The Star-Herald

Aroostook Agency on Aging changes service delivery in response to coronavirus threat 

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — In response to an immediate and expanding public health threat from Coronavirus (COVID-19) locally and beyond, the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging has enacted a response plan to enable staff and volunteers to continue their critically important mission to serve the region’s age 55 and older population. 

According to Executive Director Joy Barresi Saucier, Aroostook Agency on Aging’s mission is to improve the quality of life, maximize the independence and promote the well-being of older people in northern Maine. This mission is even more important now during this period of increase public health concern.

“Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from the COVID-19 illness. As the Agency focuses services on this population, we must take every opportunity and make every effort to prevent the transmission of the Coronavirus and support all consumers, staff members, or volunteers who become ill,” she said. 

At this time, the main office at 260 Main Street in Presque Isle will remain open with access limited to staff only. Although the majority of staff and volunteers will work remotely from their homes, the Agency will continue to serve older adults, their caregivers, and those with disabilities through telephone and/or computer interactions. Eldercare and Money Minders clients will continue to receive services in their homes. All employees have been asked to practice prevention through increased hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are or may be sick. Employees will also practice social distancing. 

In addition, other measures include: 

  • All meetings, classes and events have either been postponed or transitioned to a virtual format until further notice. 
  • Staff travel has been restricted to within Aroostook County. 

As of Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Agency Nutrition Services will be provided with the following changes: 

  • Congregate dining sites throughout the service area will be closed. Consumers will be offered frozen home delivered meals or “storm packs” consisting of canned and non-perishable food
  • Consumers currently receiving frozen home-delivered meals will continue to do so on a two- week rather than weekly schedule. Those now receiving hot home delivered meals will receive frozen meals or “storm packs”. 
  • Those receiving commodity food boxes will continue to pick them up at regularly scheduled distribution sites. A drive-through delivery method will be used. 

Community Services such as Money Minders and Medicare Education/Senior Medicare Patrol services will be offered, emphasizing telephone consultation and conducting home visits only when required. 

Wellness Services such as Living Well, Matter of Balance, Tai Chi and Bone Builders classes have been postponed until further notice. 

Friendly Visitor volunteers will conduct all interactions through a telephone “check in” model. 

Adult Day Services will continue for the time being under a new set of health status guidelines. Staff and caregivers have been educated regarding symptoms and those who are at high risk of COVID-19; all have been asked to self-monitor and stay at home if experiencing symptoms or if they have been exposed. 

Long-term Services and Supports are in the process of immediately contacting all consumers to assess risk, understand unmet needs, connect to resources, and ensure they have a contingency plan for care in case their regular care provider becomes unavailable. 

Eldercare Services will continue to provide care in the home. Personal Support Specialists will call consumers before making a visit to assess their current health status. 

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