We cover various community resources on the blog, but how well do you know the services available at Catholic Social Services? CSSW’s Senior Services department is home to community-based programs such as Home Maintenance & Safety Services, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, Resource Advocacy, and Volunteer Caregiver Respite. Recently we spoke with Kaser Kerr, Director of Senior Services for Catholic Social Services. In this interview Kasey discusses what the Senior Services department does, who she works closely with, and her tips for navigating services for loved ones.
Ahead of the Curve: If you had to give an “elevator speech” about what your organization does, how would you describe it?
Kasey Kerr: The Senior Services Department at Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County includes a variety of services and programs all of which are intended to assist older adults and caregivers to live meaningful, and independent lives.
Caregiver programing is offered through the Volunteer Caregiver Respite and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Programs.
The Home Services Program provides older adults with handyman services helping with minor home repairs, the installation of safety devices, and assistance with outdoor chores such as snow removal and lawn care.
The Resource Advocacy (RA) Program is the cornerstone of the Senior Service Program. RAs provide intake and assessment of Senior Service clients, including a screening for elder and substance abuse. RA can assist in completing complicated applications or paperwork, help navigating aging services, and provide connection to federal, state and community resources. You will often see RA staff in the community presenting of the topics of elder abuse and/or Substance Use Prevention.
The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) at CSSW works with those who are 55+ looking to connect to the community through volunteerism. RSVP Volunteers are matched with local non-profit partners to work in a variety of volunteer roles.
Last, but certainly not least is Ahead of the Curve (AOTC). Helping to build an age-friendly community, AOTC is a web-based resource developed to support older adults and those that care about them. The Ahead of the Curve Website includes a searchable Senior Resource Directory, The Caregiver Events Calendar, blog posts that are updated weekly spotlighting topics related to aging and even a Caregiver Training to help community members learn how to identify at risk older adults and connect them to assistance they need.
AOTC: Walk me through the step-by-step process. What happens when you get a phone call/referral?
KK: Each program within the department is a little different, so the intake process varies, however in general interested parties may call the Senior Services Department at 734-971-9718 ext 8. The phone call will be transferred to the Senior Service Director who will ensure the call gets assigned to the appropriate Resource Advocate or correct staff member. RA’s will connect with the caller to complete an intake and move forward with program specific steps.
AOTC: What organizations do you work closely with?
KK: Collaboration between agencies and providers is an essential part of our work caring for seniors in the community. We work closely with many organizations in Washtenaw County; Jewish Family Services, Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, Area Agency on Aging 1-B, U of M Visiting Nurses, are a few that come to mind. Staff members also participate in monthly community meetings such as Barrier Busters, and the Washtenaw County Hoarding Task Force.
AOTC: How has Covid affected the Senior Services department?
KK: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senior Services Department worked with the CSSW’s Northside Food Pantry to provide grocery delivery to clients unable to safely get to the grocery store. This has resulted in a long-lasting partnership with service continuing beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
AOTC: What are some things you wish the public knew about your role?
KK: I wish more people understood the importance of community-based senior programing. These programs provide safety net services that support older community members, aiding in their ability to live independently at home. Community based programs are often grant funded, which can make for some uncertainly as it relates to long term sustainability.
AOTC: What tips do you have for someone with a loved one that needs assistance?
I have lots of tips for older adults and caregivers who need assistance, but I will only list three.
Tip #1: Be kind to yourself, it can feel difficult or overwhelming to navigate the aging network. You are doing the best you can, and it is important to recognize that.
Tip #2: Do not be afraid to ask for help! Even if CSSW is unable to provide a service directly, we are happy to help troubleshoot and connect you to someone who can. I believe the same can be said of other senior services providers in the county.
Tip #3: Do not wait to seek assistance! Often people wait until times of crisis to seek help. Get an idea of available programing/services so that you can have a plan in place if the need arises.
Thank you to Kasey for sharing information about all the resources the Senior Services department provides!
You can learn more about the Senior Services department by calling them at (734) 971-9781 (ext. 8) or visiting their website. Visit the Ahead of the Curve Senior Resource Directory to learn more about resources available in your community.