NEWS: DSAS continues to serve seniors amid COVID-19

by Kathie Sizemore , Program Officer 3, Communications, Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services

Older woman has her hands folded in her lapOne of the most critical developments in the Coronavirus pandemic is the need to protect our older adults.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified older adults as being at risk for contracting a more serious version of COVID-19, most likely due to immune system changes and underlying health conditions.   

The CDC recommends that the best prevention for older adults is to avoid exposure, or “socially isolate.” While most in the aging profession would usually caution against social isolation, at this time, it appears to be the best recommendation for staying safe. As residents stay safe at home, Cuyahoga County’s Division of Senior and Adult Services’ (DSAS) staff continue serving our residents. DSAS’ mission is to provide resources and supports that help older adults and adults with disabilities remain safe and independent.  

Although DSAS’ building is closed to the public, its Centralized Intake Line is still open and taking calls about our services and programs. Social service workers, nurses and home health aides are essential staff and continue to provide home visits for at risk and socially isolated clients. DSAS’ Adult Protective Services workers continue to make face-to-face visits to investigate emergency allegations as required by state mandate. All other case management continues on a conference call basis to limit exposure. 

In addition to caring for our current clients, DSAS has programs available to help adults age 60 and over with utilities, housing, transportation, home-based care and more. Our Centralized Intake Line can help answer questions and connect older adults to the resources they need. 

While our senior center partners have closed their doors, they are shifting their focus to helping in other ways. Many centers, such as the cities of Bedford Heights, Strongsville and Euclid are providing bagged meals that can be picked up on a drive through basis.  Some, like Brecksville, Fatima Family Center and Maple Heights, are opening their food pantries or offering mobile pantries. Several are still providing transportation to medical appointments and grocery stores. Visit our website to see a list of modified Senior Center offerings for our older adults. This list will be updated frequently as services change. 

The City of Westlake has changed up their format by going out into their neighborhood. “Rather than have people come here we are assisting by delivering food baskets and ‘bags of cheer’ with puzzles, gratitude cards and letters from local children,” says Westlake’s community center director Lydia Gadd. “For not having people coming to us, we are incredibly busy.”   

While our workers continue to stay busy helping those who need us most, we encourage residents to do their part to keep our older adults safe. Volunteering, connecting in appropriate ways and donating are great ways to support our elders. If you are interested in helping your neighbors, you can contact your local senior center or the Greater Cleveland Volunteer Network

Volunteers can assist with cleaning and disinfecting, shopping, or delivering meals to help seniors stay safe at home. Merchants like Dollar General, Target, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are offering special shopping hours for adults age 60 and over with freshly stocked shelves and disinfected stores.   

Diminishing social isolation is important as well. Even though we may not be able to physically visit with each other, there are many ways to stay connected, both high- and low-tech. Teaching older adults how to use technology like Facetime, Facebook Live and Skype can help them stay in touch. Making time for phone calls or writing letters is a great way for grandchildren to stay in touch with their loved ones. Help older adults stay informed with fact based information and trusted resources and be sure to warn them about COVID-19 scams targeted towards older adults. 

Do your part to limit the spread of the virus. Wash your hands and stay home if you feel unwell. If you are the caregiver for an older loved one, determine an alternate for you in case you become ill. 

Lastly, donating personal protective equipment can also help in this critical time.  The County has opened a collection point at the Public Works Garage where unopened boxes of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks, nitrile gloves, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer can be dropped off to support first responders and critical operations occurring in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Cuyahoga County is working hard to combat this virus, and we will get through together.  We are continuing to learn, help, share information, and provide the services our residents rely on. Together, we will thrive. 

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