As we strive to heed the words of our Elders, we also strive to ensure their health and well-being, even more so during these unprecedented times.
With the help of Sealaska’s COVID-19 relief and recovery package, a nonprofit organization is using its funding to continue supporting our most vulnerable populations.
Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL) is a nonprofit organization that provides a wide variety of services throughout the region to help Elders and people with disabilities of all ages to live as independently as possible in their community of choice.
SAIL’s services are important, as 17 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live with a disability, according to 2018 Census data, including 5 percent of Elders age 65 and up. Through the 18 communities they serve, SAIL provides services to around 1,000 individuals, with almost half of that population being Alaska Natives. Whether it’s providing coronavirus aid to communities like Klawock, or ensuring senior food deliveries in Yakutat, SAIL has been making a huge impact in people’s lives.
A Hydaburg veteran Elder on Prince of Wales Island, Donald, is an example of how just a couple more hands can make an incredible difference.
After Donald was medevaced twice from his home, SAIL stepped in to work with his family to get him enrolled in a Veteran-Directed Home and Community Based Services program that provides veterans with flexible home and community-based services. Through this program, Donald was able to hire his granddaughter to live with him and provide help with his daily activities while also easing his family’s peace of mind surrounding his well-being. SAIL also worked with his primary care provider and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to advocate for more hours of personal care assistance and even provided Donald with some home modifications to ensure his safety through SAIL’s Last Resort Fund.
Home modifications can be a life changer. As we age, things around the house that were once easy to navigate become more challenging. Improvements to remove age- or disability-related barriers can range from the use of equipment, like a shower seat, to home modifications, such as better lighting, ramps and grab bars.
SAIL’s Home Modifications for Aging in Place (HomeMAP™) program is designed to help Elders like Donald and people with disabilities determine what changes they need to make in their residence so they can live longer and more safely in their home and community. SAIL has since partnered with the Organized Village of Kake (OVK) and RurAL CAP to conduct eight HomeMAP assessments and coordinate some home modifications in Kake, while five projects remain on the horizon for Angoon.
“Janice, an Elder with significant mobility issues, loves her new chair that helps her stand up,” recounts Benson James, SAIL and OVK worker. “She loves to go on rides and now with the new threshold at her front door she can do that with ease because her family can park right next to the front door and she doesn’t have to walk very far. The home modifications were a big help for her.”
As the need grows, SAIL will continue to serve its communities and provide the support necessary to assist our precious grandparents, aunties and uncles. While SAIL ensures their health and safety, we can ensure their words will be heard.