April 19, 2011

Senior health fair is a key for caregivers

Kathy Cuneo, right, of Derry sits with her mom, Betty Norcott. Cuneo credits the annual
Greater Derry Senior Health Fair with helping her connect with the vital resources she
 needed to help get her mother settled in to the community.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Kathy Cuneo always knew she’d be back. After growing up in New England and moving away to Ohio, she and her husband, Larry, expected that when the time finally came, they’d make their way back East.
Both of them had elderly parents here, who would eventually need care.
“The first senior health fair I attended was probably seven years ago, before mom even came to live with us. We just knew that all this information would come in handy at some point,” said Cuneo.
She can’t say enough about how much the annual Greater Derry Senior Health Fair has helped her, not only in finding practical resources in her time of need, but in making connections with others, who have provided support and guidance as she entered a crash course as caregiver.
Her mother, Betty Norcott, is pushing 96 now. Her health is good, and she loves getting out to socialize. Circumstances were different when Norcott first came to stay with the Cuneos,
 back in 2006. “We went to visit mom for Christmas in Milton, Mass., that year, and she had been living alone. It became apparent to us that she needed medical attention. She was admitted to the hospital, and when she was released on Jan. 10, she came directly to our house. We needed everything, and we had nothing. That’s when I remembered the drawer full of business cards and brochures I’d tucked away from the senior health fair,” Cuneo said.
Her first call was to ServiceLink Resource Center of Rockingham County, which is exactly what it sounds like — a network of communitybased services for the elderly and adults with disabilities and their families.
“They told me to call Community Caregivers, which is right here in Derry. They have a Loaner’s Closet where you can borrow just about any kind of medical equipment you can 
think of,” Cuneo said.
Because she was unable to leave her mother alone to go and get what she needed, someone from Caregivers drove to her house with the items she needed to get her mother settled. That really impressed her. “I can’t tell you what that meant to me,” Cuneo said.
As it turned out, Cuneo’s father- in-law would also come to live with them for about four months after becoming ill.
“He wasn’t able to walk up and down the stairs, so we got him a chair-lift, thanks to one of the many referrals we had from the health fair,” Cuneo said. “He was also legally blind, and although we didn’t know he was actually dying of cancer when he arrived, he got so much comfort from the ‘talking clock’ and the ‘talking watch’ that we were able to get for him from another resource.”
Norcott said she enjoys her weekly trips to a Hampstead adult day care center, Sarah-Care, where she spends quality time with her peers, playing games, eating meals and interacting with friends.
“Mom is pretty good at Scrabble, and last time I think they were playing modified basketball and bowling. And it gives me a chance to get my shopping done or other chores,” Cuneo said.
A grant through ServiceLink for the cost of weekly services was just the nudge Cuneo needed to try it out. Now, it’s an integral part of their routine.
“Not just for mom — they also have seminars for caregivers, which is a wonderful resource,” Cuneo said. “The grant was what I needed to get over the inertia and explore what kinds of programs were available. It really helps me, and it adds to what I have to give as a caregiver to Mom.”
The annual Senior Health
 Fair is free for seniors age 60 and older, and will be held this year on April 26 at West Running Brook Middle School, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
It began as an informal way to bring together various providers in one place where seniors could have access to health screenings. But it has grown into a genuine community outreach, said Cindee Tanuma, executive director of Community Caregivers, which is one of about a dozen organizations that sponsor the event.
“At this point, it feels like the event runs itself — it’s that well organized,” Tanuma said. “It’s truly inspiring how all these various groups can work so hard on something like this for which there’s really no fiscal benefit. We do it because we all know how important it is. We know what a difference it makes in people’s lives.”
More than 500 seniors are expected to attend the fair, which features 90 vendors with information and giveaways, including free health screenings for bone density, blood pressure, pulmonary function testing, blood sugar, vision, hearing, osteoporosis and more.
There will be wheelchairs available on site for attendees, and handicap parking with a complimentary shuttle. A free buffet lunch is included.
For more information, go to www.seniorhealthfairnh.com or call 893-9769.Participating organizations this year include: Amedysis Hospice Services; Birch Heights; Community Caregivers of Greater Derry; Derry Police Department; Elliot Senior Health Care; Home Helpers; Londonderry Senior Center; Parkland Medical Center; Rockingham VNA; ServiceLink Resource Center of Rockingham County; and Vintage Grace.

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