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Posted on August 3, 2020 at 11:06 AM by Jennifer Ambrose
Our community’s foundation
As you get older, many things begin to change. There are daily living activities that you used to be able accomplish without thought that you may not be capable of doing independently. To put it simply, the entire structure of your everyday life changes. The Lenawee Department on Aging is committed to providing quality services that enable persons who are age 60 and over to live independently with dignity.
If you are an elderly individual or perhaps you care for one, COVID-19 may be especially worrisome for you. Older people are known to be more at risk of serious illness due to coronavirus, especially those with pre-existing conditions and those who are immune-compromised. One thing is certain, the importance of experienced caregiving is being highlighted throughout the country and the world during this time.
The Department on Aging offers a variety of services to assist persons age 60 or older. During this unprecedented time, they, like many others, have had to adjust their services to protect one another and their clients. Simultaneously, their services have become even more important. Director of Department on Aging, Cari Rebottaro speaks on how they are adapting saying, “What we do has always been vital in our community but it has never been more evident than through these last few months, as we struggled to find ways to find safe avenues to provide our services. Our neighbors, families, and other volunteers have supported us.”
Currently, all Senior Centers are closed to the public, but curbside meals are offered to individuals over the age of 60 at Addison, Adrian, Blissfield, Hudson, Morenci, and Tecumseh Senior Centers. Staff has been able to transition to kitchen help as need increased. Connie Beevers, Nutrition Director explains, “We’ve been able to provide nutritious meals to our homebound clients during COVID-19. Because our senior centers had to close, we started a curbside service so those who needed to could still participate in that service.”
Keeping seniors healthy during this time is crucial. Maintaining good nutrition can boost immunity and help ward off sickness, and a healthy immune system can help fight the germs that cause colds and the flu and even help prevent infection. Just how important is providing nutritious meals to these seniors? “Even more so now with the pandemic. Having that balanced nutrition could be hard to come across in the stores and you may have limited access to it,” answers Connie, “We serve a highly susceptible population and for them to go into a store to buy the foods they need, is a risk for them. It’s scary for them. So being able to make meals and have them delivered to their home is very important.“
Cari reports that in June the department’s home delivery meals were up by over 4,000 meals a month, as were the curb-side site meals. She expresses her gratitude for the volunteer drivers who help with delivering the meals to their clients saying, “We couldn’t do this without our volunteer drivers. It was overwhelming, the number of people in our community who care about taking care of our seniors.”
The Department on Aging in Lenawee County also provides volunteer transportation. Volunteer drivers are available to transport older adults in Lenawee County to in-county and out-of-county non-emergency medical appointments. There is no fee charged for volunteer driver transportation, but contributions are encouraged so that services can be extended to others in need.
Amy Young, the Transportation Coordinator at the Department on Aging, explains why this service is necessary for Lenawee County. “Most of our seniors who utilize this service, don’t have family available to take them to their appointments and are in no position to drive themselves. We’d rather have somebody capable and comfortable to do that than put a scared senior behind the wheel.”
Lenawee County has limited options when it comes to public transportation, but Amy is grateful that they are still able to provide wheelchair transportation to their clients. “One of the most important things that we’ve continued to be able to provide is wheelchair transportation. We offer a door to door personal transportation service catered specifically to that single person, reducing their risk to exposure by utilizing this service.”
According to the National Council for Aging Care, seniors make up about 13 percent of the population, meaning about 42 million seniors are living in America today. With that population continuing to grow, we will need to continue to find ways to serve the elders of our community. Caregivers provide essential long-term services to their recipients of care. The services can range from emotional to physical support, to help with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping and preparing meals, to general companionship.
Daybreak has been assisting caregivers for 20 years here in Lenawee County and offers a secure environment for individuals who are 60 and older displaying age-related challenges or who cannot be left alone safely. Due to the pandemic, they have had to close their doors to in-person care, but have not left the caregivers without help. Their support groups, constant contact and support, as well as in-home respite care have helped them through this pandemic.
