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New group helping seniors stay at home

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

Carol Wright knows the type of stress family members who serve as caregivers often feel.

"I had the experience of taking care of my mother for a year before she passed away," Wright said. "Also, in the last year I have had several friends who have been overwhelmed with taking care of family members."

Already thinking about the need to help caregivers in situations similar to her own, a television segment she and her husband, Dave, happened to watch in a hotel while on a trip convinced her to take action.

The segment publicized the nationwide grassroots "villages" movement designed to help communities care for the aging, and among other things, allow them to stay in their homes as long as possible.

"After it was over I thought, wow, that is such a good idea," Wright said. "I want to stay at home as long as I can. I don't want to go to a nursing home, or at least not any earlier than I have to. Most people want to stay home as long as they can."

Their strong feelings on the subject motivated the couple, along with friends Keith and Brenda Burrow, to establish a nonprofit organization named Made-To-Stay. The organization's mission is to support seniors, 55 and older, and disabled adults in Paducah and McCracken County as they strive to remain in their homes as long as they can safely do so.

According to a study this summer by the American Association of Retired Persons, unpaid family caregivers provide the bulk of care for older Kentuckians. More than 700,000 residents help aging parents, spouses and other loved ones stay at home by providing assistance with daily living activities and transportation, among other things. The AARP ranked Kentucky last among the states for long-term care services for seniors.

Wright has spent the last several months gathering information from the community through a series of meetings. She also received input from area agencies that serve senior citizens, including a 2012 survey by the Purchase Area Development District that also identified a shortage of senior services. 

"That just proves our point. There is so much of a need for more help in this area," she said.

For now, the organization is being run out of the Wrights' home. Susan Wright will serve as executive director, and Brenda Burrow will be the assistant director and volunteer coordinator. Along with getting organized and establishing tax-exempt status, the group is soliciting volunteers to assist in a variety of areas. Volunteers can help with transportation, shopping, home repairs, yard work, meal preparation and technical assistance. Volunteer application forms are available at Made-To-Stay's website, www.madetostay.org.

"Volunteers will have to have background checks," Wright said. "We want to be very careful who we send into people's homes."

Made-To-Stay will operate with the help of donations and membership fees, Wright said. Membership is $360 per year for individuals and $600 per year for families. A scholarship program is planned as funds are available to help those who need financial assistance, said Wright.

Participants in the nationwide villages movement see membership almost as a form of insurance, Wright said.

The group hopes to be able to begin accepting members and providing service by the end of the year. A meeting with volunteers to get acquainted will be held in the near future.

According to Wright, all of the feedback she has received either from individuals or groups has been positive. Some people raised a concern that other agencies might see the new effort as competition, but Wright said she has not received any such feedback. 

"Everyone I have talked to has been very supportive," Wright said. "We want our organization to plug in to what other groups are doing and make our members aware of them. Sometimes people just need to know what is available to them."

For more information, contact Wright at 270-210-9530 or go to www.madetostay.org.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.        

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