Partners-In-Care Site Program Coordinator Peggy Troiano, left, discusses plans with Site Director Linda Prochaska. (Photo by Michael Rhian Driscoll)

Home is where the heart is and seems to be our safe haven. But as we age, staying in one’s home can pose challenges to those living alone.
For seniors in Talbot and Caroline counties, Partners-In-Care provides help meeting these hardships.
The Mid-Shore’s PIC office in Easton opened in 2009, after sites in Anne Arundel County and Frederick counties had started earlier.
The group explains how it works on its website:
PIC operates as a time exchange community, with members exchanging services with one another; there’s no charge for membership or services. Our expectation is that each member will contribute time (volunteer), talent or treasure (money). We gratefully accept monetary donations as well as gently used clothing & household items which are resold in our Upscale Resale Boutique (at Anne Arundel and Frederick locations); proceeds from sales support our programs.
The impetus behind Partners-in-Care Maryland began with a kitchen table conversation among three women, adult children of older non driving parents, concerned about the dire lack of available transportation to essential services such as doctor appointments.
That issue was also seen to negatively impact seniors’ overall quality of life while remaining at home. (The PIC website features a book detailing its founding and mission, More Than A Ride by Linda Marie Hogan.)
Beginning Nov. 1 the Easton office became known as Mid-Shore Partners-in-Care in partnership with Community for Life, according to Site Director Linda Prochaska, reflecting a merger initiated by the state agency which has also helped seniors manage staying safely at home.
Currently, 189 members belonging to the Mid-Shore PIC program can sign up for rides, deliveries, handy help, and check in phone calls.
Membership guidelines include being over 60 years old and able to sufficiently advocate for themselves (a crucial factor in determining whether someone can safely stay at home, Prochaska stated.)
There’s a waiting list for prospective members to schedule in home intake meetings once COVID-19 health precautions deem safe.
Volunteer applications are available.
Those interested in registering or arranging a one on one staff member session can call 410-822-1803.
The pandemic, with all its trials, has shown how much of a lifeline the service can be, Prochaska and Program Director Peggy Troiano, who began as a volunteer, agreed.
The Easton office closed for a period but has reopened at up to 40 percent capacity. Located in a remodeled house with several rooms it offers separate offices for staff personnel, including Prochaska, Troiano, Volunteer Coordinator Nita Webster, and newly hired Community for Life Service Navigator Christie Rottman, to maintain safe social distancing while performing duties.
The number of volunteers, currently reduced to about 25 percent of the pre pandemic number of 44, nevertheless has managed to coordinate rides to doctor’s visits, deliveries of prescriptions and groceries outside the home, and outside pick up of donations from seniors busy decluttering and downsizing during quarantine.
Some have helped vision challenged seniors by reading their mail to them from outside the home.
And “handy” helpers have figured out creative ways to “McGyver” repairs and assembly outside the home’s four walls then convey them back.
Many are “phone call buddies” several times a week providing friendly interaction while checking on members’ well-being.
Others, such as Troiano, send much appreciated birthday cards to isolated seniors, assuring them remembrance on important days.
Drivers continue to take all safety precautions by wearing masks, being supplied with gloves and spray bottles of sanitizer, and maintaining as much distance as possible from passengers they deliver to doctor offices or to the grocery store. (At this point, isolated seniors look forward even more to getting out even briefly, Prochaska explained.)
Pre-pandemic, the group had helped facilitate social interactions such as “warm house” gatherings for neighborhood seniors, notably a Valentine’s Day tea party featuring card making and refreshments provided by PIC team members.
The vision program is a specialized version of warm houses designed for low vision members.
Before COVID-19, the group met monthly, with topics and speakers designed to be of interest specifically to them (Blind Industries and Services, the Library for the Blind, the Department of Rehabilitative Services, technology, tips on cooking, shopping and other daily activities etc.).
The meetings began when PIC was located at the Talbot County Senior Center on Brooklets Drive, moved with the PIC office to Commerce Drive, and after COVID-19, will return to the Senior Center after they re-open, due to increased numbers of those attending, requiring a larger space, Prochaska added.
Among currently active volunteers are John Andres, who answers the office phone two or three times a week, along with performing other vital office duties.
A retired teacher since 2010, Andres heard a PIC member speak at a luncheon for retired Caroline County educators.
Being someone who’s always enjoyed helping people and gone the extra mile to do so, Andres felt the group would be a good fit, and has been volunteering since 2013.
To better help a group of non-English speaking high school students assigned to him, Andres earned a second Master’s degree.
For several years, Andres served on the PIC Advisory Board, but prefers the day to day contact volunteering provides.
By answering the phones, he’s glad to provide a familiar voice to seniors reaching out. “I just enjoy talking to people,” he added.
A retired contract support specialist with NASA’s Greenbelt, Md., office, Gail Zois said she hoped to find something meaningful to do, which to her meant giving back to society.
While at NASA, Zois paid weekly visits to a former elementary school teacher living in a nursing home and offered to do the same for other residents who lacked company.
Zois suffered ear nerve damage at age 6, giving her insight into coping with lifelong hearing loss, and learned more on a NASA disability leadership committee.
At PIC, Zois finds it rewarding to drive seniors to appointments and errands, especially during the pandemic’s isolation.
COVID-19 “actually made my interest in helping out greater,” she said. “These people are really alone and need help.”
“I’m very impressed with the Partners in Care staff,” Zois added, calling them “great people, very caring.”
For more information, call 410-822-1803, or visit