KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — After a lifetime of hard work, older adults deserve to enjoy their golden years. As longevity increases, there are those who outlive their families and friends and money. In cases where mental capacity is diminished, they are vulnerable to self-neglect, lack of nutrition and medical treatment, unsafe or unhealthy living conditions, as well as crimes such as fraud, elder abuse and neglect, and identity theft. Others simply are unable to make important financial and medical decisions that can affect their well being.
Adult Guardianship Services protects vulnerable older adults over the age of 60 with Alzheimer’s disease or other mental incapacitation. REAL Services has provided this program in St. Joseph County since 1994. Services expanded to Marshall County in 2008 and to Elkhart County in 2010. Earlier this year, thanks in part to a generous donation from K21 Health Foundation, REAL Services launched the program in Kosciusko County and hired Virginia Sheffer to manage the program in REAL Services’ Plymouth office. On June 24, legal guardianship of a Kosciusko County resident was appointed to REAL Services by the courts for the first time.
According to data from the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, the number of people age 65 and older in the U.S. will double by 2040. Alzheimer’s disease affects over 120,000 in Indiana and is expected to rise to 130,000 by the year 2025. Combine this with the number of people over the age of 65 who live alone, and the figures are startling. These people are not able to make medical decisions that are in their best interest. They often self-neglect, fall, wander, have emergencies and fatal injuries, psychiatric symptoms, social isolation, and loneliness. Too many times, they fall victim to others who will take advantage of them, steal from them, and sometimes do them physical harm. With the increasing number of older Americans and longer life spans, it is expected that referrals to REAL Services’ Adult Guardianship program will continue to increase.
REAL Services has been serving older adults in Kosciusko County for more than 40 years. Last year, it assisted more than 5,000 residents in the county. The Adult Guardianship program is housed in the Plymouth office, along with Case Management, Energy Assistance, and other programs that serve elderly and disabled residents of Kosciusko County. For more information, call 574-869-1173 or click here.