Imagine meeting a 93-year old woman living alone who asked if you knew a doctor who made house calls because she couldn’t navigate the stairs to leave her house. Suppose, in talking with her, you found out that her husband, siblings and friends had passed away and she seldom had visitors. What if she confided that she had spinal stenosis, periodic mini strokes, carpel tunnel syndrome, and arthritic knees and could no longer walk down steps? Would you know how to help her? Thankfully, for this woman and others like her, there’s Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc. (CHAI)—specifically CHAI’s Senior Home Repair & Modification Program. Behind this straightforward, simple name lies a program that transforms lives and lifts vulnerable seniors out of physical harm and financial risk. The SHRM Program does a lot more than just repair homes; it intervenes with housing-related solutions that address the physical, emotional and cognitive needs of its clients.
Before I started working for CHAI, I had no idea the program even existed, much less what it did. I was amazed to discover the tremendous good work accomplished through this program for seniors and people with disabilities who live independently at home in Northwest Baltimore City or adjacent Baltimore County neighborhoods. Many of whom either have no children or their children are not able to advocate or intervene on their behalf.
The story related above is that of a real CHAI client. Rona Gross, CHAI Senior Home Benefits Coordinator stepped in to help “Mrs. Vivian M.,” as we’ll call her. Rona visited Mrs. M. and assessed her home environment’s safety and functionality to see the effect they had on Vivian’s physical, emotional and cognitive abilities. Then, problem by problem, Rona began to unravel the tangled web of complications that immobilized Vivian and kept her from living a healthier, happier life. With the help of Rona and her fellow CHAI staff members, Mrs. M.’s situation immediately began to improve. Rona was able to arrange a number of vital services on Vivian’s behalf, including:
- Home safety assessment
- Physician and occupational therapy referrals
- Assistive devices and equipment, such as a special chair cushion and smaller walker
- Home modifications to address her disabilities, including a bathtub renovation for easier access
- Remodeling contractors hired at cost
- Referrals to Baltimore County Department of Aging for telephone support and County Ride volunteer car driver program
- Volunteer companion services to reduce isolation
- Senior Home Repair funds to pay for safety and accessibility-related expenses
Just after Hurricane Irene, Rona visited Mrs. M. and found that she was without power and a working phone. (Earlier, Rona had bought her a prepaid cell phone and taught Vivian how to use it.) Rona purchased more minutes for the phone, charged it, replaced Vivian’s flashlight batteries and explained the BG&E recordings so she would know when to expect the power to come back on. Kindness is in the details.
Today, Vivian is able to safely move around her house, go out if she chooses to and even get in and out of the bathtub by herself, thanks to resources provided and modifications made by CHAI. These changes have helped Mrs. M. be more relaxed and given her hope about the future. Through it all, Rona has been there to offer encouragement and support.
Reflecting on her experience with Vivian, Rona remarked, “I believe Mrs. M. has experienced what another one of our clients said as I left her home with our repairman… ‘You don’t just fix houses; you fix hearts.’”
If you know a senior or person with disabilities who could benefit from CHAI’s SHRM Program, call Rona Gross at 410-500-5315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.