Tammy Jewell, the Director of Daybreak shares that they have seen a lot caregivers struggling with how to fulfill the role without becoming overwhelmed. “When a person steps into that full-time caregiver role it’s important for them to have a team of supporters around them. We can provide that to them. The pandemic has taken a toll on our caregivers as well as our participants. We try to be available to guide them through it with weekly check-ins and offering our advice on situations they may be struggling with caring for their loved ones.”
Hailey Simpkins, Assessor at LDA adds, “It’s taken a toll on the families that now must become full-time caregivers on top of working a job and keeping themselves safe. It’s a lot to take on, especially if you’re not trained to handle certain things, and a lot of clients need a lot of care. We have seen that it can be easier for someone in need to accept help from someone whose job is to assist them, compared to a family member. It can be a difficult and emotional experience for the family, and that’s what we’re here to help with.”
The LDA also offers Homemaker Assistance, which provides Home Care aides to assist eligible older adults (60 ) with household activities, which help them maintain an adequate living environment. These tasks include mopping, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, laundry, and grocery shopping. Home care can be supportive assistance that’s provided in the comfort of your own home.
Hailey shares, “Before the pandemic, we had over 900 clients and now our homemaker aids are only able to visit 2 clients a day to limit exposure. We serve the most susceptible clients and it’s just too great a risk to do more now.” LDA’s priority remains the health and safety of its elderly clients they serve and the caregivers who provide the service.
The Lenawee Department of Aging relies on funds from state and federal grants, donations from clients and families, and most importantly, the Lenawee County senior millage fund. Without support from the community, they would not be able to operate.
Cari praises the community on their continued support, “I am humbled by the trust that our community has in us. That speaks volumes to the services this team provides and the support that they are offering to older adults and caregivers.“
We are building Lenawee by taking care of its foundation, our Seniors. Lenawee County would not be what it is today without the hard work they have done to build our community.
This investment by our community to provide in-home care and assistance, respite care, meals, transportation, and case management is important because we care about paying them back for their service to the community. The Lenawee Department on Aging is providing valuable services to our most vulnerable citizens during this pandemic, keeping them safe at home.
Posted on July 17, 2020 at 1:56 PM by Jennifer Ambrose
The youth are leading the way
People and businesses from all over the state of Michigan continue to adapt to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. The nationwide cooperative educational program
4-H, is no exception. The Michigan 4-H program is the largest youth development organization in Michigan, and is currently running in partnership with Michigan State University (MSU).
Lenawee County has a very strong 4-H program. With 43 clubs all over the county, it reaches over 3,000 kids each year through programs and camps. Young people learn and develop leadership skills through mentoring and hands-on projects throughout the year. Lenawee County’s 4-H program is unique among the Michigan programs in that it has a strong Teen Leadership Program. A Teen Leader is on each of the advisory boards in Lenawee County. In other counties, all board members are adults. This year, these teen leaders were faced with the unprecedented.
To protect the Lenawee County community and prevent virus spread, the Lenawee County Agricultural Society decided on May 8, 2020 to cancel the 2020 Lenawee County Fair. However, it was not all bad news for the 4-H program. The Press Release stated that, “The board will support the MSU extension office and 4-H with the costs associated with virtual exhibits and animals shows.”
Allison English, Community Club Leader of Palmyra Future Leaders, and Superintendent of the poultry barn shares her reaction to hearing the announcement, “You have that first initial shock. You’re thinking to yourself, okay where do we go from here? How do we move forward? It’s difficult to process and to keep that positive outlook. You tell yourself it’s okay, we can do this. It won’t be the same but let’s continue to do what we can, however we can.”
She continues by saying, “Our President of Palmyra Future Leaders, Kindell Covey (teen), has done an excellent job as president by putting in the effort to keep us all together to the best of our abilities. The kids have adapted well and it’s great to see them support each other and even us as adults.”
