With its plate already full with programs to support caregivers, case work and grandparenting, a North Side Chicago branch of the Salvation Army added volunteering and an elder court to its menu of senior services, a program director said.

A featured group and vendor at the American Society on Aging’s annual conference titled “Aging in America” at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago, Stephen Lepse, LCSW, director of the Salvation Army’s Family and Community Services in the city’s North Side Uptown community, said his branch developed a volunteering program and an elder court among its existing services for the elderly.

The volunteering component of his senior programs, titled Two Are Better Than One, is meant as a community solution to locate, train and place volunteers from churches and nonprofits to provide home care and assistance for caregivers of seniors or grandparents.

The Salvation Army recruited 100 volunteers. The program is funded by a $10,000 grant from the MetLife Foundation and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

Two Are Better Than One launched in late June 2013 and grew fully functional by September 2013, serving 300 caregivers and seniors. Services include transportation, light chores and housekeeping, repairs and visits and support for caregivers, including respite.

The city’s North Side family and community services branch offers domestic violence, group work, homemaker and visitation services. Among Chicago’s 20 Salvation Army branches, Lepse, who has been director since 2006, mentioned collaboration with four others in the city’s South Side Englewood community, Midway Airport and the city’s northwest suburbs of Arlington Heights and DesPlaines.

“I’m working on volunteer programs,” he said. “Seniors need eyes and ears [in their communities]. There is less funding [for volunteer programs in general]. It will be worse. How will they meet their needs?

“[I am also working on] senior court advocacy. [We have] developed [an] elder court [to handle] neglect, abuse and financial exploitation.”

Lepse said that he plans to recruit and retain at least four or five volunteers on behalf of his senior clients.

With its caregiver programs, the group provides education and mentoring to families for home care, individual respite and personal assistance to seniors and people with disabilities.

For its Older Relatives Raising Children programs, Lepse explained, the organization provides assistance for parenting, including counseling, weekly support groups, financial assistance, case management and respite care.

Under its senior citizen services, the group offers intensive case advocacy and support, housing assistance and chore services for at-risk seniors.

Lepse said this includes wellness checks, housecleaning, groceries, laundering and, in some cases, $500 checks for discretionary expenses, an effort that began in the mid-1990s and was later stopped, for seniors. He added that research found that 60 percent of deceased elderly persons were seniors who underutilized such services as offered by the organization.

He also said that, under Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, adults can phone the city to check on seniors seven days a week and on holidays. The Salvation Army participates in this initiative.

For its Integrated Case Advocacy and Support program, also known as ICAS, Lepse said its social workers perform outreach services for seniors.

“We meet the needs of students and agencies to follow up [with seniors],” he said. “We go to homes for six weeks and often [nothing] changes in the [status of the senior’s well-being]. We do not follow up [in some cases but] they trust [us]. Seniors don’t want 10 different people [visiting them]. We contract out [many of our] services.”

For senior emergency services, Lepse said the Salvation Army deals with seniors in immediate need of new housing.

“[This, too, is done] on contract,” he said, adding that, oftentimes, the residents have problems with hoarding and referring to one incident in which caseworkers found 10 carts and 13 dogs in the home of one senior citizen. “If a senior is about to be evicted, we find appropriate housing options. This is getting harder. There is less subsidized housing [available].”

This article was originally published February 2014 on the website of PharmPsych.com, one of seven websites that comprise The Pharm Psych Network, a medical communications and education company.