Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is urging us to stay apart. At the same time, he is also calling us to stay together. The state even announced a new campaign to help spread the word – not the virus – called “In This Together.” You may have seen #INthistogether on social media.
What a great and true message. While CICOA – like organizations across the state – is staying apart, we’re also trying to do our part. We’re answering phones and providing resources. We’re delivering more meals than ever before. We’re also working with new partners and looking for innovative ways to collaborate.
Here’s an example. I got a call from Dr. Malaz Boustani, a geriatrician, neuroscientist, and implementation scientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He was concerned that, because home health aides are getting COVID-19, they are unable to continue caring for their elderly, homebound clients/patients.
While CICOA is working to make sure low-income seniors and others who qualify for publicly funded services get the in-home care they need, our organization historically has not provided care management for those with private insurance.
Yet today our state faces a serious shortage of home health nurses and aides. Many homebound seniors or people with disabilities—rich and poor—rely on aides to help them with what the industry calls instrumental activities of daily living. These include bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring from a bed to a chair, walking, eating, etc. Hospitals do not want people to make trips to the ER for non-emergencies, but if an aide or home health nurse is unable to provide care, who will help? Many may be left with no alternative.
Dr. Boustani asked if there was something CICOA could do.
While we don’t operate a home healthcare agency, we do have and make connections, and that’s what we’ve done. I called Tim Paul, a long-time home healthcare partner who owns Comfort Keepers. Tim agreed to help fill the gap by having his staff—when possible—step in and provide care when someone’s regular aide or home health nurse isn’t available.
My hope is that CICOA can encourage more home healthcare providers to join this effort so we can expand the safety net throughout Central Indiana. By ourselves, we can’t meet every need, but by working together, we can get closer.
That’s exactly how we felt when we heard the Southport Police Department was encountering seniors who lacked groceries due to COVID-19. We began a partnership that ensures officers have access to emergency meals for seniors in their community.
I’m also proud of the work CICOA is doing with healthcare collaborations, in which CICOA care managers are embedded in hospital systems to bring a non-medical component to a patient’s health plan. This has been invaluable for our seniors who, when they are discharged from the hospital, leave not only with a medical plan, but also a partner to ensure they can carry out the doctor’s orders and not bounce back to the hospital. This may include lining up home-delivered meals, a home accessibility modification, an aide to help with household chores, or a home healthcare provider to ensure a continuum of care that helps folks thrive once they return home.
Working together has been at the heart of CICIOA’s mission since our founding in 1974, and it continues through this pandemic and beyond. Our hope is that once we’ve returned to a new normal, we’ll have strengthened our relationships and built even more collaborative partnerships to empower the best quality of life for all Hoosier seniors, in good times or bad. We are in this together.
As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.