MALONE — Dozens of people gathered Friday at the Malone Lodge of Elks for a luncheon and informational session held by the Community Friendship Volunteer Program of the North Country to learn about supportive programs for volunteers and caregivers.
Susan Schrader, director of the CFVP, said this is the third such event her organization has held since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and more are planned.
“We’re hoping to be able to do them about every couple of months,” Schrader said. She added that the services offered are important to seniors in the community, and their caregivers, as the pandemic led to higher levels of isolation among the community’s seniors.
The CFVP, a program of the Community Health Center of the North Country, aims to support area seniors through attention to social determinants of health, such as safe housing, transportation, substance abuse and other factors.
“We’re having monthly meetings regarding senior transportation and that’s working out great,” Schrader said. She said that the CHCNC has a staff counselor for seniors, or anyone else, dealing with substance use disorders or mental health issues.
Ray Babowicz, director of communications, government relations and marketing, said these social determinants are seen as a key factor in seniors being able to live independently in their homes with dignity.
“There’s no law anywhere that says people have to end up in nursing homes or long-term care,” he said. “If you don’t need that level of care, you shouldn’t be forced into that situation just because you’ve become isolated.”
Schrader said her program relies on partnerships with other service providers in the North Country.
“We collaborate mostly with the office for the aging,” Schrader said. “We’re kind of like a stop-gap because there’s certain services that they can’t provide that we can provide, and services that they can provide that we can’t provide.
She conveyed to attendees at the luncheon her organization’s mission, vision and values, and said this mission recently expanded into St. Lawrence County.
“The mission of the Community Friendship Volunteer Program is to enhance every dimension of fullness of life for seniors living in the community,” Schrader said. “This mission is interpreted through the offering of companionship and friendship to relieve isolation and loneliness; the extending of advice, referral and assistance to seniors and their caregivers, as well as to the infirm persons living independently; the development of age-friendly communities which encourages the population in civic engagement of older adults; the promotion through education and advocacy of a fullness of life for older adults in the communities of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties; and the development of partnerships or a network with other organizations that will extend the mission of the community friendship volunteer to communities.”
The vision of the program, she said, is to ultimately offer the CFVP to all older adults, within its capacity, in both counties, who may benefit from the care, which she explained encourages and supports seniors, giving them the ability to enjoy a fullness of life residing in their own homes.
She said her organization is focused on the dignity and self-determinism of seniors in the community.
“The Community Friendship Volunteer Program therefore offers care in accordance with the individual interests, desires, values, and beliefs of each person, respecting the dignity of each senior, and of each person who might be caring for them,” Schrader said.
Also in attendance at the luncheon were Megan Monica, a regional care navigator who provides support to caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and Sarah Weillacher, coordinator of services for the aging in Franklin County.
Weillacher gave a presentation about the Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program. She explained how recent federal legislation includes wide Medicare prescription drug reforms designed to protect seniors and other Medicare recipients from high out-of-pocket costs for their medications.
Monica provided details on the services made available to support caregivers by a grant from the state Department of Health, which include care consultations, educational programs, community outreach, support groups, and respite programs. The free services are available to caregivers or family members of people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Several area artists were in attendance to announce the Thrive Senior Project, a partnership with Malone’s Downtown Artist Cellar that aims to enrich the lives of area seniors through creativity. The program, which is free of charge, will include four six-hour classes for six students and their caregivers.
Area artists Jill Jessen, Lynne Taylor, Christine Holden and Anne Ray will mentor students in felt making, silk painting, the art of alcohol ink and pastel painting, respectively.
For more information on any of the supports or programs, contact Schrader at 518-651-2535 or email email@example.com.