Countless Homebound Patients Still Wait for Covid Vaccine Despite Seniors’ Priority
Opening another front in the nation’s response to the pandemic, medical centers and other health organizations have begun sending doctors and nurses to apartment buildings and private homes to vaccinate homebound seniors.
Boston Medical Center, which runs the oldest in-home medical service in the country, started doing this Feb. 1. Wake Forest Baptist Health, a North Carolina health system, followed a week later.
In Miami Beach, Florida, fire department paramedics are delivering vaccines to frail seniors in their own homes. In East St. Louis, Illinois, a visiting nurse service is offering at-home vaccines to low-income, sick older adults who receive food from Meals on Wheels.
In central and northern Pennsylvania, Geisinger Health, a large health system, has identified 500 older homebound adults and is bringing vaccines to them. Nationally, the Department of Veterans Affairs has provided more than 11,000 vaccines to veterans who receive primary medical care at home.
Navigating Aging focuses on medical issues and advice associated with aging and end-of-life care, helping America’s 45 million seniors and their families navigate the health care system.
These efforts and others like them recognize a compelling need: Between 2 million and 4.4 million older adults are homebound. Most are in their 80s and have multiple medical conditions, such as heart failure, cancer, and chronic lung disease, and many are cognitively impaired. They cannot leave their homes or can do so only with considerable difficulty.
By virtue of their age and medical status, these seniors are at extremely high risk of becoming seriously ill and dying if they get covid-19. Yet, unlike similarly frail nursing home patients, they haven’t been recognized as a priority group for vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only recently offered guidance on serving them.
“This is a hidden group that’s going to be overlooked if we don’t step up efforts to reach them,” said Dr. Steven Landers, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, which provides home health and hospice care to over 10,000 people in New Jersey, northeastern Ohio and southeastern Florida. His organization plans to launch a pilot home vaccination program for frail patients this week.
Jane Gerechoff, 91, of Ocean Township, New Jersey, is waiting for the group to vaccinate her. She had a stroke more than a year ago and has difficulty breathing because of a serious lung disease. “I can’t walk; I’m in a wheelchair. There’s no way in the world I could get the vaccine if they didn’t come out to me,” she said in a phone interview.
Although Gerechoff doesn’t go out, she lives with an adult son who interacts with people outside the house and she receives help from physical and occupational therapists at home. Any one of them could bring in the virus.
Reaching homebound seniors presents many challenges. At the top of the list: Home care agencies and hospice organizations don’t have access to covid vaccines either for their staff or patients.
“There is no distribution of vaccines to our members, and there has been no planning surrounding meeting the needs of the people we serve,” said William Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.
First, here’s a quick review on how to properly wear a mask. Make sure it:
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, a mask should be worn in all public places and when social distancing isn’t possible. Routine and frequent washing of your masks is recommended. While most of us are trying to stay home more and avoiding public places, sometimes that isn’t possible. If you find yourself wearing your mask more than a few hours total each day, it should be washed before reuse.
How to wash your cloth mask
If your mask is machine-washable, you can include it with your laundry using regular detergent and the warmest appropriate water temperature for the load. In the dryer, use the highest heat setting possible and don’t take it out until it’s completely dry.
If your mask can’t go in the washer or a machine washer isn’t available, you can sanitize it by hand with a bleach solution. First though, make sure the bleach you have is intended for disinfection. Some bleaches are made for colored clothing and might not disinfect properly. After confirming you have the correct bleach, follow these steps:
Other reminders to keep you and your mask hygienic:
Remember to do your part by wearing a mask to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and continue to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing. These three simple steps are still the best defense we have to reduce transmission. And that’s always in fashion!
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