SASH Offers Support and Services At Home to Randolph Area Seniors

Communities / Jun. 9, 2016 9:04am EDT

By Martha Slater

SASH (Support and Services at Home) is a state-wide program for seniors that began in 2011, as part of the Blueprint for Health, Vermont’s statewide health care reform initiative. SASH is designed to provide personalized coordinated care to help participants stay safely at home, regardless of age or residential setting.

“Vermont Blueprint for Health and federal Medicare funding support the SASH program, which has agencies all over the state, according to Dede Tracy, program coordinator for the Orange County- Randolph SASH program.

Locally, Randolph Area Community Development Corp. (RACDC) oversees SASH in Randolph. Tracy, who started at SASH in February 2015, noted that SASH also teams up with local housing agencies, which in Randolph includes RACDC and, often, Stewart Properties Management.

“SASH is a prevention program that focuses on helping participants remain healthy, and connected,” Tracy explained.

As a part of that goal, Tracy organizes activities “within the local housing arena that are open to the public.

“SASH’s primary focus is on person-centered, goal-orientated health,” Tracy added. “We work to do this by keeping people healthy and active with classes and activities, working on goals for healthy living, helping them retain a primary care provider, giving them support, and guiding them to needed resources as they work through challenges and transitions.”

Tracy puts out a monthly “SASH Flash” newsletter to participants and leaves some scattered about town to let others know what’s going on. The latest issue includes events such as a tea with Morgan Easton to discuss the possibility of a “pocket park,” and talks with Elizabeth Walker, Randolph’s water and wastewater superintendent. Coming up is a caregiver support introductory workshop June 23 at Randolph House.

Regular Programs

Recurring activities include tai chi for arthritis on Tuesdays, “bone builders” on Wednesdays, “move to music” on Thursdays, the “Knitty Witty” group on Fridays, and movie screenings on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings. All are held either at Randolph House or Joslyn House.

“The movies and the Cabin Fever Conversations afternoons we had during the winter are all examples of things that people suggested,” she noted.

One particularly popular program is “Walk with Ease,” organized by Tracy and Emilie Daniels of the Randolph Senior Center.

“We have a lot of good programs,” said Randolph House resident Nancy Brown. “Everything we do here is great.”

“Dede makes exercising fun,” commented another Randolph House resident, Bev Downs.

“I’ve been in the SASH program since it started, and Dede is the best coordinator we’ve had,” added Pat Patterson, who has lived at Randolph House for 23 years.

Healthy Living

“The nature of our title, ‘Support and Services at Home,’ can be misleading,” she said. “Some people have mistaken us for a house cleaning, or physical care organization. SASH does not clean houses or people, or provide direct medical care.”

What SASH does, she explained, is to support people, in their homes (generally in housing apartments, but also in the community) in a proactive way, to help them age at home.

“SASH guides people as they look at their safety and goals—to devise ‘healthy living plans’—what do they want and need in their lives to make it more fulfilling or manageable? We also step in as part of the discharge process for people who have had an illness, injury, or surgery, and check on them afterward.”

Tracy, in conjunction with the Vermont Food Bank, also delivers fresh fruits and vegetables once a month to participants in need of supplemental healthy foods.

Her office is at Joslyn House, and she works there, as well as at the Red Lion, Randolph House, Salisbury Square, and the Branchwood Apartments, and out in the community.

SASH also offers access to a wellness nurse, Catherine (Katie) Clark, who visits two of the housing hubs to do blood pressure screenings and to listen to participants’ medical concerns.

“She cannot perform any medical care, or do medication dispensing, but she does use her nursing knowledge and skill to act as a direct and informed liaison to the doctor’s office or hospital if there is a need,” Tracy said.

Personal Relationships

Tracy loves the personal relationships she builds with her program clients.

“I’ve always liked working with people, and the beauty of SASH really is, in my opinion, that we get to know our participants—not as a face on the street, or a person who is in the midst of a medical crisis, but as individuals, in their own familiar territory, who have their own set of goals and who are striving and moving forward.

“And if things go wrong, we know some about who and what is important to them, and we can be there as a familiar support as they work to get back on track,” she added. “People know me and they will sometimes give me a heads up about someone who might need help.”

Tracy characterizes this preventative approach as “front-loading support and encouraging selfcare— instead of chasing disease and paying in spades for crisis medical intervention.”

Tracy said she is hopeful that SASH will be granted permanent funding and status at the end of its five-year pilot program date, which is coming up.

Evidence gathered, she said, “indicates SASH being in place is saving Medicare dollars through working proactively and in prevention,” she said.

She noted that other states are looking at recreating Vermont’s approach, developed by SASH Director Molly Dugan and Operations Manager Stefani Hartsfield, who are based in Burlington.

Locally, Tracy emphasized, the RACDC team has very supportive of her work.

Those interested in learning more about SASH or in signing up may call Tracy at 728-3310.

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