The COVID crisis has brought unprecedented turmoil to the country over the past 9 months, and while this virus has affected everyone in one way or another, one population that has been hardest hit is the low-income senior population in our community. Without financial resources to pay for their care as they age, options for this population are few compared to those who have the ability to privately pay for their elderly needs.
Last December, Healthy Cells highlighted LivWell CARES (Compassionate Advocacy & Resources for Every Senior), a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Bettendorf, founded by local businesswoman Rhonda Halterman. LivWell CARES works specifically with low-income seniors, providing personalized resources, referrals, and advocacy by working hand in hand with them to connect them with the resources and senior living solutions that meet their specific needs. All of LivWell CARES’ services are provided free of cost. Despite a year filled with uncertainty and strife, LivWell CARES is thriving and growing, even at a time when one-third of all non-profit organizations are predicted to be adversely affected because of the COVID crisis.
The eldercare world is complex and confusing when it comes to placing an elderly loved one in a senior community that meets their needs. These communities include independent senior apartments, assisted living communities, skilled nursing or long-term nursing care communities. The financial costs alone can be staggering. For low-income seniors this means they will need to apply for Medicaid coverage to help pay for their care. Obtaining state and federal assistance is time consuming, confusing, and involves a lot of paperwork. Knowing where to turn for help can be a lifesaver.
The number of low-income seniors nationally is increasing at a fast pace, as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every single day. The older Baby Boomers are now turning 80, and many of these people are low-income. Seniors over the age of 80 are the most likely population to need long-term care. On top of that, it is predicted that 1 in 4 Baby Boomers will be an “elder orphan,” without family to support them as they age. Many of these seniors are entitled to benefits to help them but they just don’t know it. LivWell CARES exists to ensure those low-income seniors don’t fall through the cracks.
LivWell CARES’ services are unique to the Quad Cities because connecting low-income seniors with living solutions that meet their specific needs is their specialty. When they receive a referral from a health care professional, social worker, another local elder-care agency or a request for assistance from a senior or a senior’s family member, LivWell CARES personally meets with that individual or family in their homes to determine their specific needs and preferences. LivWell CARES has developed relationships with most of the senior communities in the Quad Cities area and is able to connect seniors with the communities that are the most suitable for that senior by arranging for personal tours of the communities and accompanying families on those tours to help ask the appropriate questions and help explain financial arrangements. Once a decision is made, LivWell CARES helps facilitate the move by making referrals to services that can assist with packing and moving if needed, as well as referring to appropriate agencies that can assist with the Medicaid paperwork. Services are provided free of charge because the federal Anti-Kickback statute prohibits payment for placement from facilities that accept Medicaid or Medicare. As a non-profit entity LivWell CARES relies solely on donations and grant funding to carry out its mission and continue to provide services free of charge. It is important to note that LivWell CARES refers but does not endorse or recommend any facility or agency to clients, leaving the responsibility to the senior or senior’s family to select the appropriate solution for them. It’s also important to note that LivWell CARES does not own or operate any of the facilities or agencies to which it refers.
To give an example of what they do, recently, LivWell CARES was contacted by a local medical professional who referred them to a family in crisis that needed emergency placement for their 84-year-old mother who was physically dependent on her husband for all of her daily needs. The adult children lived out of state and neither Mom nor Dad had told the kids how severely how Mom’s health had declined. At 90 years old, Dad had been caring for Mom at home all by himself. He developed a severe infection from a wound that had gone untreated and was suddenly hospitalized for surgery and would need rehabilitation afterwards. With Dad incapacitated, who was going to care for Mom? It was determined that Mom needed to be placed in a long-term care (nursing) facility. This couple was low-income and were unable to pay for nursing home care without assistance; they would need to apply for Medicaid. Getting a Medicaid application approved takes time, and most long-term care (nursing) communities will not admit a new resident with a Medicaid application pending, or they will ask for up to six months of private payment in advance before allowing someone to move in while waiting for Medicaid approval. LivWell CARES contacted the family to determine Mom’s specific needs and financial situation. The adult children were able to pool their resources so they could pay for the first two months of their mother’s care. LivWell CARES went into action and began contacting local long-term care facilities to try to find a place that would accept Mom with two months of private pay and a Medicaid pending status. After many phone calls, voice mails, and waiting for calls to be returned, LivWell CARES found a long-term care facility that would accept Mom under those circumstances, and she moved in that same evening, much to the relief of her grateful family.
For those seniors who may not be ready for nursing care. For those seniors who want to remain in their homes as long as possible but could use some in-home assistance a few times a week to help them with chores such as housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation or bathing, LivWell CARES can help them too. For those individuals, LivWell CARES can direct them to resources that will help them apply for a Medicaid Elderly Waiver (in Iowa), or Supportive Living benefits (in Illinois). These programs are for low-income seniors aged 65 and over who are not yet ready for long-term care. Once benefits are in place LivWell CARES is able to connect the seniors to the appropriate agencies that provide in-home assistance and accept the Elderly Waiver or Supportive Living vouchers.
The COVID pandemic has changed the way LivWell CARES is able to conduct business because some area senior agencies to whom LivWell CARES would normally refer individuals to have had to reduce or even suspend some of their services. In addition, risk reduction strategies have eliminated in-person tours of most senior communities and. In response to the crisis, LivWell CARES works with senior communities to facilitate “virtual” tours, which means greater reliance on technology to make it possible for seniors to get an idea of what the community and accommodations are like. In our tech-driven society, it’s easy to forget that there is a segment of our population that is not tech savvy and doesn’t have access to the technology that much of the world depends on. A large percentage of low-income seniors are in this segment of the population. To make participation possible LivWell CARES representatives meet with seniors and/or their families while wearing personal protective equipment, utilizing LivWell’s technology equipment so seniors and/or families can be guided through the virtual tour and feel that they have some control over where they are going. Grant funding from the Quad-City Times Pluss 55 Club has allowed LivWell CARES to update their technology to make these virtual tours possible.
Elderly people are already isolated simply because they are old, but the COVID crisis has made that isolation even worse, especially for the “elder orphans,” who don’t have a support system. If they are still living at home, they have nobody to call for assistance. The COVID crisis has reduced and even eliminated visitation for those in assisted living and nursing homes, and families of seniors who are still at home are reluctant to visit them for fear of potentially exposing them to the virus. Risk reduction measures mean that a senior who moves into a nursing care or assisted living community today must be quarantined in their room or apartment for the first 14 days they are there. This means absolutely no outside visitors. Their meals are delivered to them in their rooms, and they must remain in their rooms for the duration.
As 2020 draws to a close, LivWell CARES has seen the number of families served increase by 37% over 2019, when they served 245 families. The average time it takes for one of their Senior Resource Specialists to find appropriate living solutions for an individual is anywhere from 6 to 12 hours of hands-on time, and some cases can take months until a senior is ready to make a move. Through it all, the professionals at LivWell CARES remain ready to assist tlow-income seniors in the Quad Cities and surrounding area by providing them with free personalized services when they need it most.
If you would like more information about LivWell CARES and how you can help low-income seniors in the Quad Cities, please visit their website, www.qclivwellcares.org or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 563-334-3700.