Monday, June 24, 2024

FAST FIVE: Diane Zell reminds us to take care of our seniors

by DEVIN WEEKS/Coeur Voice Contributor
| May 15, 2021 1:00 AM

Meet Diane Zell, who has been blessed with a life full of opportunities. She’s always looking for new adventures that will expand her horizons and improve the lives of others.

Generation: I’m a Baby Boomer who grew up loving the golden age of rock and roll.

Career and community involvement: After a brief stint in pharmacy school, I worked at Pepsi’s Baltimore corporate office quality control department, overseeing three plants. I worked as a Xerox technician for 25 years, covering the Idaho Panhandle. I managed the print shop at Avista, and was a Xerox client account manager for Xerox Business Systems covering eastern Washington and northern Idaho. In Alaska, I sold interior plants and was a secret shopper for Safeway. After moving to Florida to be with my mom, I enjoyed serving the homeless in Tarpon Springs. I took a Community Emergency Response Team class and loved serving as a poll worker, and still do. I was proud to serve as an elder and deacon at Presbyterian churches. I serve lunch at the Hayden Senior Center, am a volunteer for Office of Emergency Management and love to greet at Candlelight Church.

1. What inspired you to found the nonprofit Silver Angels for the Elderly?

My mother was abused at a local assisted living facility. The administrator was stealing her Xanax and gave her sleeping tablets that weren’t prescribed. God put me together with the previous administrator who had for years tried to expose this woman. We tried to get police, local and state officials involved and hoped the legislators would want to improve the situation, to no avail. A complaint was filed with the state oversight department, facility standards, and unfortunately, they allowed 14 months to pass before they investigated, which meant these atrocities continued during that time, even though there were several other complaints against this administrator. When asked, this department stated it is not their job to alert residents' families about abuses taking place in facilities. How despicable! After a year of fighting city hall, it fell on deaf ears. I decided to do what I could to lift residents' spirits and be their advocate, which is the most gratifying part of Silver Angels for the Elderly's mission.

2. Anything new and exciting coming up our community should know about, and do you need volunteers to help with anything?

Our third annual Classic Car Poker Run/Car Show and Party will be May 22 at Hayden Eagles. Classic cars cruise by seven assisted living facilities, bringing smiles to the residents and drivers. The drivers return for a car show and prizes. The party starts at 5 p.m. It's open to the public for $10. Food trucks, Canfield Blues Band, raffles, auctions, games, awards and trophies liven up the evening. We always welcome new volunteers.

3. How can we be better to our aging population, and what little things can we do to ensure their lives are happy and quality?

Visitation is the best way to help residents enjoy life. Despite COVID restrictions, SAFE adapted activities to ensure the residents know that they are still cherished. We have continued our personalized birthday presents, "thinking of you" cards and celebrated most holidays, but without the parties. Caregivers needed to be recognized for their demanding job so we gave gift cards to nurses, CNAs and staff. Isolation has had a terrible effect on residents. They long to be with friends and loved ones and one of Silver Angels' charters is to fellowship with the residents. We can’t wait to be able to have birthday parties again!

4. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

People would be surprised to know I enjoy driving my 1974 Corvette. At last year’s poker run it was the residents' choice! The smiles from the residents are priceless.

5. If you could change anything about the way our society handles elder care, what would you change and why?

There is a need for more oversight over governmental agencies whose responsibility it is to respond to residents' complaints in a timely manner along with inspections of facilities. Many states have a coordinated response team with police, ombudsman and social services that work together to protect the elderly. This is desperately needed in Idaho to preserve residents' safety and dignity. Laws need to be created to mandate hiring for ancillary jobs so caregivers can spend more precious time on resident interaction. Presently, there is no law that specifies staff-to-resident ratio. Due to the high expense of assisted living facilities and lack of state reimbursement for Medicaid, there is limited availability for many elderly who need to be in a facility. This puts extreme stress on families. Those who have given so much to our society are often dismissed or forgotten. Silver Angels endeavors to help them feel safe, loved and respected.