SAGE weathers the storm, provides help to seniors

During the first week that Superstorm Sandy impacted New Jersey, SAGE didn’t have power and communications were very limited, but the agency was still able to respond to seniors in need.

Through the coordination of emergency management, other community groups and residents who were checking on their elderly neighbors, SAGE was able to help vulnerable older adults.

Through it all, SAGE continued its Home Care services and did wellness checks every day for clients who chose to stay in their homes. Many clients who opted to stay in their own homes without power were still serviced by SAGE’s Home Health Aides.

One caregiver, Marie Bentz-Crosby, was highly impressed with the dedication of her mother’s home health aide – and called her an “angel” during a time of borderline chaos.

“My mother had no electricity or heat for several days,” she said, “but Latoya showed up at her home on time every day following the storm and showed the most remarkable patience and care giving that I have ever experienced. My mother was very confused as to why she could not have her ‘normal routine,’ but Latoya kept her pre-occupied by comforting her, dressing and bathing her, feeding her, playing cards with her and exercising her when the therapists could not get to her home – all without any electricity for many days.”

On Nov. 1 and 2, despite having no power at SAGE’s offices on Broad Street in Summit, 550 meals were delivered through Meals On Wheels by staff and volunteers who had no power or heat at their own homes and who had to sit in long gas lines and navigate through towns with downed trees and wires in order to get the meals to area seniors.

SAGE staff also volunteered at the Summit Warming/Changing station, finding additional older adults in the community who needed help getting through the emergency.

Once SAGE had power, its doors were opened to anyone who needed a place to get warm or charge phones, and some of the newly displaced older adults enjoyed activities at the Spend-A-Day Adult Day Health Center.

The organization also communicated with the community through Twitter, Facebook and email so that those who were displaced would be informed of power restoration and where they could seek necessary services. Summit area residents generously donated food to restock SAGE’s portable pantry so that items could be given to those who needed it most.

Meals On Wheels volunteers checked on homebound clients every day. Some people had gone to stay with family, but others wanted to stay home.

“We encouraged everyone who had no heat to go to a warming station or shelter, and that we would find a way to get them there,” said Marianne Kranz, Director of Meals On Wheels at SAGE. “We worked very closely with the police and EMS in each town we serve, who kept finding older adults who needed help. We also had to call 9-1-1 a number of times for fall victims.”

“Hurricane Sandy has substantially impacted everyone, including SAGE and the seniors we serve,” said Jessica Rosenzweig Gruber, Executive Director for SAGE. “We are hoping that area residents will consider a monetary donation to our organization’s annual fund so that we may continue to be able to help the aging population, especially during times of hardship, like that of the storm.”