As many of us have come to learn, meeting virtually has its challenges, sometimes internet connections are weak, family members cause distractions, or technology simply doesn’t want to work, but the teens participating in our 4-H program have been adjusting quite smoothly. In fact, some of the kids believe that they are adapting to the virtual environment better than the adults.
“Yes, I can say that because we have some attendees who maybe don’t quite know how to work the devices needed for our meetings or are a bit more technically challenged. I think we’ve all learned how to be patient and listen to one another from these meetings” shares Amanda Fisher, who was elected President of the Junior Livestock Board this year. The group goes on to agree that Amanda has really led the way with the attendance of the virtual meetings, and has had the determination to make it work.
“I think we’re just a little bit more used to it. We’ve been able to help and assist others with the issues they have, and it’s been a learning experience for everyone” adds Kindell.
Along with the announcement of the cancellation, came a unique opportunity for 4-H. That being the Virtual Learning Showcase and Auctions, an online experience that allows 4-H members to show off their summer project work, including an opportunity to exhibit and market livestock.
Janelle Stewart, Extension Educator at the MSU Extension, voices her thoughts on going virtual saying, “We’re still not exactly sure what it will look like, but we know it’s happening. It’s a learning experience for everyone.”
The kids had a lot of input and were instrumental in the decision making of what that was going to look like and how it would run. All rules had to be reviewed and then adjusted so that each group and category could participate virtually. Janelle goes on to say, “ In some cases the adults dropped the ball and I can honestly say that the kids picked it up with determination and ran with it. They’re challenging us as adults to move with them. They’ve outshined us adults during all of this.”
Kindell, who is also on the All-Around Equestrians and Lenawee Horse and Pony Board, describes her thought process of having a Virtual Showcase this year, “We definitely had to adapt and determine which things to visualize that pertain to the judging methods of the show.”
President of the Small Animal Board, Wyatt Cole, adds, “For Poultry we have the Meat Birds which is hard to do through a video because you have to feel it. So, it was decided we would do a Danish judging system.” In this system, the judges do not judge one person's work by comparing it to another's. The purpose of using this system is to give every 4-H member the recognition deserved for the work that was done and to give them feedback on what they have done well and how they could improve.
Our local 4-H show and auction weren’t the only things that were affected by the pandemic. Sadly, agriculture businesses across the nation have been impacted. Many of the markets responsible for the processing of the meat have had to close, causing a shortage of appointments for those in need.
Janelle weighs in on this explaining, “Some of the larger markets aren’t operating and so the smaller ones are having to take on the work. We are fortunate that in the county we could get an appointment for the animals that participate in the virtual fair.” Lenawee County 4-H will have some options available this year if you choose to purchase an animal at the auction.
This year has proven to be a challenge for populations across the world, but the teens and kids right here in Lenawee County have chosen to rise to the occasion, face their challenges head on, and have shown determination in leading others ahead.
“I’ve learned how to adjust and adapt to a stressful environment,” shares Amanda “When you have this terrible thing happening, people can become tense and everyone wants their opinion heard. It’s important to listen and communicate through that.”
Wyatt adds “I learned how to adapt and change to a continuously changing environment. 4-H has never had to do virtual before, but we were able to accept the situation, change our mindset and say now is the time to adjust and do it.”
“I’ve usually tended to be a shy person. 4-H has allowed me to grow into a more confident leader.” Kindell goes on further to explain, “Being president has allowed me to work with teaching the younger kids and take initiative with starting important conversations.”
Janelle Stewart couldn’t be any prouder of the teens. “When we couldn’t do some of our educational things, Wyatt and his family took it upon themselves to provide that to our kids so we could continue the education,” she continues sharing, “We were able to sit in on a Horse 101 class that Kindell led and we were so impressed with the knowledge that she shared. She has been gifted with teaching qualities and it’s been great during this time, and Amanda’s leadership style has shown tremendously. She is moving a group of people forward that truly were hesitant to do so, and I give her all the credit for taking that on.”
