Pivot just might be the most frequent word we hear now related to COVID-19. It is the word we have all used to describe the changes we made in our work, home and other daily routines so they could be done remotely, distanced, touchless and otherwise safely. Pivot is how we all survived.
In early spring 2020, Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) across Indiana and the nation pivoted too. When Indiana shut down, our AAAs stepped up. We immediately galvanized to provide a front line of defense and services so older adults and persons with disabilities of any age could quarantine safely and comfortably in their homes. Driven by an intense sense of responsibility for vulnerable persons in our communities, we met the pandemic challenge with urgency and creativity, even prior to assurances of additional state and federal supports. We continue to adjust services on a weekly basis as COVID-19 data and local needs change in communities across Indiana. Some of our pivots included:
- Significantly expanding home delivered meal services.
- Changing congregate meal service models to accommodate stay-at-home and social distancing orders.
- Delivering medications, groceries, household supplies and PPE.
- Conducting weekly wellness checks for high-risk clients.
- Adapting transportation services to comply with social distancing and hygiene requirements.
- Establishing ongoing friendly-calling programs.
- Delivering activity kits.
- Offering virtual wellness, exercise and other senior center programs.
- Transitioning to all-telephonic assessments.
- Piloting telehealth platforms for video assessments.
- Supporting employees in working from home and creating safe working environments for those working in office.
As vaccines for the public became available in January 2020, we once again pivoted to play a significant role in scheduling vaccine appointments for older adults and people with disabilities. We made outgoing phone calls to our own clients, answered calls from the public, arranged for transportation to vaccination sites and registered home-bound persons for in-home shots.
In spring 2020, with older adults adopting the vaccine at high rates and vaccination appointments plentiful, we made plans for in-person programs and services once again. Workers returned to the office. Congregate meal sites re-opened. Community events started to repopulate calendars.
But then, the Delta variant hit, and we pivoted once again. This time, we are calibrating COVID response community by community based on the latest epidemiological data, local mask and distancing requirements, and consumer preferences. Some meal sites are open, some went back to grab & go, some are closed. In-person events have been restructured or postponed. Corporate vaccine requirements, vaccine status and consumer needs are informing our return to in-home assessments.
Through it all, our AAAs remain agile, having grown and changed forever from their experience. We are seeing projections that Delta variant infections are starting to subside, particularly as more Hoosiers make the decision to be vaccinated. Whether we can look forward to a more sustained re-opening or the rise of another variant, AAAs are ready to pivot again to meet Hoosier needs.