Need for senior caregivers grows

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 11:30am

“A serious situation of great concern to us” occupied the Senior Advisory Committee for much of their meeting this past Tuesday.
But first some housekeeping was conducted by Chair Sandra Kelly who welcomed Hilary Transue to her first committee meeting after calling the well attended meeting to order. Transue received a warm welcome from all and before the meeting was out she had volunteered to deliver meals and pitch in wherever needed.
The committee’s concerns revolve around a growing island-wide, immediate need for more caregivers as well as omnipresent
housing challenges. Three individuals need immediate caregivers. “It’s become a crisis,” said SAC Coordinator Gloria Redlich.
These individuals need extended help. Accolades were heaped on VNA nurse Sandra Mott who, according to Redlich, “is
a godsend,” but the town needs to address long term challenges. Of the year-round population, 35 to 42 percent are seniors who
increasingly need help with daily tasks as they age.
“Residents got up and spoke at the Financial Town meeting about the legacy of the island,” noted Kelly. “The greatest part of
the island is its history and people, and my question is do we get to stay here?”
The committee decided that there needs to be an island-wide conversation that includes the Town Council, an expanded human services component made up of the churches, NAMI-BI, the Housing Board, the Medical Center, and others. The committee voted to draft a letter to be forwarded to the town manager and the Council for consideration and action.
Ideally a long-term solution might involve a facility where caregivers and senior housing could co-exist, but the committee
recognized that would be years in the making with a price tag in the millions of dollars. “We need to find solutions today and that is keeping people in their homes as long as we can by providing services,” suggested Gail Pierce.
“Housing comes up again and again,” noted member Jennifer Phillips. “It’s not going away.”
In other business, the Committee reviewed its financials and indicated they needed to get together with Assistant Finance Director Mona Helterline to tie up loose ends before the year end grant and budget cycles. Some funds remain that could
be allocated to rides or other pressing needs.
Members noted that the Block Island Bulletin Board has had 36,103 postings from 1459 members participating. The committee voted to resurrect the Soup Group over the summer, while maintaining strengthening exercises at the community center as
allowed and via Zoom. The Caregiver and Living with Loss Support groups will also begin meeting in June at the Community
Center. Tai Chi continues.