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.