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A Care Coordinator Gives Back

Reprinted from the Record. View the original article here.

By: Johanna Weidner

WATERLOO REGION — Jo-Anne Maxwell knows how devastating a fall can be for a senior through her work with the region's home care provider.                

That's why Maxwell volunteers with a gentle exercise program tailored to seniors to help them live independently and safely at home.

The free 12-week program offered by Community Support Connections focuses on making daily activities easier for seniors through simple exercises that can be done right at home.

"You can see the improvements," said Maxwell, care co-ordinator at the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre.

Strength, balance, flexibility and mobility are all bolstered through exercise, not only keeping seniors at home longer, but also reducing the risk of a fall. Regular exercise can also reduce aches and pains, and lift a person's mood.

"Once they get exercising a little more, they really do feel better," she said.

A volunteer comes to the senior's home once a week for about an hour and guides the senior through the exercises, which can be modified depending on ability.

"It's all based on what they're able to do," Maxwell said.

The program is great for people who don't have transportation to a group exercise program held in the community or are intimidated by joining a class. Community Support Connections, a charitable organization that provides services to seniors for free or low cost, holds gentle exercise classes at more than 100 sites in Waterloo Region.

Between visits from the volunteer, the seniors have a checklist to continue doing the exercises. Often they surprise themselves with just how much they can do.

"Initially they start off telling you all the things they can't do," Maxwell said. "It melts away."

Although exercising can be a hard-sell at first, Maxwell gets their attention when she says it can help them stay at home and prevent a dreaded fall that will result in a hospital stay or worse.

"Most of these people, they know someone who broke a hip and ended up in the nursing home," Maxwell said. "They realize if they fall and break a hip, it's going to change their situation."

Professionals caring for seniors see the value, too. The wait list for the program was cleared in the summer, but since August it's grown to 80 people. People can be referred by care-providers or sign up themselves (519-772-8787).

"We definitely have a huge need for volunteers now," said Rosalind Horne, resource development lead for Community Support Connections. "We're recruiting like crazy."

Since its launch in 2011, the program helped more than 400 seniors. There are about 20 volunteers at a time, some visiting one person and others a few at a time.

Horne said the team is buoyed by improvements they see in the seniors, some being able to again do activities they needed someone else to do for them.

"We have awesome success stories."