Michigan 4-H explains that 4-H is growing current and future leaders: growing kids who are confident and strong, curious enough to question and capable enough to find the answers; growing youth who stick to a job until the job gets done and know how to work with others, as well as lead. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing right here in Lenawee County.
The funding for 4-H program in Lenawee County comes predominately from the county government. This is supplemented by state and federal funding, but most of the 4-H funding is received directly from Lenawee County. It is a non-mandated service. Without that funding, the 4-H program would not be able to operate within our county as it does today.
This investment into our community is building Lenawee’s future. During these trying times, these teenage leaders are taking the skills that they’ve learned through 4H, adapting quickly, and leading our program. They’ve embraced this as an opportunity for growth, and with these kids leading the way, our tomorrow looks bright.
Posted on July 8, 2020 at 11:19 AM by Jennifer Ambrose
A project four years in the making, comes to completion
In 2017 Lenawee County Commissioners approved the plan to upgrade from a VHF radio system to an 800-MHz system. The new system installations included having two new towers built, as well as providing 989 vehicle-mounted and portable radios and related equipment for all the city and township police and fire departments within the county. Having these updated communication systems are critical in saving lives, protecting property and serving communities.
The Lenawee County Sheriff’s Central Dispatch, dispatches for fourteen different police agencies and eighteen fire departments. Along with normal calls, the Center is also responsible for all emergency radio and 9-1-1 calls within the county. Clear and concise radio communication between dispatch and responding units is key in emergencies. Nobody wants to think about something terrible happening, but unfortunately well-wishing doesn’t prevent catastrophic situations from occurring. For instance, it’s no secret that the quantity and severity of many of these horrific events occur inside schools, hospitals and office buildings where First Responder radio systems have coverage challenges.
“With the old system, there were dead spots in certain areas where we couldn’t talk to each other. Sometimes we couldn’t even talk to each other from 200ft away, or from one vehicle to another,” reveals Tim Shaw, Fire Chief/ Paramedic of Addison Fire and EMS. “With this new system, we can call on our portable radios from outside our local county and hear one another loud and clear. It’s a tremendous improvement.”
Not only is clear, consistent and prompt communication crucial to first responders, it’s essential. Having an effective, rapid and precise information flow during an emergency can save lives, especially during complex, and evolving events. When that communication is not prioritized, the situation could develop into miscommunication and misinformation, resulting in more injuries or fatalities.
Danielle Williams, EMT/Firefighter of Addison Fire and EMS can recall a worst-case scenario that she has experienced as a first responder, “I was driving and came upon a serious crash on 127. When I arrived on the scene I immediately knew they would need medical attention and a helicopter. I tried contacting dispatch and when I got no response I tried another county dispatch. It became apparent they weren’t hearing me, so I had use my personal cell phone to call them. I had to continue to use it to communicate because any updated information wasn’t being relayed through the radio.”
“When you’re in an emergency situation- seconds count. Having to pick up a cellphone and make a phone call or send a text takes too long. You need help now. This radio helps us in keeping you safe” adds Time Shaw.
While clearer communication is a major benefit in the new system, it’s not the only one. While the old VHF system lasted for a while, this new system is maintained by MPSCS, and will be continuously updated on a weekly basis, which provides consistency and dependability to how it operates. One immense benefit is having all the mutual aid on one single radio through dispatch. Additionally, it allows dispatchers to connect radios together and organize local talk groups for specific situations, keeping the rest of the lines open for other communications.
As reported by SAFECOM, an emergency communications program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, "Communications interoperability makes it possible for emergency response agencies responding to catastrophic accidents or disasters to work effectively together. Finally, it allows emergency response personnel to maximize resources in planning for major predictable events.”
Lieutenant David Aungst, of Lenawee County Sherriff’s Office, informs that on May 1, of 2020 they were 100% on the system and had installed the last radio on May 27. “We’re just cleaning everything up and making some small adjustments, but we fully expect to be completely signed off by the end of June. It’s nice to have a system that brings such clarity to our communications, if there was only one thing I could say, it would be that I wish we would have done it sooner.”