Elders Receive Care Bags from ANTHC

Posted on October 26, 2010 in Events

Prestige H. Morgan

By: Kay Branch

Over the next few weeks, Alaska Native elders residing in Anchorage nursing and assisted living homes will be receiving care bags from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), Elder Health Program. The care bags include salmon strips, pilot bread, tea, jam, toiletries and games. Funding for these items was provided by the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation, ANTHC’s charitable arm that works to raise awareness and funding to further ANTHC’s vision: that Alaska Native people are the healthiest people in the world. The Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation was established in 2007 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the creation of ANTHC.

At any point in time there are at least 50 Alaska Native people living in Anchorage nursing homes. There are 150 additional Alaska Native people living in assisted living homes around town. Most of the assisted living homes are small, in private homes, serving five people or less. Sometimes there are two or more Alaska Native people in a home, but this isn’t usually the case. These folks are far from where they have lived most of their lives. Some have family members in Anchorage who visit regularly, many do not. Families do visit when they travel to Anchorage, but most cannot afford to travel often. There are stories of individuals without family who have been in these homes for many years. In these homes Alaska Native elders and people with disabling conditions do not have access to traditional foods, language and other important cultural and family activities.

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The care bags will hopefully provide a little reminder of home for the residents. Spearheading the project is Mellisa Johnson, an employee who is part of the LEAD program (Leadership Excellence through Advancement and Determination). Mellisa is originally from Nome and was interested in the project because of the time she spends with her grandmother. Mellisa said, “This was a great learning experience in organizing volunteers, coordinating meeting times, and distributing the packages to Alaska Native elders in nursing homes/assisted living facilities.

Residents of Providence Extended Care Center and Prestige Care in Anchorage received bags during the week of August 9, 2010. Employees who took part in delivering the bags were overwhelmed by the response to their visit. The elders were very excited to see them and to receive the care bags and began going through them right away. They especially enjoyed the salmon strips. Holly Chaney, who grew up in Napakiak, said interacting with the elders was for her “a taste of home.” Holly speaks Yup’ik and her fellow employees mentioned the change on the elders’ faces when she spoke, there was comfort in hearing their Native language spoken.

As a volunteer for the program, Mellisa learned that these elders cannot be forgotten and that it is important to make a connection with the elders they meet. Some of the residen