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The Eldercare Program at WCMHS

“To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.”  Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss writer

I have often heard the comment that aging is not for the faint of heart.   Through the experience of building relationships and working with many elders over the years, as well as going through that aging process myself, I have come to appreciate that concept in a fuller and richer way.  The quote above by Henri Frederic Amiel captures a bit of that essence for me of both the wisdom gained through aging and the struggles that can accompany the journey.  There are likely few periods of life that have the potential for such an array of changes as those found in the older years.  We find it a great privilege as the Eldercare team at WCMHS to come along side folks age sixty and older to offer support and a therapeutic connection to aid in the learning process of knowing how to grow older with greater effectiveness and grace. 

The Eldercare Program at WCMHS is part of a larger state-wide Eldercare Clinicians Program that has representation at each of the designated agencies.  The state-wide program came into existence close to twenty years ago as a collaboration and partnership between the community mental health centers and the various Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in Vermont.  As case managers at the Area Agencies on Aging were providing their services in the field with elders, the presence of mental health concerns and issues would often emerge.  The development of the Eldercare Clinicians Program created a link for referrals by the AAA case managers to mental health professionals in a more streamlined and efficient manner.  A core concept of the program in its original design was an outreach model to provide services to elders in their homes and to reduce the barriers that could create obstacles to accessing mental health care and support. 

eldercare and counselingThroughout the years, the Eldercare Program at WCMHS has remained true to the original mission and philosophy of that design.  Our team provides primarily home-based counseling/psychotherapy services with clients age sixty and over who would not be able to access counseling and therapy through more traditional office-based programs.  This is typically due to medical and mobility issues that may keep an individual homebound.   Our team of clinicians provides outreach in Washington, Orange, and Lamoille counties.  The program is a collaborative partnership between WCMHS, the Central Vermont Council on Aging (CVCOA), The Clara Martin Center, and Lamoille County Mental Health Services.  Although the CVCOA is our primary referral source, our program does receive referrals from a wide array of community agencies, as well as directly from elders and their families.  Our Eldercare Program at WCMHS typically provides psychotherapy services to over one hundred individuals per year, supporting those that we are privileged to work with in managing and working through times of depression, anxiety, grief and loss concerns, and the adjustments and changes that can accompany the aging process. 

The effectiveness of our Eldercare Program at WCMHS is due in large part to the dedication, compassion, and commitment of our three clinicians that work along with me to bring quality service to our clients.  I’d like you to have the chance to get to know our team members a bit better as they each share a few thoughts and reflections on working with our program.Elders and mental health (Mark Schmoll, Debbie DeForge, Nancy Hudgens, Bobbi Rood)

“My years working with the Eldercare Program have been very enjoyable and the time has flown by.  Soon after I started here several of my friends commented that they could tell that I was happier.  I have always enjoyed working with older adults and this program gives me the opportunity to work more closely with them.  Driving during the winter months can be challenging, but the grateful looks and thanks that I get make it all worth it.  I really have enjoyed this job.  I hate to call it a job as it seems so much more than that.”   Nancy Hudgens, MA- Eldercare Clinician for Lamoille County

“I tell people I aged into my position after years of working with children and their families.  Being in this position I meet wonderful people who, for the most part, have had little experience with psychotherapy and have varied work and life experiences.  I enjoy meeting with clients and their families and finding new stories of hope as they come to accept challenges and problems related to aging, loss, and chronic illness.  Clients tell me that it is helpful to have someone who listens and helps them process uncomfortable new feelings.  Surprising changes happen, sometimes after a short time, when our clients get a chance to tell their story and remember skills that have gotten them through difficult times.  More often these changes happen in tiny increments, but after meeting together there is a new history of progress to look back on.  Having a stroke can change life in an instant, but with help and support, individuals can find new ways to live and recover lost skills.  I love working with families and their loved ones and helping people come together as care partners.”   Bobbi Rood, LICSW- Eldercare Clinician for Washington County

“I have worked for WCMHS for over twenty-four years now in different positions.  In March 2016 I will have worked for one year in the Eldercare Program providing psychotherapy in my clients’ homes.  I have witnessed my clients’ smiles and have noted the way in which they have opened up about their situations, their health, their families, their worries, and their lives in general.  Having someone to actually listen, I am told, is a blessing and when I tell my clients that I will not be there one week, I can see in their eyes the disappointment.  This work has enriched not only my clients’ lives, but mine as well.”  Debbie Deforge, MA, LCMHC-Eldercare Clinician for Orange County

Thanks for the opportunity to share the Eldercare Program with you.  For further information please contact Mark Schmoll, Eldercare Program Coordinator, at (802) 223-6328 or marks@wcmhs.org.


Written 2/2016

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