Tuesday, January 11, 2022
This new year brings new funding and that means new services from AgeGuide and our funded partners throughout our region. This article gives you the inside scoop on how American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding is going to help all of us on our aging journey. We are grateful that legislators saw the importance of supporting older adults through this funding.
This investment recognizes the value of Older Americans Act (OAA) services and prioritizes the needs of older adults during the pandemic. AgeGuide received $10 million of multi-year ARPA funding for use in our eight-county region. This funding will allow for service expansion, enhancements, and program development to support wellbeing including nutrition, health, caregiver supports, and other critical services.
How will this grant improve the aging community?
The new ARPA funding allows AgeGuide to direct resources to the areas of greatest need identified by the Illinois Department on Aging State Plan, the AgeGuide Area Plan, the Community Needs Assessment findings, and the AgeGuide Strategic Plan. These priority areas include Supportive Services, Nutrition Services, Health Promotion, Caregiver Services, Ombudsman Services, and COVID Vaccine Outreach. The following details how the funds will be spent and the services that will be implemented, expanded, or enhanced to support the older adults of Northeastern Illinois.
Supportive Services will be increased and expanded through the following efforts:
- Staffing – to assist with the increased call volume from COVID-19 related issues and to link clients with programs focused on supports that improve health and well-being such as food, health care, social connectedness, affordable and accessible housing, transportation, and economic security. Funding will also be used to addresses emergency and unmet needs, such as assistance paying for rent, utilities, medicine, and groceries to mitigate negative health and safety effects associated with social isolation.
- Outreach – to limited-English speaking older adults and caregivers to ensure they are connected to programs and services. Targeted outreach will focus on places that cater to non-English speakers such as senior housing, local minority organizations, places of worship, community centers and ethnic grocery stores.
- Friendly Visiting and Telephone Reassurance – expansion to increase social connection.
- Transportation – expansion to reduce isolation and increase access to resources.
- Community Connections Collaboratives – to reduce the negative effects of extended social isolation by providing learning opportunities, promoting physical and mental health, and encouraging socialization.
- Counseling services – to increase access to counseling services throughout the region and expand the services and supports offered.
- Legal Services – to offer help establishing advanced directives, provide education regarding online legal fraud and scams, and individualized case consultations to assist with power of attorney, living wills and estate planning. Funding will specifically target underserved minority older adults.
Nutrition is an area that saw exponential growth in demand during the pandemic. Nutrition services provide older adults with nutritious home-delivered meals and community dining options. The added resources will support the following nutrition efforts:
- Preventing waiting lists – so everyone who needs a meal can get one.
- Expand restaurant dining sites – to provide menu choice, time flexibility and to combat social isolation.
- Medically tailored meals – for those who have food sensitivities, or require lower sodium, diabetes-friendly, vegetarian, or pureed diets.
- Ethnic meals – to increase accessibility and appeal to a more diverse variety of tastes.
- Shelf-stable meals – providing additional meals in advance for when home delivery is unavailable due to inclement winter weather, or other emergency situations.
Longevity requires healthy living, and health promotion programs help to engage and educate older adults in physical and mental wellness promotion activities. An increase in availability and variety of evidence-based programs which are proven to successfully promote health, will be offered. These funds will also allow us to expand our outreach to those with intellectual & developmental disabilities.
Caregiver Services provide valuable resources for those who are providing unpaid care to adults age 60+ and for those with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. We are now adding a specialist in each county who can assess caregiver needs and provide resources for the caregivers in our counties. The new funding will also allow our funded partners to expand respite care, provide additional training and supports including counseling & support groups, and expand evidence-based caregiver programs.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen are trained to resolve problems and can assist with complaints from residents. The new funding will allow the program to be expanded by increasing personnel or providing overtime pay to help retain staff. It will also support increased technology, supplies, and staff training and recruitment.
Lastly, we are expanding our COVID vaccine outreach to assist older adults and caregivers in the following ways:
- Disseminating credible information about COVID-19 vaccines
- Locating vaccination sites
- Scheduling appointments
- Coordinating homebound vaccinations
- Facilitating transportation to vaccine appointments
- Providing technical assistance to local health departments and other entities on vaccine accessibility
All these new and expanded services are now available in your community to help you on your aging journey. Please contact AgeGuide at (800) 528-2000 or [email protected] if you have any questions or want more information on how to get connected to these resources.