Saint Francis LIFE supports seniors now and in the brighter days of our future
During COVID-19 home is still the safest place for seniors, especially those with underlying health conditions. But how can seniors get the medical care and services they need to stay safe and healthy at home?
Saint Francis LIFE can help. LIFE is a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) designed to help seniors stay independent and living in their own homes in the community.
For the past seven years, LIFE services have been delivered at the LIFE Center on the Wilmington Riverfront, in the community and in seniors’ homes. But early on in the pandemic, the LIFE geriatric-trained team acted quickly and transformed service delivery to care for seniors where they are safest – in their homes.
“The safety of our participants remains our top priority in this pandemic,” says Saint Francis LIFE Executive Director Amy L. Milligan.
The Services LIFE Provides
“Medical care is critical for seniors with chronic health conditions,” explains LIFE Medical Director Paul Eberts, MD. “This is why our doctors and nurses provide primary care for seniors in their homes now. Some seniors come to our health center, and we are also using telehealth.” Getting prescribed medications and medical supplies is easy with LIFE because they are delivered right to seniors’ homes, which not only helps seniors, but also their caregivers.
LIFE’s team of social workers supports seniors by checking in regularly to see how they are doing. “We make sure seniors are safe, ask about their needs, and offer encouragement and guidance,” LIFE Social Services Manager Viviana Nijamkin-Acosta, LCSW shares. “Staying in touch with our seniors helps us know if they are not feeling well or need assistance, and we can step in and help.”
Getting the right nutrition and healthy foods can be difficult during the pandemic. “Our Food Insecurity Group monitors seniors’ nutrition and access to healthy food,” says LIFE Nutrition Services Manager Dawn Clausing, RD. “We link seniors with community resources for nutrition and assist with online grocery shopping for seniors in need.”
“I am extremely pleased with the LIFE program,” says Enriquetta Villar Collado, a 74 year old LIFE participant since May 2017. “During the pandemic they call me all the time to check on me. They always ask about having food and medications available. I feel that I am not alone.”
Physical and Occupational Therapy
“Maintaining the mobility to be able to participate in activities of daily living is so important for seniors living independently in the community,” adds LIFE Rehabilitative Manager Michele Gonzalez MOT OTR/L, CAPS, “but even more so during COVID-19 when seniors are more isolated and at an increased risk for falls and deconditioning.”
LIFE physical and occupational therapists connect with seniors by phone, video, and in person at the center or at home to provide these supports. LIFE also offers prevention exercises, videos on what to do if you fall, and weekly group therapy by telehealth to manage breathing, respiratory distress, exertion and energy while doing daily activities at home. Seniors can share personal experiences and socialize during these sessions.
Home Health Care
For some seniors, bathing, dressing, toileting, meal preparation, light housekeeping and companionship can be difficult at home. LIFE home health aides visit seniors to help with these daily activities. Nurses also visit to give medications and care for wounds.
“The program has been beautiful,” says Barry Loving, a 60-year-old LIFE participant who joined the program during the pandemic in June 2020. “Everyone is nice and respectful.”
Loving, who lives in Newark with his son, said the program’s transportation to and from the LIFE Center for medical care and specialist appointments in the community has really helped him keep up with his care. “The bus is always on time and they help me get on and off. I appreciate everything [the program] is doing,” he says with a smile.
For seniors, social distancing can present unique challenges. Without frequent social interaction and stimulation, many seniors are feeling isolated and lonely, which can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes. To help seniors stay connected and socialize, seniors play Bingo and trivia games virtually over the phone.
Spiritual care programs are offered for support and to help seniors cope with the impact of COVID-19, and LIFE sends monthly packets of activities seniors can do at home, like puzzles and drawings, to keep seniors engaged and connected.
Bill Paoli is the caregiver for his 85-year old mother Dolores Paoli, a LIFE participant since October 2017. Paoli says his mom loves receiving the activity packet, especially the word searches and drawings. “It’s been good teamwork,” Paoli says of the partnership with LIFE during the pandemic. “The social worker and nurse call quite often and check on her.” Paoli’s sister is also a LIFE participant who joined the program during the pandemic. Paoli said his sister enjoys the activity packets and nurse visits at her home.
Saint Francis LIFE is uniquely positioned to provide comprehensive care for seniors during this time and in the brighter days of our future. If you or someone you know could benefit from LIFE’s community-based, coordinated care, contact us at 302-660-3351 or visit saintfrancislife.org.
Look for our new LIFE Center opening in Newark in January 2021. LIFE will be able to serve another 250 seniors at this location.