CLEVELAND — It’s one of the most important jobs during the Coronavirus outbreak -taking care of our senior citizens. One organization serves thousands of seniors in 5 different counties in Northeast Ohio. The way it operates has changed since COVID-19.
“We’re expected to help seniors every day. This is what we do,” said Doug Beach, the CEO of the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging. “We’re hunkering down for the long haul."
There have been adjustments to care from the phone calls coming in from seniors to the new way staff and case workers are reaching out to clients during COVID-19. “The state has allowed us to do phone calls rather than face-to-face visits. We’re checking to make sure people are OK,” said Beach.
Some of the staff is now working at home. Some are in WRAAA’s call center. “We’re invested,” said Haven Ohly who is the Supervisor in the Aging and Disability Resource Center for WRAAA. “We’re engaged and we’re ready to go.” he said.
And ready to stay away when needed. That, in and of itself, is helping the staff stay available especially when they do have to go out into the field using protections. “Face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes so when they’re back in their car they can wipe things off,” said WRAAA Sr. Director of Clinical Services Shelia Dessau.
That field work includes delivering meals. We caught up with people at St. Martin de Porres in Cleveland. They were working hard on many foods that were going out today. They said they’ve seen a jump in the need to send out food during the virus scare. “I’ve been blessed by God just to be here and be doing what I am,” said food deliverer Daniel Rodriguez.
WRAAA helps get together about 5,000 meals a day. Think about coordinating and handing out that many meals in the first place. Now, add Coronavirus to the mix. The need is real and it’s growing.
“We got beef, beef patties, and onion gravy,” said meal deliverer Robert Boyd as he was heading into the Ivy Plaza Apartments in Cleveland. WRAAA tells is his deliveries and all others have changed. They used to need a signature from the seniors, but the state lifted that requirement.
“They just have to have visual contact,” said Karen Webb who is the Director of Program Development and Planning at WRAAA. “So, they can knock on the door, leave the meal, and make sure the consumer can come and get the meal.”
It’s a new way of life: balancing the needs of seniors and those helping them. “And so, how we can bring those together,” said Beach. “Difficult but I think we have a pretty good plan.”
WRAAA funds 26 senior centers that are nearly all closed. They say do your part my calling your seniors and helping them socialize which is very important for that age group.