Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore continues to work closely with the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, other state agencies, and our community partners to best meet the needs of our consumers and staff during this pandemic. We are following the guidance from Governor Baker’s office, including his four-phase plan for reopening Massachusetts. As we move forward in Phase 2 of this plan, we continue to remain open for business as an essential service, both to meet the needs of our existing consumers and to take new referrals. Our priority is ensuring the safety and welfare of our consumers and our staff.
Preparations for Re-Entry: Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore has successfully operated remotely for more than three months. Our plans to re-open the physical offices in Lawrence and Danvers continue to evolve, with our internal COVID-19 Re-Entry Planning Committee using four guiding principles when making decisions and plans:
- Employee Safety – keeping our employees safe while maintaining business operations
- Mitigation of Risk – ensuring the safety of our staff, consumers, and visitors
- Compliance/Flexibility – providing the most flexible work environment while maintaining compliance/accountability
- Communication – establishing clear communication through the different phases
In planning for re-entry, we are looking at protocols that allow for social distancing using personal protective equipment (PPE), appropriate handwashing and other hygiene practices, training of staff around contact and other precautions, and ongoing cleaning and disinfecting. We will continue to work remotely until further notice, with our eventual return to the office approach being measured and phased in.
While we continue to work remotely, the services we provide to our consumers have been adapted to meet the needs of our consumers, as well as keep them socially engaged:
Home Care and Managed Care case managers continue to connect with consumers and arrange in-home services. We have also begun to provide telephonic companion services to those consumers who could use more connection and reassurance but don’t necessarily want someone to come into the home. Our case managers remain in contact with our Adult Day Health partners who are providing remote and virtual activities for consumers and caregivers.
Protective Services continues to investigate and provide ongoing support services for those at risk. PS gathers information from relevant collaterals, including medical providers and family members to assess COVID risk and, as much as possible, speak with the elder via phone to assess the allegations and risk. Where necessary, PS workers are meeting with elders under safe circumstances, either in the yard or through a window, or other creative socially distanced settings.
Our Nutrition Department continues to provide home delivered meals to consumers in our 28 communities, Monday-Friday. On June 2, we temporarily modified this delivery schedule for our Lawrence-based consumers after our primary kitchen was closed. For two weeks, we provided weekly frozen meals, as well as wellness checks for our home delivered meals clients. Daily hot meal delivery resumed on June 17, along with our grab-and-go services for more mobile consumers.
The Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Program will be expanding to the North Shore communities of Danvers, Middleton, Peabody, Salem and Marblehead as of July 1st. We are excited to expand this program and offer our consumers this important self-directed program option on the North Shore.
Community Programs and The Healthy Living Center of Excellence continue to offer programs remotely, including virtual Memory Cafes, Savvy Caregiver classes, and Chronic Disease workshops. We also provide telephone 1:1 service for family caregivers, older adults at risk for falls, and adults with multiple chronic diseases. Our Healthy IDEAS programs continue to provide telephone services for those consumers experiencing depressive symptoms, anxiety, or loneliness.
Behavioral health counseling continues to be provided, now via telephone, for consumers who are comfortable with the process. This tele-health option provides an opportunity for consumers to vent and discuss thoughts on the many changes over the past three months, and the therapist can remind the client of the skills they have developed to deal with anxiety and depression.
For more information about these and other services, or to make a referral, please call our Lawrence office at 978-683-7747 or Danvers office at 978-750-4540.