AmeriCorps Week 2021

2020 changed our world; many lives and livelihoods lost. Devastating destruction and unimagined challenges faced.

Despite those obstacles, each day countless Americans answered the call to serve. They raised their hands. Stood up. Showed up. And volunteered to put their neighbors and complete strangers first. To help make America safer and healthier, more fair, and more just.

AmeriCorps engages 270,000 Americans each year in sustained, results-driven service through our AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors programs. These dedicated citizens help communities impacted by COVID-19, ensure students stay on track to graduate, combat hunger and homelessness, respond to natural disasters, fight the opioid epidemic, help seniors live independently, support veterans and military families, and much more.

This AmeriCorps Week (March 7-13) join with us as we celebrate the impact of our programs and offer our thanks to each and every one for volunteering to serve others. Together, we can help the country recover and come back stronger.

Lutheran is the local sponsor of two great AmeriCorps Seniors programs: Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) and Foster Grandparents. To learn more about how you can make a difference in your community post-retirement, click here.

Advocacy Help: Urge Lawmakers to Prioritize Vaccines for ALL Senior Housing

As you may know, we’ve had access to vaccinations for both the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center as well as the Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program. The Edgewood Communities, an independent senior living community on the same campus, was not included. Those residents must search for vaccine access on their own in the community.

Elderly New Yorkers living in senior housing are at high risk for COVID-19 and have not been appropriately prioritized by the State of New York or the Federal Government for COVID-19 vaccination. These seniors are often in their 80s, and many need assistance from outside caregivers with activities of daily living. An estimated 38% of all residents currently living in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program could be considered “frail” or “near-frail” putting them at risk of severe implications from coronavirus.

Additionally, just as staff in other congregate living settings with vulnerable populations have been prioritized for vaccination, staff in independent senior housing should be prioritized. Failing to prioritize senior housing residents and staff for vaccination is likely to mean significant delays in these seniors accessing the vaccine and, sadly, more hospitalizations and deaths.

With the importance of these individuals being vaccinated in mind, senior housing providers should have the opportunity to work with the Department of Health and Regional Vaccination Networks to begin planning vaccination clinics that can occur on site. Facilitating vaccination clinics on the campuses of senior housing settings in which a large number of seniors live would allow the state to efficiently vaccinate large numbers of people in priority populations in one clinic.

To submit a letter to the NYS Department of Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker, in support of our residents, please copy and paste this email below and send it to howard.zucker@health.ny.gov

I am writing to express serious concerns about the failure to prioritize senior housing residents, one of New York’s most vulnerable populations, for COVID-19 vaccination. The seniors living in this housing are often in their 80s, and many need assistance from outside caregivers with activities of daily living. An estimated 38% of all residents currently living in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program could be considered “frail” or “near-frail.” The age and “frailty” of these individuals put them at grave risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and I would therefore recommend their prioritization in future vaccination plans. Additionally, just as staff in other congregate living settings with vulnerable populations have been prioritized for vaccination, staff in independent senior housing should be prioritized. Failing to prioritize senior housing residents and staff for vaccination is likely to mean significant delays in these seniors accessing the vaccine and, sadly, more hospitalizations and deaths.

For other ways to advocate on our behalf, please click here.

Hultquist Place Recognizes Employee of the Year 2020

Employees and residents at the Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program on the Lutheran Campus in Jamestown celebrated National Assisted Living Week in September. The festivities usually include various events for staff and residents, but some modifications needed to be made to keep everyone safe from the threat of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). One important part of the week-long event is to award the assisted living program’s Employee of the Year.

“We have such a compassionate and dedicated group of people working with our residents every day. This has been an unusual year to say the least, but our staff have moved mountains to help our residents feel safe. One in particular stood out during this difficult and emotional time we’ve been in,” said Kathy Lynch, Administrator of Hultquist Place. “Our Employee of the Year is chosen by our residents and this year they selected Matt Hummel from our Dietary Department,” said Lynch.

Hummel has worked at Lutheran for over six years, most of that time working directly with the residents at Lutheran’s assisted living program. During the socially distant presentation, Hummel was described as being a caring employee who takes the time to get to know residents personally and steps in when his fellow coworkers need a hand, always delivering a personalized experience to whoever he is with.

During a typical year, the Dietary Department at Hultquist Place serves chef-inspired meals in the dining room (or room-to-room when needed), hosts various meal-time events and activities, and the dietary staff will often jump in and socialize with the residents. This year, the team had to adapt to many new challenges brought on by COVID-19. Hummel was very surprised but excited to win the award given all that has happened and changed this year.

“It makes me feel really good to win this award and be recognized for my work, but this year has been a challenge for all of us,” said Hummel. “I look at this as a team award rather than an individual award. Our dietary team works together and we win this together,” he said.

