Like so many areas of our lives, COVID-19 is having an impact on how we care for and relate to our aging loved ones. Restrictions are changing often. Here’s a look at the latest guidelines and programs affecting seniors.
As of July 20, Governor DeWine permits nursing homes to allow outdoor visitation as long as all safety standards are met. Similar visitation has been allowed for assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities since June.
Safety requirements include temperature checks and symptom reporting for residents and visitors, hand sanitizer use, social distancing and mask wearing, among other things.
State officials decided to allow outdoor visitation considering requests from families and residents and the impact on the quality of life that a prolonged loss of connection can have on an individual.
“We are confident that our approach provides each facility the flexibility needed to assess their readiness to safely facilitate outdoor visitation and to do so in a transparent way that keeps residents and families informed,” says Governor DeWine in a statement.
For more information on the order and related guidance, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Meal Support Available
The Ohio Department of Aging launched the Staying Healthy program, a partnership with local agencies on aging and restaurants to provide free meals to older Ohioans who are unable to prepare meals and lack meal support at home or in their communities.
The program is supported by funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Restaurants participating in the program receive reimbursement from these funds for the meals they provide to eligible participants.
“This program serves three purposes,” says ODA Director Ursel McElroy in a news release. “It spurs local investment in an economic sector significantly impacted by COVID-19; it increases small-business restaurant investment; and it meets the increased demand of older adults needing nutrition services.”
The short-term program is designed to serve older adults with the greatest economic and social need. It places special emphasis on low-income older adults. It also focuses on older Ohioans living in rural areas; those with severe disabilities; those with limited English-speaking ability; and those with Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders.
Sign up for Automatic Check-Ins
Going hand in hand with Staying Healthy, ODA launched Staying Connected, a free, daily phone check-in for Ohio’s older residents. Staying Connected is open to Ohio residents age 60 or older who have a valid phone number.
“During a time when physical distancing has become necessary, we must create ways to maintain social connectedness,” McElroy says in a statement. “The impact of isolation has been linked to higher risks for serious physical and mental conditions, so I am pleased we can provide these check-ins at a critical time.”
The automated service contacts participants during a one-hour window of their choice between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Participants receive a daily, automated check-in call. They can confirm that they are OK and end the call, or they can choose to be connected to their local area agency on aging for information about services or assistance. The participant also can request a friendly chat. Staff are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to engage in a brief, informal conversation with the participant.
The service also acts as a safety net. If a participant does not answer after three attempts, the system calls the participant’s alternative contact, if provided. If attempts to reach the participant or alternative contact are unsuccessful, the system will notify area nonemergency services, such as the local sheriff’s office.
Learn more or sign up at aging.ohio.gov/stayingconnected or 833-632-2428. For more information about the Staying Healthy program or nutrition services for older adults, contact your area agency on aging. Call 866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community or visit aging.ohio.gov/findservices to look up agency contact information.