Supporting Independence for Florida Seniors

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By Marcus Fernandez

What better time than National Senior Independence Month to call attention to the organizations and services available to make it safer and more enjoyable for Florida seniors in Tampa and other communities? It’s also a good opportunity to focus on what caregivers can do to ensure that seniors in need of assistance receive it in a loving and safe environment.

This article offers Florida seniors and caregivers an opportunity to learn about what it means to be independent and where to go for assistance when a loved one, friend, or neighbor is in need of help.

What does independence mean?

The ability to live independently is measured by activities of daily living (ADLs) that are fundamental activities that a person of any age should be capable of without assistance. The basic activities include:

  • Mobility. The ability to move about, change position and walk without assistance.
  • Eating. The capacity to feed yourself.
  • Dressing. The ability to select your clothing and get dressed and undressed on your own.
  • Personal hygiene. Caring for yourself by bathing, groom, and daily dental hygiene.
  • Toileting. The ability to use a toilet and control bowel and bladder function.

Instrumental activities of daily living or IADLs focus on a person’s cognitive skills, including the ability to go shopping for groceries. Other IADLs for Florida seniors include:

  • Managing personal finances.
  • Meal preparation.
  • Housekeeping, including cleaning and maintenance.
  • Communication skills, including phone and email.
  • Managing medications, including the ability to obtain and take them as directed.

Florida seniors and caregivers can monitor ADLs and IADLs to determine when to ask for or offer assistance.

Locally available services for seniors 

Senior centers located throughout Hillsborough County provide Florida seniors with places to meet up. Here, seniors enjoy free activities for adults who are at least 50 years of age. Lunch is offered at the senior centers for those age 60 and older.

Anyone who has ever been involved with the court system knows how intimidating and confusing it can be, but the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of the Florida court system in Hillsborough County makes it easier for seniors with its Elder Justice Center. The EJC is a senior-friendly part of the court system offering assistance to people ages 60 and older. 

The EJC provides education, case management and other assistance to seniors with guardianship, family law, and other civil court matters. It also coordinates with other state and local agencies to connect Florida seniors with the assistance those agencies can provide. Legal advice and representation are not provided by the EJC, but it does offer help to complete paperwork for abuse victims to obtain injunctions.

Florida laws protecting seniors

Legislators recognized that older Floridians are vulnerable to physical and mental abuse and financial exploitation, so there are a number of state laws in place to protect Florida seniors. For example, the Florida Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of Elderly Persons and Disabled Adults Law targets different forms of wrongful conduct, including physical and mental abuse, sexual exploitation, and financial exploitation inflicted upon seniors by criminalizing such conduct.

Seniors residing in nursing homes and other forms of long-term care facilities are protected against mistreatment and abuse through the Nursing Homes and Related Health Care Facilities Law that created an ombudsman with the power and authority to investigate complaints by or on behalf of residents of facilities.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs website serves as a gateway for seniors or their caregivers looking for information. Explore their website for a list of programs and services available in the Sunshine state. It includes information about everything from senior protection programs to nutrition and transportation.

As a senior living independently in Florida, it’s comforting to know there are laws, services, and programs available. Everyone, including independent people, may sometimes need assistance. Florida seniors should not hesitate to reach out for help when they need it.