As Michigan continues to see the number of COVID-19 cases grow, CareWell Services Southwest, your area agency on aging, has been proactively preparing a response based on the CDC and Governor’s Community Mitigation Strategies.
“Because our seniors are at the highest risk, we mobilized and took early steps toward mitigation. Our main responsibility and priority during this time is the protection of our seniors and our staff,” said Karla Fales, CareWell CEO.
On Friday, the agency suspended all community programming and outreach and reduced onsite staffing. This included closing Heritage Commons Senior Enrichment Center in Marshall, all congregate sites throughout the county, suspending employee travel and outside meetings, and rescheduling all in-person interactions. CareWell is also working closely with the agency’s funded partners to provide recommendations for similar actions.
“[Suspending community programs] was a hard decision, especially considering we had an extensive outreach calendar planned, including our mobile health Kiosk initiative and Census-related events,” said CareWell Chief Program Officer Stacy Wines. “It’s also difficult to purposely distance ourselves from seniors, as it is these interactions that help reduce isolation, support seniors’ health, and allow us to help seniors connect with resources they may need.”
CareWell’s Emergency Response
The agency has activated its Emergency Response Plan. This plan addresses the needs of seniors that may develop from an extended period of self-quarantine or unavailability of programs and services. CareWell Services is working Senior Services of Southwest Michigan to ensure seniors continued access to nutritious meals.
“To avoid large gatherings of seniors, Meals on Wheels prepackaged meals will be distributed and take-away meals are available at senior high rises, sites where congregate meals are located,” said Nutrition Director Dan Pontius of Senior Services.
Resource Navigation is Available
Although CareWell has closed its office at the Kool Family Community Center to the public, a core group of essential staff remain on site. Senior Resource Call Center navigators remain available to answer questions from seniors regarding COVID-19. They are also available to take calls from seniors and community members about needs of seniors such as needing personal care items, medication refills, or food. Staff is also coordinating with other local emergency management efforts in both Barry and Calhoun counties.
“While we are taking our lead from the public health departments and emergency management departments, we continue to serve as a focal point and primary contact for seniors, caregivers and persons with disabilities, said Fales. “We can mobilize the strength of the aging network, with guidance and support from the local response consortiums, to ensure no senior is at risk or unable to meet their most basic needs. That’s why we are here, it’s the core function of an area agency on aging to be the advocate and resource for seniors.”
The agency has identified funding resources to address the most critical needs and to support costs incurred by its funded partners in response to supplemental services provided during the COVID-19 response.
Seniors with questions about how to protect themselves during the COVID-19 outbreak or that have unmet needs may call the agency’s Senior Resource Call Center at (269) 441-0930. The agency will maintain its primary hours of 8:00am – 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.