Friday, July 19, 2024

ElderSource

Letter from the ElderSource CEO – Age and Perspective Share a Unique Relationship

The author Wade Rouse described that relationship writing, “There is no age limit on growth and self-discovery. We see our lives and ourselves in different chapters, different versions, through different perspectives as we age. But like prisms of ourselves, we cannot clearly see our future until we clearly see ourselves.”

Perspective is a large part of why all of us at ElderSource feel it is so important to mark our 50th anniversary by celebrating where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. Our agency and our partners around Northeast Florida have several events planned this year to do just that, and we’d like to thank First Coast Senior Living for helping us kick things off with this very special report.

A few years before the COVID pandemic changed so much about everything we do, ElderSource produced a community report focused on the themes of listening, understanding, and taking action. As we began thinking about how we’d celebrate our 50th anniversary, I came across that 2017 report, and was struck by how well those themes still capture what we do to change lives.

We began our work a half-century ago as the region’s Area Agency on Aging and later the Aging and Disability Resource Center dedicated to listening to our clients, understanding their needs and then taking action to make a positive difference in their lives. Today, those values remain central to what we do in supporting older adults, caregivers and others in our community.

As an organization, we have certainly experienced many changes and challenges and growth during the last five decades. Today we enjoy the perspective all that experience and service affords us. And, while it is important to mark milestones, we are not pausing to celebrate. Instead, we are using this incredible anniversary as an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to listening, understanding, and taking actions that make life better for those we serve and those we will serve in the future.

This report provides not only a valuable perspective on how we have fulfilled our mission during the last half century – and how we are doing so as we move into the future – but it also highlights resources that can help you or someone you love today. Please read on to discover a service or program that speaks to you.

Letter from Secretary Michelle Branham

On behalf of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, it is my pleasure to extend heartfelt congratulations to ElderSource on the celebration of its 50th anniversary! Five decades of service is a superb achievement, standing as a powerful testament to the unwavering commitment you’ve provided in North Florida, including Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, St. Johns, and Volusia counties.

I also wanted to personally thank you because my own parents live in your area. I have no doubt that they, and all seniors in your region, are offered great care and assistance when they need it.

Since my appointment as the Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs by Governor Ron DeSantis, it has been an immense honor and privilege to serve Florida’s seniors alongside our esteemed Area Agencies on Aging partners such as ElderSource.

While each agency brings its own unique strengths and perspectives, we are united by a shared dedication to enhancing the lives of our elders in the great state of Florida.

In my role as Secretary, I have experienced immeasurable joy and fulfillment in collaborating with our dedicated teams and partners to address the various needs of Florida’s seniors. What I’ve learned over the years is that, together, we are committed to ensuring every senior in need receives the support, care, and respect they deserve as they continue to age.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve Florida’s aging adults and am continuously inspired by their resilience, wisdom, and spirit. As we persevere in this vital work together as an aging network, I am firmly committed to upholding the values of compassion, integrity, and excellence that collectively define our mission.

To all the team members, volunteers, and partners of ElderSource, here’s to another fifty years of compassionate success and caring community impact that will continue to enhance the way we age, not only in our wonderful state but across America as well!

– Michelle Branham, Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs

From Crisis to Stability: A Closer Look at ElderSource’s EASE Program

Unexpected expenses often carry a heavier burden for many older adults in our community. With fixed incomes, solitary living arrangements, or limited familial and community support, older adults can face profound difficulties when confronted with sudden financial crises, jeopardizing their very quality of life.

ElderSource’s EASE Program (Emergency Assistance Serving Elders) assists older adults facing an unexpected financial crisis – from replacing broken dentures and broken AC units to building wheelchair ramps.

The program started with an endowment created by J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver and coordinated through the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida and expanded with additional support from a grant from The Jim Moran Family Foundation. The purpose of the EASE program, formerly known as the Senior-to Senior program, is to help older adults facing a short term financial crisis resolve issues preventing them from living independently.

The EASE Program helps people like 76-yearold Ms. Louanna N., she faced an unexpected crisis when she dropped and broke her dentures. Despite her best efforts to replace them on her own, the associated cost far exceeded her financial means.

Louanna lost a dangerous amount of weight as she went on without dentures. Her daughter then contacted ElderSource and explained her mother’s problem. Soon after, ElderSource gave Ms. N. a referral to a local dentist who fitted her for new dentures. Notably, the EASE Program generously covered the entire expense. Now, she has a lovely smile and is enjoying eating again, putting on weight.

ElderSource’s EASE Program stands as a beacon of hope for older adults facing unexpected financial crises in Northeast Florida. By offering financial support for essential needs, the program not only alleviates immediate financial burdens but also fosters a sense of security, well-being, dignity and independence among our older adult population.

