals in Forsyth County. Rinaldi mentioned that her staff had received calls asking where to acquire masks and contact health professionals for medical advice. With many community members battling nutritional disparities, the help line staff also continued to connect seniors to food pantries and Senior Services’ Meals-on-Wheels program.

The impact of Senior Services Help Line goes beyond what one might expect of a direct service line. The service is essential to helping seniors maintain their independence to live at home, and age as they choose, as long as possible. “The service allows our aging resource specialist to identify the caller’s needs through a comprehensive assessment, which in turn gives them the ability to connect callers to programs/agencies that help address their current concern and assist in exploring future options,” said Rinaldi.

The Senior Services Help Line satisfaction survey shows that users are responding positively to the service. Of those surveyed, 100% reported getting a timely response, helpful information, and either agreed or strongly agreed that they would  use the Senior Services’ Help Line again if needed. One user said, “I reached out to several organizations. Senior Services was the only organization to provide me with a two-page list of resources. The other two gave me one response each.”

The Senior Services Help Line remains committed to offering needed resources to the aging population of Forsyth County. It is important to note the help line is a resource and referral service and not a crisis line, in the event of an emergency you should call 911 or another appropriate urgent response agency. Help line specialists respond to inquiries 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and while you will be directed to leave a detailed message when you first call the help line, the team will return your call within one to two business day to offer assistance.

For assistance from the Senior Services Help Line, call 336-724-2040, email helpline@seniorservicesinc.org , or go to seniorservicesinc.org/ask-for-help/. And for more information on Senior Services operational updates related to the coronavirus, go to seniorservicesinc.org/coronavirus-recommendations.