New Report: Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging Respond to COVID-19

October 12, 2020

Columbus, Ohio – A new report, Ohio AAAs at Work: COVID-19 Report, describes the innovative ways Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) have leveraged their expertise and deep community connections to address the growing needs of older adults as the COVID-19  pandemic struck. 

The report highlights the results of recent surveys conducted by the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging (o4a) in May and August to gain a better understanding of how Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging have responded to the needs of our communities and what challenges lie ahead as we all grapple with long term effects of the coronavirus.  The survey results show that needs for older adults are growing, and changing, with more emphasis on how to live with the reality of the virus safely, but most importantly in a way that does not disengage older adults from the efforts to move us all forward with the new “normal.”

“Our members have risen to the challenge of this virus by adjusting their delivery of services overnight so that they could identify and meet the need,” said Larke Recchie, o4a CEO.  “Ohio’s Area Agencies on Aging have deep roots in their communities.  They are skilled at building public and private partnerships and innovating service delivery.”

Some of the findings include the following that were provided through March -July 2020:

  • 48,217 people received 4,044,449 home-delivered and shelf stable meals directly in response to COVID-19.
  • 445,216 grab and go/carry out meals were provided
  • 68,336 requests for assistance were received
  • 6371 caregivers received support

“With the tremendous support of the Ohio Department of Aging and our community partners we were able to respond quickly and effectively,” said Duana Patton, o4a President and CEO of the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging.  ““We have distributed massive amounts of PPE and hand sanitizer to local service providers, senior centers, and older adults.  The greatest needs were food and maintaining services during the stay at home order.  These needs have not gone away but as the rest of the country is moving to a new normal, older adults can become isolated.” 

Telephone reassurance programs and telephonic case management are ways that the Area Agencies on Aging have been able to give people a social connection as well as identify what needs they might have.  The report shares ways that the Area Agencies on Aging have adapted.

“AAAs have adjusted to the new normal, connecting to older adults and their caregivers in new ways. They provide online live programming and web-based alternatives for caregiving support, telephonic caregiver support groups, and social media outreach with wellness tips of the day. Traditional in-person classes have pivoted to online meetings.”

While some Area Agencies on Aging have received grant funding for supplying laptops and tablets, the reliance on technology still poses a problem. “As the nation relies on more online solutions for adjusting to the pandemic, we need to make sure that everyone has access to the internet and technology so that no one is left behind,” Recchie said. “The adjustments do not replace the benefits of the AAAs’ expertise as in-home, eyes-on specialists but they are the best alternative in these extraordinary times.”

The report expresses Area Agencies on Aging concerns moving forward.  “Older adults and family caregivers are now reevaluating where they will seek short term or long term care. Life in the era of COVID-19 should not mean that older adults must be isolated and live in fear, with few choices for where and how to receive supports.”

“Aging services providers struggle to stay economically viable during this time, particularly in the context of low reimbursement rates in Medicaid. The State’s priority must be to maintain the strength of the home and community-based services (HCBS) network to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and enable older Ohioans and the community at large to be healthy and safe at home now and in the future.”

Recchie stated, “Home and community-based services have been underfunded for years; now is the time to fully invest in this system to ensure that we can remain in our homes as we age, where we want to be, with the right supports so that we can be a part of our communities.  Now more than ever, home is where older adults should be.”