As we continue to navigate some of the challenges of aging, ElderSource remains steadfast in its commitment to serving and uplifting people in our community, one individual at a time.

Caring for the Caregiver

ElderSource understands the crucial role caregivers play in supporting older adults, which is why we have a range of programs to be there for those who sacrifice so much to be there for our seniors.

Virtual Caregiver Support Group

Since 2019, ElderSource’s Virtual Caregiver Support Group has provided a safe, supportive space to exchange information for the growing number of family members and others in our area who are caring for aging parents, spouses, or other loved ones.

The online group allows members to ask questions, share stories and voice personal feelings with people who truly understand what the challenge of caregiving entails.

“This group is so important to each of us,” Pauline* said. “We build relationships of caring about the concerns of other members. You empathize because you understand how each member feels.”

The group is facilitated by a licensed clinical social worker who guides the discussions toward sharing valuable information, stories, laughter and sometimes tears.

Being a family caregiver is an emotional roller coaster…My advice to anyone who is a caregiver, first and foremost, call ElderSource. That’s the first thing you need to do.

Chrysandra Reynolds – TCARE and Virtual Caregiver Support Group Participant

The Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral Program (TCARE) is designed to support family members at risk for burnout. Caregivers are interviewed to identify stressors and then a care plan is created to help them address the root causes of burnout. Giving caregivers the guidance and resources to be the best caregiver they can be is the goal of the Powerful Tools for Caregivers program. It is a six-week program held once a week providing participants with the tools needed to succeed in their caregiving journey.

Veterans Directed Care

ElderSource’s Veteran-Directed Care program is a partnership with the Veterans Administration. The program is designed to help keep Veterans in their homes and gives veterans of all ages the opportunity to receive services from a caregiver of their choosing. Veteran-directed care is part of the Veterans Health Administration Standard Medical Benefits Package.

There are no age restrictions or service-connected requirements to qualify for the program. Initiated by the VA physician and coordinated through ElderSource, the program offers Veterans a Person-Centered Counselor who works with the Veteran and their family to provide support. To be eligible for the program Veterans must:

  • Be enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration;
  • Meet functional eligibility criteria as determined by the VA; and
  • Be able to direct their own services and care or appoint someone ontheir behalf to do so.

It’s common for a Veteran to hire family members, including their spouses or children, neighbors and/or friends to provide them with personal care and more. Examples of daily activities you may be able to receive help with include eating, getting dressed, personal grooming, and bathing.

ElderSource further helps the Veteran with the payroll and taxes for the individuals they hire, making it easier for the Veteran to manage.

For more information about this program and how to get enrolled, contact your VA physician or social worker for a referral.

Certification Program to Assist Older Adults

Empowering older adults, caregivers, and adults with disabilities is not just a mission statement on a piece of paper for ElderSource; it’s a commitment in action. To this end, ElderSource launched an exciting educational opportunity for anyone working with older adults, the Foundation to Aging Certificate Program.

Created in conjunction with the Center for Aging Research at the UNF Brooks College of Health, the Foundation to Aging Certificate Program allows people working with older adults to not only enhance their relationships with clients, but also elevate their career.

Whether you’re a nurse, nursing assistant, home health aide, professional caregiver, social worker, banker, attorney, paralegal, financial planner, care manager, therapist (i.e. mental health, physical, occupational, speech), you can earn a Certificate of Completion in Foundation to Aging.

The program offers an array of courses that can be taken separately, or you can combine core and elective courses to create a program that is meaningful and valuable to you and earn a certificate that showcases your commitment to and competence with the aging population. If needed, you can earn continuing education units. You can showcase your commitment to and competence with the aging population.

Volunteering for ElderSource

ElderSource offers volunteer opportunities for those interested in supporting older adults. Our Caring Connections Telephone Reassurance Program trains and screens volunteers who make friendly telephone calls to older adults who are living alone and/or homebound. The goal of the program is to eliminate or reduce some of the concerns facing homebound seniors including isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.

Older adults who receive the calls say they value the connections they’ve made and feel safe knowing that they have a friend who consistently checks on them and their wellbeing. In 2023, almost 50 volunteers called 56 seniors and spent more than 808 hours chatting by phone with their senior friend.

ElderSource staff
ElderSource staff recently celebrated National Volunteer Week by recognizing their “groovy” SHINE volunteers. Front row left to right: Linda Card, Jamila Griffin. Back row left to right: Renee Knight, Kimberly Pitts, James Mace, Rick Santomassino and Wynn Woellert.

