An interview with Apryl Garrett, Publisher for the Pittsburgh Region Seniors Blue Book
Here at Hope Health Advocacy, we are committed to providing value to our clients. We are starting a new program in which founder Michele Mosier interviews relevant people in the Patient Advocacy and related fields. To kick off this program, Dr. Mosier interviewed Apryl Garrett, Publisher for the Pittsburgh branch of Seniors Blue Book (SBB). SBB is a multi-faceted resource guide for aging. They are most notably known for their “Blue Book”, a free printed guide available in many public locations that provides resources to both seniors and caregivers.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Michele Mosier (MM): Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into your current line of work?
Apryl Garrett (AG): I have an MBA with a concentration in Marketing and a Bachelor’s in HR. Prior to working at Seniors Blue Book (SBB), I worked in the healthcare industry for close to a decade selling medical equipment and services including personal emergency response systems, medication dispensers, and telehealth. From these experiences, I realized I wanted to help others proactively instead of reactively.
I feel that I have always had a strong passion for educating individuals to be proactive with their health, despite the products that I had sold, which were often ordered AFTER a health emergency or bad fall. For example, I would receive calls from caregivers sharing that their loved one (mother, father, etc.) had some sort of medical event and they could not be as involved as they wanted to be because they live out of state, have a job and kids, are already taking care of another family member, etc. They often had questions about logistics for their loved one’s care: who would I recommend for home health, nursing homes, etc.; who pays for what; where can they even begin to help.
A coworker of mine suggested I look into Seniors Blue Book, a one-stop-shop to help families navigate healthcare for seniors. At this time, there was no Pittsburgh branch. I saw the need for SBB in this region and after a conversation with the CEO, the Pittsburgh branch was started. Given my background and what I was already doing with ‘proactive education’ and helping people through difficult situations, this was a great fit for me. It’s very rewarding as I know my work is helping ease burdens for people all across the region.
MM: What problem does Seniors Blue Book solve?
AG: We help people navigate the next level of care and plan ahead. A good example is a person looking to downsize and move into senior housing. They are completely overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn - and understandably so! The greater Pittsburgh area alone has over 200 assisted living communities. A Google search won’t immediately give great results. This person would have to dig into each facility’s website to find out their amenities and pricing. This can be very challenging and overwhelming. Our resources can help a loved one or caregiver sort and filter through the many senior housing communities in the area (by price, amenities & service offerings, geographic area, pet friendly) to help them determine the best fit for their specific needs.
Another great example is someone who is looking to retire. They need to make sure all of their ‘ducks are in a row’, so to speak - what are their options, how much money do they need saved, how do different insurances work, etc.
Seniors Blue Book is a great resource for both of these situations and more. We pride ourselves on being a one-stop-shop for aging resources and assistance.
MM: How is Seniors Blue Book (SBB) different from others in your industry?
AG: Our publication is free to the community and we provide free listings for every home health, hospice, home care, and senior housing agency. We also provide free listings for nonprofits and government agencies that assist seniors and caregivers. We are a fully comprehensive resource, whereas a lot of other resources include advertisers or paid listings only. SBB’s mission is to provide seniors and caregivers with a full range of choice.
MM: How do you ensure you are continually giving the most valuable information for caregivers and seniors?
AG: Because we cater to a wide range of ages, it’s important to us to be available everywhere. For our older seniors who are not as tech savvy, we are available in print format with our Blue Book and are always just a phone call away. For our caregivers who may be on the younger side, we are also easily accessible on the internet and through email. There is an easy way to get in touch with us for everyone - calling the referral line, myself directly, searching the internet, emailing, and more. We want to be easily accessible, no matter how the individual prefers to reach out to us. We also continually update the information in our guides to ensure that our community has the most updated information available at their fingertips.
MM: Scenario- I am a caregiver or senior and feel overwhelmed and hopeless navigating the healthcare system. I don’t know where to start or what my total needs are. What would be your guidance to help me start tackling the mountain in front of me?
AG: To get help with your given scenario: Anyone can call me at any time, our free referral line is 412-551-5951. You can also visit our website. On the website, you can utilize our help chat which can be accessed 24/7. You can ask any question and you’ll get an answer quickly. If you’re looking for a less direct approach, our Blue Book and guides are available for free at hundreds of locations throughout Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, and Westmoreland counties. Major public distributors are Walgreens, Shop n’ Save, Kuhn’s markets, local libraries, senior housing communities, YMCA’s, smaller grocery chains, hospital case management departments, and more. An electronic version of the book is located online at seniorsbluebook.com. You can also request a free book to be sent to you online or by calling the free referral line.
In general, for any scenario, we recommend starting with the table of contents. We have hundreds of different categories of services. Most of the time, when someone happens upon us, their scenario is not black-and-white. It may be best for them to contact someone on our team for initial guidance and direction.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion around aging and senior resources. There are also a lot of myths circulating, such as ‘everything is paid for as you get older’. Our mission is to help clear confusion and make sure our seniors have access to all the resources they need to get the best care possible.
MM: Do you have any other resources available other than the Blue Book?
AG: Yes! We offer the Discharge Planner’s Resource Notebook. This is a resource specifically for social workers, case managers, and discharge planners. It is built and designed for the healthcare professional who is assisting a senior and/or caregiver with the next level of care. The details within go beyond what is in the Community Guide (Blue Book). It provides detailed listings for all the different levels of senior housing, home health, hospice and non-medical home care and senior services. Any professional can reach out to me directly to request a hard copy and a PDF version is available at seniorsbluebook.com. Our website also offers a vast library of educational articles and videos on hundreds of topics, all for free.
MM: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
AG: Whenever I am able to help a caregiver get through a tough situation or connect them with local options. They are very grateful for the help!
MM: Where can people find you?
AG: You can pick up our Blue Book at a variety of grocery stores, pharmacies, public centers, and more throughout the area or you can view it on our website. Our website also has a chat feature that can help with whatever you need. Our free referral line (412-551-5951) can be used to request a copy of the publication or to point you in the right direction to get you the assistance you need.
You can find and connect with me on LinkedIn. I’m always looking to network with like-minded people and expand my circles!
We would like to thank Apryl for taking time out of her busy day to answer some questions about her work. Seniors are a big part of Hope Health Advocacy, and we are constantly making sure our senior clients are receiving the best care possible. Seniors Blue Book is a great resource for a wide variety of people and we are very fortunate to have had Apryl give us some valuable information about the organization. If you have any questions for Apryl, you can reach her in a variety of ways - most notably by calling the SBB referral line or connecting with her on LinkedIn.