SAC prepares to conduct surveys

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 7:30am

The Senior Advisory Committee is planning to conduct two surveys to provide background for its efforts to help island residents to age in place.

The Committee will use the surveys’ results to develop training resources for caregivers on the island, and to advocate for better in-home care for elderly and homebound Block Island residents.

“The problem of living on Block Island is not having access to services,” Mary Ann Seebeck told the Senior Advisory Committee at its Oct. 23 meeting. Seebeck, with 35 years of nursing experience and a Master of Science degree in nursing administration from the University of Rhode Island, met with the committee to review her 15 years of research into elder care and to help them develop survey tools.

One survey will gather information from the community at large, using an available model. The SAC is compiling questions for a caregivers’ survey, to ask for specifics about their situations (paid and unpaid, family members and non-family), tasks (toileting, dressing, meal preparation), advocating with doctors and agencies, and the patient’s diet and exercise.

Also vital, Seebeck and the Committee members agreed, is information about the caregivers themselves: How is their own health? Do they have opportunities for respite, or for time off? Do they have the tools and knowledge to do their work? What training or education do they need?

“We should work on getting the survey as comprehensive as we can,” said SAC Co-Chair Sandra Kelly.

Both surveys may be distributed online using Survey Monkey or a similar tool, on paper, or both. Committee members plan to personally contact caregivers known in the community to obtain their responses.

Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich will also research topics for training, and identify resources to pay for the training, if it is not available free of charge.

Seebeck was optimistic about available resources. “There is money out there for rural communities,” she said, although program eligibility rules may be different for rural areas than for urban areas.

A graduate of Rhode Island College’s nursing program, Seebeck practiced nursing for 30 years, including working with National Institutes of Health grants during 25 years at Women and Infants’ Hospital in Providence, before entering graduate study at URI. She now works at a home care agency in Cranston, R.I.

For her masters degree, Seebeck came to Block Island and worked with the SAC to identify needs for senior programs and barriers and opportunities for aging in place on the island. The major barrier she identified, she told the committee, is the island’s geographic isolation. Her example of geography as exclusion is Rhode Island’s Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, one of 123 federally-funded PACE programs in 31 states.

“PACE RI serves the entire state, excluding Block Island and Prudence Island,” according to its web site, (Prudence Island is the other unbridged island with a year-round resident population in the state.) Other eligibility criteria listed are age (minimum of 55 years), “in need of a clinical level of care as determined by the state,” and “able to live safely in the community at time of enrollment.” There is no income limit.

“I really believe it’s because of geography,” Seebeck said of the exclusion. “They, the state, needs to bring [the services] to you. You’re supporting other people” receiving the care through PACE and other programs, “with your taxes, and you’re not getting services.”

“It’s a matter of providing access to programs that you’re entitled to.” Committee members agreed.

Upcoming programs

Saul Richman of Tri-County Community Action will be at the Community Center on Monday, Nov. 6 for individual consultations on Medicare options during open enrollment. Contact Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich for appointment.

Lunch Bunch meals will resume Tuesday Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. at the Community Center.

The first off-island shuttle service for shopping and medical appointments in the South County area will be on Thursday Nov. 9, with Cindy Lemon driving the Recreation Department’s van. Redlich hopes to renew the on-island shuttle using the Early Learning Center van to transport seniors to library programs, local appointments, and in-town destinations.

Continuing exercise classes sponsored by the Committee include Seated Strengthening Exercises on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 a.m., and Tai Chi classes taught by physical therapist Tom Hobin on Thursdays at 4 p.m. Both are held at the Community Center.

To make appointments for consultations or shuttle rides, or for more information on the Senior Advisory Committee’s services, contact Senior Coordinator Gloria Redlich at or at 401-486-9278.