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Helping Hands Fund fills gaps for older adults

The Helping Hands Relief Fund covers essential goods and services for basic needs to help protect the health and well-being of people over 60 who face compounded risk from COVID-19. It is administered by Easterseals and supported by the Charitable Foundation's Community Crisis Action Fund.

Albert is a retired security officer from Laconia whose Parkinson’s disease makes it hard for him to get out of a chair, or to stand for extended periods. He had been relying on the help of neighbors to come into his one-bedroom apartment and help him out of his recliner. The COVID-19 pandemic made that small act of community kindness much more complicated and fraught.

Albert’s caregiver from the Homemakers & Health Services program at Easterseals NH, who visits him every Saturday, recognized that solving Albert’s chair problem had the potential to improve his overall wellness – preventing not only falls, but potential exposure to COVID for a man who was already high-risk.

Through the new Helping Hands Relief Funds for Older Adults, Albert’s caregiver was able to get him a motorized, reclining chair that would tilt to support him as he stood up. The Helping Hands fund is a crisis-response fund administered by Easterseals and supported by a $100,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Community Crisis Action Fund.

Now, Albert has that new chair, along with newfound independence and a safer way to care for himself.

The Helping Hands Relief Fund supports people 60 and over who have low incomes and for whom other financial assistance is not available. It was conceived during the current public-health crisis when the folks at Easterseals saw a spike in need among people they serve – many of whom have chronic health conditions and extremely limited incomes. The fund covers essential goods and services for basic needs to help protect the health and well-being of people who face compounded risk from COVID-19.

“We have a clientele that is already in crisis, and then you put a crisis on top of a crisis,” said Laurie Duff, director of senior services at Easterseals New Hampshire.

Duff said that, even for folks on Medicare, there are items – like air conditioners for people with chronic health conditions – that are usually not covered, but can mean the difference between staying home or ending up in the hospital. And few sources of funding are available to help people who are shy of the Medicare eligibility age of 65. The Helping Hands Fund aims to fill some of the gap.

The fund can also cover food and cleaning supplies; emergency dental work; transportation to medical appointments; tablets to use for telehealth appointments and to decrease social isolation; medical co-pays and more.

The Helping Hands Relief Fund for Older Adults helps people statewide. Clients of Easterseals are identified for assistance through that program, and Easterseals is coordinating with other agencies around the state that work with elders to identify individual needs.

“Little things make a difference,” said Heather Thalheimer, a grant writer at Easterseals. “If you are sweltering in your home, and suddenly you get an air conditioner, life takes a turn for the better.”

Or if you cannot get out of your old, broken recliner – but a new chair gets delivered to your doorstep that actually helps you up.

“For everyone who helped with this gift,” Albert said, smiling from his new chair, “I wish you well.”

Agencies serving older adults can refer people to the Helping Hands Fund by contacting Easterseals NH at helpinghands@eastersealsnh.org or 603.621.3536 or completing the online application

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