Gertrude spent 30 years working as a credit manager and saved for her retirement. She never thought she’d need financial or physical assistance. Gertrude moved from her home to CHHSM member St. Andrew’s Tower Grove Manor — an older adult community in St. Louis — 15 years ago and enjoyed the people and activities. But over time, she lost her eyesight and her finances shrank.
Now 93, Gertrude credits St. Andrew’s Charitable Foundation with helping her continue to enjoy life. She receives assistance and services through two programs of the Foundation, which began in 2008 to provide compassionate care to economically disadvantage adults 65 and older in the Greater Metropolitan St. Louis area.
“I swallowed my pride and went to talk with management and explained my situation,” Gertrude says. “I followed their instructions, and in the weeks to come I received a letter: help was on the way from St. Andrew’s Charitable Foundation through their Benevolent Fund.”
The Benevolent Fund is one of four programs the Foundation runs to help older adults. It ensures that financially struggling St. Andrew’s residents won’t have to leave their homes. “Instead, we provide financial assistance to bridge the gap so that they may enjoy their remaining time with peace of mind and comfort,” says Alice Drobisch, philanthropy director.
As part of St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System , the Foundation serves lower-income adults in St. Andrew’s communities and in the wider community as well. Its Circle of Care program is one of the programs geared toward both.
Circle of Care helps older adults to live safely and independently in their homes. It provides, at no cost, at-home care assessments to determine necessary resources and at-home services — such services as meal delivery, caregiver services, escorted transportation, light housekeeping, and medication management, among others. “The main objective of this ongoing program is to enable 1,800 seniors to continue living safely and independently in their own homes,” Drobisch says.
“Low-income seniors face numerous health and economic challenges. They struggle daily to maintain their person and home and often have no family or friends to help,” adds Linda Sanders, chief development officer at the Foundation. “St. Andrew’s provides programs and services to help meet their basic needs, improve their health and financial stability, and lengthen the time they’re able to remain safely in their own homes.”
In addition to rent assistance through the Benevolent Fund, Gertrude also receives help through Circle of Care. Her caregiver, Brandi, visits her four times a week — doing laundry, reading to her, getting mail, and other chores that require assistance from a sighted person. “I’d be lost without her,” Gertrude says. “She means so very, very much to me.”
Safe Home for Seniors is a related program, also geared toward helping seniors stay in their current homes. The program provides services at no cost to make a senior’s home safer and more accessible. Basic maintenance work like light plumbing, door replacement, replacement of cabinets and vanities, installation of grab bars, and basic weatherization are among the various services offered.
One of the most successful programs of the Foundation is its Homer Schmitz Memorial Clinic at St. Andrew’s of Jennings affordable housing community. Launched in 2017, the clinic has literally proven to be a life saver, says Drobisch.
“Most of the seniors [at Jennings] attempt to live on an annual income of $12,000 or less,” she says. “The clinic provides on-site, walk-in healthcare services to all residents of the Jennings community at no cost.”
What makes the clinic particularly unique is that its success is due to the partnership of three CHHSM-member ministries: St. Andrew’s, the Institute for Family Medicine (IFM), and Deaconess Faith Community Nurses. At the clinic, a faith community nurse is available three days per week to monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, breathing, and help residents manager medications. A nurse practitioner is available two days a week, and a physician two times a month, allowing residents to see a practitioner that can order tests and prescribe medications.
“Residents at Jennings now have access to a medical provider without leaving the facility,” says Drobisch, “which is a substantial convenience due to the common obstacles encountered when finding reliable transportation and affording physician and dental visits.”
Circle of Care, Safe Home for Seniors, and the Schmitz Clinic are funded through the Foundation via its fund raising efforts. The services are then provided by St. Andrew’s Senior Solutions. The Benevolent Fund monies go directly to the recipient’s residency payment.
“Our seniors live on average incomes of $233 per week ($316 per week for couples),” Drobisch adds. “These seniors struggle to afford such necessities as food, clothing, transportation, prescriptions, mortgage payments or rent, home repair, and medical care.”
With the number of older Americans projected to reach more than 98 million by 2060, St. Andrew’s has an eye on future programs to address the larger number of older adults who will need services or assistance.
One area of emphasis is community outreach. “Our hope for the future is to broaden our at-home programs,” says Sanders, “reaching more seniors in need with weekly services to ensure their safe and independent living.”