On December 22, 2021

Rutland Housing Authority recognized for 10 years of success in creating a healthier Rutland County

The statewide Support and Services at Home (SASH) program has recognized the Rutland Housing Authority (RHA) for offering SASH services to residents and surrounding community members since 2011, helping to keep older adults and people with disabilities healthy and living independently.

The recognition comes at the time that SASH is celebrating its 10th anniversary. RHA has been an active SASH partner from the beginning, making the program available to residents in all of its affordable housing communities and to surrounding community members. Each group of 70 to 100 participants is served by a full-time SASH coordinator and part-time wellness nurse employed by RHA. The coordinator and nurse create trusting relationships with each individual, support their health and well-being, and coordinate programming based on their needs and wants.

RHA’s SASH program for Templewood Court and Sheldon Towers residents serves nearly 100 RHA residents ranging in age from 36 to 97.

“It’s key that SASH is offered right where people live,” said SASH coordinator Stephanie Bertrand. “We see and talk with residents nearly every day, so we get to know them on a personal level and can recognize when they need help.”

Bertrand cites one participant with serious diabetes and other medical issues who had been avoiding medical treatment. Thanks to the close relationship they had developed, she was able to convince him to participate in a SASH-designed pilot project that connected diabetic and pre-diabetic SASH participants with a local pharmacist.

At the man’s first one-on-one meeting with the pharmacist, they immediately bonded as lifelong Yankee fans. From there the conversation moved into diabetes and his willingness to try new medications and other strategies. At that point the participant turned over a new leaf. He started eating healthier and taking his medications daily. His regular weigh-ins and blood pressure checks with Bertrand began moving in a positive direction as well.

By the end of the six-month pilot, the participant had reduced his A1c (blood sugar) levels by a remarkable four points, telling Bertrand, “I haven’t felt this good in a long time.” He continues to manage his diabetes and maintain a healthier lifestyle diet to this day.

“For this gentleman and many other participants, SASH has been completely life-changing,” said Bertrand. “I’ve seen so many people significantly improve their health and quality of life without needing costly medical treatments. It’s truly remarkable.”

SASH coordinator Anna Lang serves Rutland participants who live in the community, not in RHA housing. The out-of-state brother of one of those participants recently wrote in praise of Lang and the program, noting that his sister is his only sibling living in Vermont.

“I have immense appreciation for the help and support SASH has provided my sister, who is dealing with evolving age and health-related challenges made all the worse by living alone and by isolation brought on by Covid,” he wrote. “Anna visits her frequently, often accompanied by a nurse, so she’s able to observe things and know when the supports my sister receives need to be changed, then work with local agencies and the medical community to provide them. SASH has been absolutely critical in helping her remain living safely at home.”

In addition to programs that address chronic health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, SASH provides social activities, educational programming and fitness classes tailored to the group. “All of these things keep participants active and engaged and they help to combat loneliness and isolation, which is especially common among older adults,” said Bertrand, adding, “We want people to see that aging is just a state of mind, so it’s important to have fun.”

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