“Disruption in the life of a senior can be devastating to their mental health wellness,” says Erika Broyles, Senior Services Director. FISH OF SANCAP provides hands-on services to the community’s most vulnerable, including long-term disaster assistance and temporary financial assistance for medical, housing and utility expenses. What some may not realize is FISH’s response to social and cognitive health concerns that affect seniors, particularly in a crisis environment like the recent COVID health crisis and the current Hurricane Ian disaster
Tom Wilding and Susan Marsh, whose names have been changed for privacy, are two seniors that Broyles visits weekly. Wilding lost a lot of household items during the hurricane, and FISH helped replace furnishings and kitchen tools through their POD distribution program, in partnership with United Way Gifts-in-Kind. “The loss of these items left Tom feeling overwhelmed and scattered,” continues Broyles. “He kept looking for things that just weren’t there anymore. Once we were able to replace them, Tom felt more at ease.”
Marsh struggled in a different way after Ian as she become reclusive and didn’t want to interact with anyone. “Susan was struggling with cleanliness, personal hygiene and food insecurities,” says Broyles. “With guidance from SalusCare and contact with out-of-town family members, we were able to get her to open up and discuss her needs.” FISH reports they secured a cleaning service to help Susan with chores and enrolled her in the Meals-by-FISH program. Marsh also receives a weekly visit from FISH where an array of grocery and hygiene products are offered.
In addition to their long-term recovery, mental health and visitation programs, FISH offers other services to seniors aging in place. “From our Friendly Faces luncheon to home healthcare referrals and more, we have other programs to help our seniors cope,” says Broyles.
According to the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, “it is estimated that 20% of people age 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders such as depression.[i] “Unfortunately,” continues Broyles, “we witness mood disorders and cognitive impairment among our seniors, particularly since the hurricane. The sense of loss, whether it’s a material loss, loss of a loved one or dramatic change in the community, can have a severe effect on mental wellness.”
FISH provides assistance to senior community members in various ways, including a monthly Friendly Faces luncheon, at-home visitation for socialization, smile boxes, food and disaster recovery. “Requests for visitation have increased over the last few months,” says Broyles. The FISH visitation program is available to island neighbors who are feeling lonely, who may not have any friends or family nearby, and/or who may no longer be able to leave their homes to socialize with others. Social contacts tend to decrease with age for a variety of reasons, including retirement, the death of friends and family, or lack of mobility. Even perceived social isolation – the feeling that you are lonely – is a struggle for many older people. FISH helps relieve isolation and loneliness among older adults and ensures they are receiving needed social and emotional support to help celebrate and improve quality of life for island seniors.
FISH is answering all requests for assistance including but not limited to emergency financial assistance and assisting with medical and mental health referrals and resources. Through their long-term recovery assistance program, FISH assists Sanibel and Captiva residents and workforce with Hurricane Ian recovery aid. In addition, the agency continues to offer traditional programs focused on their four major pillars – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands to ensure no need goes unmet.
If you or someone you know needs assistance, contact FISH at 239.472.4775. For questions or services specifically related to seniors, please contact Erika Broyles, 239.472.4775 or email@example.com.