BOTTINEAU Jane Ofstedal is an advocate for more services for seniors in rural areas. In her job as outreach coordinator for North Dakota Aging Services in Region II, she sees the gaps in services but also has the satisfaction of seeing hundreds of seniors get the help they need to live independently.
"We don't provide that service but we hook them up with the other agencies so they can get that service," she said. "We can get them hooked up with what they need. Right now it's getting that word out to people that are used to calling the Commission on Aging."
North Dakota Aging Services took over senior outreach in Region II in January 2008 from the Minot Commission on Aging. With no time to ease into a transition, the state quickly put together a program, said Ofstedal, who came on board at that time.
Jill Schramm/MDN •
Jane Ofstedal, outreach coordinator with North Dakota Aging Services, stands in the Bottineau Senior Center Thursday.
Ofstedal has a staff of eight outreach workers who work directly with seniors to assess their needs and refer them for services. They are Helen Anderson of Towner and Jackie Richter of Drake, who serve McHenry County; Sylvia Carr and Judy Weber, both Minot, serving Minot; Linda Laumb of Berthold, rural Ward and Mountrail counties; Marsha Martin of Bottineau, Bottineau County; JoanMarie Scheet of Rugby, Pierce County; and Ruth Skar of Berthold, Mountrail, Burke, Renville and rural Ward counties.
Ofstedal, who is employed part time, oversees the outreach workers and gets to know the needs of each senior in the process.
"I get such a great picture of what that person is going through because these outreach workers are so good," she said.
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She also gets to visit with area seniors when events are held at senior centers.
"The senior centers are really doing some awesome things," she said. "I have been out to visit most of them around the region. Most are staying pretty active."
She estimated the outreach program works with 500 to 600 seniors a year in the region. While seniors receiving home-based meals are assessed twice a year, most other seniors are visited officially once a year. Some clients also receive services temporarily, although they may receive follow-up contact afterwards.
The outreach program gets requests to provide assessments from social services, the Minot Commission on Aging and other groups that work with seniors. People also can self-refer or families who would like services for a loved one can contact North Central Human Service Center at 857-5000 or Ofstedal at 720-7584. There are no income restrictions for the assessment, although some of the service agencies may have income guidelines.
An assessment will consider whether a senior needs safety equipment, tools to accommodate declining vision, home-delivered meals or help from a caregiver who can dispense medicines or perform house cleaning or other tasks.
In starting her job, Ofstedal said, her biggest surprise was the lack of certain services. Some rural residents have no home-health agency that serves their areas, and Qualified Service Providers who can come into homes to assist seniors are in short supply. In some cases, people may just need someone to help them bathe occasionally or fill their pill boxes once a week to ensure they take their medicines on schedule, but there is no one, she said.
"It's small things like that, that put people in nursing homes," she said.
A new federal grant is funding a "Money Follows the Person" pilot program in several counties, including Renville and McHenry. The program seeks to identify the needs of seniors in an area and develop services around those needs. Ofstedal is assisting in the planning stage for the program.
"There's so much planning and you just want to see it done," she said of the services. "But there's a lot more out there than there used to be, so it is progressing."
In addition to outreach services, North Central Human Service Center offers a family caregiver support program, adult protective services and a community ombudsman. Souris Basin Transportation provides transportation, and a variety of services from meals to foot-care clinics are provided through the Commission on Aging, Tri-County Senior Meals & Services in Rugby and Kenmare Wheels and Meals.
Ofstedal, a South Dakota native, became interested in a career in social services after volunteering with Special Olympics. She studied social work in college and worked for a number of years with people with disabilities, managing a program in Bismarck before moving to Bottineau three years ago.
The move brought her to an area that she and her husband, Jeff, have enjoyed since acquiring a summer home at Lake Metigoshe. They had moved often when Jeff was in the military. He now works in information technology at the Bottineau hospital, and the couple has two children a daughter in college and son in eighth grade.