“The Stark County Probate Court oversees approximately 1,500 guardianships, a number which is increasing by 15 percent per year,” said Diana Espenschied, executive director.
“While most have family, friends, or other advocates nearby to act as a guardian, many elderly, indigent and incompetent individuals have no one. Guardian Support Services was created to design and implement a system to identify and support individuals and entities within the community who are willing, able and available to serve as caring and capable guardians.”
With such a large number of individuals in Stark County who do not have family or others to help them, the service provides a system of information and referrals so that guardians can be identified, appointed and trained.
Guardian Support Services has more than 100 active cases and 61 volunteer guardians.
“We have processed over 200 in our almost four-year operation,” Espenschied said. “Our wards are predominantly elderly and reside in Stark County care facilities. Seventy-five percent have Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia. The other 25 percent have mental health issues, developmental or physical disabilities.”
Volunteer guardians are asked to visit clients once a month and be the “go-to person” for health care issues.
Even though they are asked to visit just once a month, Espenschied said, many become attached and
They spend an average of one to three hours a month visiting and assisting their ward.
Guardians range in age from 25 to 70, with various backgrounds and work experience. The one thing they have in common is their affection for elderly people and their compassion for those who are less fortunate, Espenschied said.
Guardians are asked to complete an application and attend a one-time training session provided by the agency. A background check is done on each volunteer.
GUARDIAN SUPPORT SERVICES
WHO: Guardian Support Services
WHAT: A public service of the Stark County Probate Court. It is a center for resources available for the care of elderly indigent and incompetent citizens of Stark County. GSS assists guardians with any questions, issues or concerns that arise during the guardianship.
BOARD MEMBERS: Diana Espenschied, executive director; Brian C. Layman, chairman; Ellen P. Linz, vice chairman; William Griffing, treasurer; Connie Calhoun, secretary; Sandra Watkins Cleaver, senior adviser; and members Dr. Dana Gammill and Judge W. Don Reader.
PROCEEDS: All proceeds support program.
DONATIONS: GSS is funded through grants, donations and care facility contributions. Donations can be sent to Guardian Support Services, 4200 Munson St. NW, Canton, OH 44718. Anyone interested in becoming a guardian can call (330) 649-5502. For more information, visit www.guardiansupportservice.com.