Every year in May, Older Americans Month pays tribute to the contributions of older adults across the nation. Monday night, Caldwell County Commissioners passed a resolution recognizing Older Americans Month and the work the Department of Social Services (DSS) and other nonprofits in the county do for the aging population.
The DSS Adult Services Teams serves older Americans through protective services, guardianship services, and case management for the special assistance in-home program which helps people stay in their homes as an alternative to assisted living facilities. The team monitors assisted living facilities to ensure compliance with state rules and regulations, investigate complaints on those facilities.
“All of those tasks are mandated by the state, and even though COVID-19 has changed the way we do some things, the services still have to be provided,” said Felicia Wood, Adult Services Supervisor. “We realize that the folks we serve are in one of the most at-risk groups for COVID-19, and we want to protect them as well as our employees.”
Some changes in daily operations due to COVID-19 include:
- Limiting in-person visits. When visits are required, precautions include wearing masks and gloves and meeting people outside of their homes, if possible.
- Taking temperatures of everyone who enters the building
- Conducting interviews through glass partitions
- Placing boxes outside of the agency for people to drop off paperwork
- Instructing clients how to complete applications online
- Offering virtual visits with clients in certain situations
In addition to their mandated tasks, the Adult Services teams are always looking for ways to assist seniors.
“We are working even closer with community partners to find resources to meet the needs of seniors now, since it isn’t recommended that they be out in public unless absolutely necessary,” said Wood.
To provide encouragement, the staff is sending cards to every resident of the long-term care facilities within the county, as well as all of the people in the guardianship program.
“We know this time can be very isolating for seniors, especially those living facilities, and we hope this will be a way to let them know they are thought of right now,” said Wood.
DSS works closely with the Caldwell Senior Center to assist older adults. Like DSS, the Senior Center has been exploring new ways to connect with their participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff members are hosting weekly Zoom talk sessions on Friday and yoga classes by Zoom on Tuesdays and Fridays. Senior adults can also stop by the center and pick up puzzle packs, jigsaw puzzles, or books.
The staff makes reassurance calls to check in with seniors and continues to provide Medicare counseling as well as information and assistance.
“We want our seniors to know that we are here for them during this time,” said April Austin, Executive Director of the Caldwell Senior Center. “We continue to operate our Information and Referral Line.”