SASH: Making a Difference For Island Seniors

By: Susan Davis, The Islander

A few weeks ago, I touched base with Vermont Senator Tim Ashe (P – Chit) about a program that is making a difference in the lives of senior citizens in the Islands and throughout Vermont. In his non-legislative life, Ashe works for Cathedral Square, a non-profit senior housing organization that owns and manages a variety of senior housing facilities including The Round Barn in Grand Isle, which also happens to be the home base of the Support and Services at Home program (SASH) for the Islands. I met Sonya Brown, a social worker and the SASH Coordinator and Todd de Burto, a VNA SASH nurse as they were finishing a regular meeting with several Round Barn residents.

SASH is part of the state’s Blueprint for Health and serves more than 3,500 Vermonters at affordable housing sites and private residences statewide,” said Brown, noting that their team also works with residents at Pine Manor in Alburgh.

SASH participation is completely by choice. Once an individual signs-on, he or she receives a complete functional assessment, cognitive screening, a depression scale, as well as nutritional and falls assessments.

“Once we have created a medical profile of each participant, we then provide them with routine check-ins, medication management, family communication and transportation assistance,” said Brown.

“This is patient-centered care,” said de Burto. “Because we work with individuals and their families we are able to really get to know them in a way that their primary care physicians simply can’t, often because of time constraints.”

On his scheduled visits, which can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, de Burto checks the patient’s vital signs, discusses their medication to make sure that they are taking it properly, or taking it at all, and provides foot care and wound care as needed.

“My days are so diversified,” said de Burto. “I have one gentleman who is nearly 100 years old, is blind and still lives alone. So when I stop by, I always bring along a supply of a liquid nutritional enhancement to round out the daily meals that he receives. On the other end of the spectrum is this absolutely charming lady that I meet during her regular bridge game.”

Journal of Medicine published Housing as Health Care in which it observed that affordable housing paired with supportive services like on-site case management and referrals to community based services can lead to improved health care costs. It further noted that studies have shown that the costs of supportive housing are largely offset by savings in services used, mostly from use of the health care system. With the average cost of inpatient hospitalization at $2,219 per day compared to supportive housing costs of $50 to $70 per day, the savings are indeed substantial. As I was ending the interview at the Round Barn, one of its residents dropped by. Frank Raenden, a retired business man whose third or fourth career was as the owner of Funky Frank’s in South Hero, has been a resident for a number of years and is a participant in the SASH program. “This is such a wonderful program, especially for the residents of the Islands,” he said. “There is a diversity medical conditions here at the Round Barn and this program is able to meet the needs of everyone in a very personal way.”

Raenden also noted that he and his fellow residents have enjoyed the creativity behind a number of events that take place through the program, in particular Todd de Burto’s power point presentations on The Meaning of Life.

“They certainly have been thought provoking and elicit a lot of private conversations,” he added.

November 11 – SASH Making a Difference for Island Seniors, Susan Davis, The Islander