Project Connect—Making Those Vital Links

Many of us can spend time in our community talking with neighbors, enjoying local entertainment or restaurants or just walking around without giving it a second thought. But there are many older adults who are unable to go out for a variety of reasons and are prone to isolation. To make matters worse, some older adults in the community are not receiving all the social services they have had access to in the past due to challenges in State funding.

In response, CJE SeniorLife’s new Project Connect, funded by a grant from the JUF’s Fund for Innovation in Health, was launched on July 1 to help isolated older adults in the community receive either a call or visit from a CJE volunteer and in some cases, the services of a professional care manager, depending on a person’s needs.

FRIENDLY CALLS OR VISITS PROVIDE A VIRTUAL LIFELINE
Who are Friendly Callers or Visitors and why are they needed? As we age, keeping up old friendships or making new acquaintances may grow more difficult. Yet having someone to laugh with or chat with is important to our health and happiness. Studies have proven that friendships are good for our health. Friendly Callers or Visitors are a special type of volunteer who fill a specific need. They make phone calls or visits on a regular basis to persons who are alone in the community. They check up on individuals’ well-being, have a conversation to make sure their needs are being met and, if not, connect them to CJE’s and other organizations’ services.

“MAKING THESE CALLS IS REMINISCENT OF SPEAKING WITH MY GRANDPARENTS, SO IT BRINGS UP A LOT OF GOOD MEMORIES OF THE PEOPLE THAT I LOVED.”
—FRIENDLY CALLER

With Friendly Calls and Visits, volunteers make an important social connection, often a life-changing contribution to someone’s well-being. Occasionally, Friendly Calls turn into face-to-face Friendly Visits in the home or develop into long-lasting friendships.

CARE MANAGEMENT OFFERS HELPFUL RESOURCES AND OPTIONS
The Care Management arm of Project Connect, managed by CJE’s Sharon Dornberg-Lee, arranges support to help adults aged 55 and over live at home independently and with dignity. An assessment completed by a CJE Care Manager can help determine if an older person needs to be connected to resources in the community, most of which are either free or affordable options. The Care Manager establishes what is working well and uncovers areas where some hands-on help is needed, such as finding in-home assistance, caregiver support, transportation or home-delivered meals.

Dornberg-Lee explains that “Care Managers can provide referrals to personal care agencies, mental health and legal services, support groups and healthcare providers. They help access government agencies and benefits, including Illinois Department of Aging, Medicare Part D, Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps) and Meals on Wheels (home-delivered meals). Care Managers also provide information on housing, accessible transportation, finance and caregiver support.” Basically, the Care Manager knows what’s available in one’s community and can coordinate benefits or services offered by other agencies.

Individuals receiving Care Management could also benefit from volunteer Friendly Callers or Visitors as part of the Project Connect “package.”

Contact CJE’s Entry Department at 773.508.1000 to learn more about Project Connect and its Friendly Caller and Care Management services. (Funded by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Fund for Innovation in Health.)

APPLY FOR THIS PROGRAM
It’s sometimes hard to keep up with old friends or make new ones as we age. Wouldn’t it be nice to receive a call once in a while? Project Connect will match you up, according to your preferences, with someone who wants to call you to make a friendly connection. Click here for more details!

VOLUNTEER FOR THIS PROGRAM
CJE is also recruiting volunteers to make friendly calls and visits to older adults living in the community. Click here to find out more!