Local nonprofit connects vulnerable adults with advocates

One Southern Indiana and local leaders gathered Friday at the Floyd County Family YMCA gymnasium in New Albany to celebrate the ribbon-cutting for Vulnerable Adult Care Advocates, Inc.

Brooke McAfee | News and Tribune | 

NEW ALBANY — A new nonprofit is providing advocacy and support for senior citizens and incapacitated adults in the community.

Vulnerable Adult Care Advocates, Inc. (V.A.C.A.) celebrated its official launch Friday with a ribbon-cutting at 33 State Street in New Albany. The nonprofit pairs seniors or adults with disabilities with a volunteer “guardian.”

Katie Morgan, executive director and founder of V.A.C.A., is a certified guardian, and she has been working for about a year and a half to get the nonprofit up and running.

Through V.A.C.A., licensed guardians are appointed to facilitate and authorize health care, residential placement and social welfare services for vulnerable populations.

Adults suffering from dementia or diminished capacity can “become very overwhelmed when it comes to making their own medical decisions,” Morgan said.

“We monitor their welfare — what kind of medication are they on or is there a status change with their health condition,” she said.

V.A.C.A. partners with the Volunteer Advocates for Seniors and Incapacitated Adults Program, which also partially funds the nonprofit, and it has received financial support from the Caesars Foundation and Floyd Memorial Foundation.

The advocates work with medical and health care facilities to represent the patients. The volunteers must go through about 20 hours of training to understand what kinds of situations they might be faced with, Morgan said.

Many V.A.C.A. clients do not have family members available to step in as advocates to assist them with decision-making in areas such as medical, financial or legal circumstances.

The nonprofit also provides training to family members who would like to become guardians, Morgan said.

V.A.C.A. volunteers help clients with decisions as simple as approving a flu shot at a nursing home, as well as more severe matters such as end-of-life medical decisions. The organization aims to “speak for them when the time is needed,” Morgan said.

The organization as a whole acts as the legally-appointed guardian to the clients, with volunteers acting as the “eyes and ears” for the nonprofit, she said.

“We actively work together to make sure they are getting the best medical treatment they can,” Morgan said.

The pandemic has exacerbated social isolation for many seniors and incapacitated adults, Morgan said.

Morgan emphasizes that seniors and adults with diminished capacity “all deserve dignity, comfort and respect.”

“Really my, goal is to match volunteers with a person so they can actually become friends,” Morgan said. “No one is looking at it like a chore, but something fun. We’ve encouraged volunteers to consider them like your own mother or father — how would you want a nursing home to be treating them?”

Missi Marguet, a local nurse and the president of the nonprofit’s board of directors, said that without a guardianship program like V.A.C.A., many vulnerable individuals would be left without someone to speak on their behalf.

Marguet serves as director of care coordination at Baptist Health Floyd and will be serving as a volunteer advocate with V.A.C.A.

“Dementia is such a big disease around the nation,” Marguet said. People need guardianship not necessarily because they are incapacitated to the point where they can’t be part of decision-making, but they need someone to guide them.”

At Friday’s ribbon-cutting, New Albany City Councilman Al Knable praised V.A.C.A. for supporting vulnerable adults in the community.

“For people who do not have those families and know that you can help them maintain independent living as long as one can — it preserves a quality of life for people,” he said.

Original article here.

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