Another way to help older adults is to be a SHINE volunteer. Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE) is a program where volunteers are trained to provide counseling to seniors about their Medicare benefits. This rewarding role guides people to make sound choices about their health care options. SHINE counselors do not sell any sort of insurance coverage. Rather, they are a trusted source offering free and unbiased assistance with the complicated choices associated with Medicare decisions.

To learn more about how you can become a SHINE or Caring Connections volunteer, email Volunteers@MyElderSource.org.

By the end of this decade, one-third of Jacksonville residents will be seniors

While most of them were teenagers when ElderSource started, the agency has been working for 50 years to be ready to help them age with independence.

ElderSource launched in 1974 as part of the implementation of the national Older American Act that authorizes and funds many initiatives aimed at improving lives for older Americans. Among those initiatives was the creation of a nationwide network of area agencies on aging that coordinate and manage delivery of social services to older adults and their caregivers.

Today, ElderSource is one of 618 area agencies on aging across the country. ElderSource is a local nonprofit, designated by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, to serve Northeast Florida with a mission to empower people to age with independence and dignity in their home and community. It manages funding from federal, state, and local grants – along with private donations – to identify the needs of older adults and their caregivers. Working with partner agencies in local communities, we help plan and deliver quality services that ensure residents’ needs are met.

With a staff of about 80 dedicated professionals, ElderSource works throughout a seven county area providing the funding to partner agencies that provide direct service to older adults and caregivers.

These partners include agencies such as the City of Jacksonville Senior Services, Aging True, The Florida Area Health Education Centers, Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Flagler County Senior Services and the Councils on Aging in St. Johns, Nassau, Baker, and Volusia counties.

Our work helps ensure all these great agencies can do their jobs to empower
older adults and caregivers, We work every
day to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents in this region.

ElderSource CEO Linda Levin

One of ElderSource’s most important initiatives is its Emergency Assistance Serving Elders (EASE) program, formerly known as the Senior-to-Senior program. With support from local philanthropic organizations like the J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Senior to Senior Fund through the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and the Jim Moran Family Foundation, this program provides emergency assistance and resources that are available to help older adults experiencing an unexpected financial crises.

“All of these efforts focus our work on ElderSource’s essential mission.” Levin said. “Everything we do is designed to help older adults and adults with disabilities have the resources they need to live and age in an age and ability-friendly community.”

As ElderSource turns the corner on its first half century of work supporting local seniors and caregivers, its leadership is looking to the future and how to sustain the agency’s vital mission in our community.

“We know the population of older adults and of caregivers in Northeast Florida will grow tremendously during the next decade,” Levin said. “ElderSource will be prepared to handle the challenges that growth will bring. We’re excited about the

SHINE – Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Elders

One of the benefits of turning 65 is being able to sign up for Medicare, but with enrollment questions, plan comparisons, prescription options, and supplement
plan alternatives, the process is often overwhelming. Through federal funds administered through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, ElderSource manages the SHINE program (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) for its seven-county area. ElderSource has over 40 SHINE volunteer

My SHINE counselor was really helpful,” Bodge said. “He spent 45 minutes with me, listening to me, helping me figure out what I needed to do. I liked that I could have an initial conversation with my counselor and then come back when I had other questions.

counselors who offer older adults, adults with disabilities, and caregivers truly free and unbiased education, counseling and assistance on Medicare and health insurance issues. Each year they field approximately 3,500 calls, listening to each caller’s specific situation, then breaking down various options available to meet their needs.


The three key goals of the SHINE program are:

  1. to help people compare options so they are empowered to make informed decisions,
  2. to point out places they may be able to save money with things like prescription plans, and
  3. to minimize fraud by helping to protect their information.

Yvonne Boone was once someone who called SHINE for help, but later became a counselor to assist others. She says she feels honored to be able to help people. “My role is to make Medicare easier,” Boone said. “It’s a great feeling when they get it, and they can understand their Medicare coverage better.” Nancy Bodge is an example of a SHINE caller who needed such guidance. When she was within a few months of turning 65, she needed help vetting her choices. Bodge not only appreciated how the counselor indicated the importance of whether prescriptions would – or would not – be covered under certain plans, but also that all the information he provided was straightforward and unbiased. She said he gave her the tools to make informed decisions. “Talking to my SHINE counselor gave me peace of mind,” Bodge said. “When it comes to Medicare, I’d tell my friends to call SHINE first.” SHINE counselors are true advocates for seniors in helping them understand the complex maze of Medicare and helping them save money. Finally, the SHINE program offers Benefits Enrollment Counselors who assist eligible clients to apply for extra help with Medicare Part B and D premiums, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

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