Open Enrollment and 2021 Changes

The Medicare Annual Open Enrollment Season is here! On October 1, the www.medicare.gov website gets updated with all the 2021 plan information. Some exciting changes for our region include more plans than ever before available. There are 28 Stand Alone Drug plans. These plans are called PDP’s (Prescription Drug Plan). These are plans you would use with Original Medicare and a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan. Some of these PDP’s have changed names, like EnvisionRx has changed to Elixir. This means you will get a new card if you decide to stay in the plan. Other plans have left our region, like Magellan Rx Medicare Basic, Journey Rx Standard and Journey Rx Value. For individuals with these PDP’s you will get a letter informing you that your coverage is ending 12-31-2020 and that you need to make a new choice and enroll in a new PDP or alternative type of Medicare product.

There are also new plans and new companies this year. There is a new SilverScript SmartRx plan and three new BlueCross BlueShield plans. So instead of 27 PDP’s we have 28 available plans.

When thinking about Medicare Advantage Plans we have a LOT more choices. In 2020 we had 31 different Medicare Advantage Plans, in 2021 we have 46 plans in our region! That is a significant increase. The new plans come in different varieties, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO).

We have two new companies selling Medicare Advantage plans. Aetna Medicare and MVP Health Care are offering HMO and PPO plans, some come with drug coverage and some do not.

One of our local companies has added a new Medicare Advantage plan as well, BlueCross/BlueShield of Western New York is offering a new plan called BC/BS Freedom Nation. This is a PPO product with drug coverage offering an impressive National network at only $25 per month.

With all these new choices it will make for an exciting insurance seasons. But then I always think Medicare is exciting and new! Do some research, evaluate your current plan and decide if you making a change makes sense for you.

Remember if you have one of the three plans that are no longer offered in 2021 you must make a new decision between October 15 and December 7.

Senior Life Matters staff is here to help! Call us at 716-720-9797 or email at SLM@lutheran-jamestown.org.

Downsizing a Home, Upsizing a Life as You Age

When we consider the idea of moving, it is sometimes with excitement and sometimes with caution! While we are young, we look at moving as an improvement and achievement; that next level of adulthood. However as we get older, the idea of moving comes with thoughts of sorting, packing, or lifting and it often means moving to a smaller setting, not a bigger one. Thinking of what to pack before you even decide to move is like putting the cart before the horse!

Those thoughts of sorting through possessions and possibly getting rid of them is the one that quickly overwhelms people to the point of putting off a move altogether. Deciding what to keep versus what to toss, what you need versus what you want, and what to do with everything else in between is enough to take all the excitement out of an exciting life event! Another factor that can be intimidating is where you are moving to. For adults over the age of 55, that new location may be an independent living community. In this case, the process is thought of a little differently.

Whether you’re moving to the Edgewood Communities on the Lutheran Campus in Jamestown or to another senior living campus in the area, a lot of good can come to the lives of individuals or couples who make the leap. The first thing to understand is that independent living communities are NOT what you imagine and they are not an assisted living program or a nursing home. Independent living communities are just that: independent. You can work if you want to, volunteer if you want to, travel if you want to, etc. Your life is your own as it was before, just in a new location with fewer headaches associated with property ownership.

Independent living options can include small homes, duplexes, or apartment style living. Although you may be losing some square footage in certain living spaces compared to others, what you gain in terms of personal time, access to outdoor recreation, health resources and leisure amenities will far outweigh the loss of an indoor footprint. After all, who wants to spend all their time indoors?

“But where do I begin?” is the question I hear most. The process will always begin with the decision to move. After that, you find the place you want to move to. After you sign your rental agreement, I always suggest to my Senior Life Matters clients to make a “short move”; spend time in your new home taking only what you think you will need during that time. Leaving your former residence alone for a few weeks and then going back will help you identify what you truly need versus what you can live without. At that point, you can consider an estate sale or donating what is left behind. By making sure you have all you need in your new home, the stuff you leave behind has less angst and heartache!

We always look back and find things we should have done differently, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move if it means we can have a better quality of life with more peace and happiness time to do what we enjoy. Moving just requires preparation, advice, and (sometimes) a little help!

HP-Visitation-July-2020

Lutheran receives $10,000 grant for PPE

Univera Healthcare has provided more than $1 million worth of grants to hospitals and healthcare facilities across New York State to fund personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) global health crisis. Lutheran Jamestown was one of the local grant recipients, receiving $10,000 to help purchase necessary infection control supplies for use at the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center and the Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program. The grants are part of a larger $162 million response to the COVID-19 pandemic by Univera Healthcare and its Rochester-based parent health plan in support of their members and communities served.

“No one has faced a public health crisis like COVID-19 in the almost 90 years that our health plan has provided coverage in upstate New York,” said Art Wingerter, President of Univera Healthcare. “This crisis requires a strong and comprehensive response to assure the safety of our members and our communities,” said Wingerter. The grant from Univera Healthcare comes at a critical time when PPE usage on the Lutheran Campus is expected to go up as visitation restrictions lift slowly for families and residents.

Earlier this month, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo announced guidelines for the reopening of adult care facilities across the state which had been closed to outside visitors since March 14. Access to and funding for PPE has been limited across the country during the global health crisis, however, one of the stipulations to reopening an adult care facility to visitation includes providing PPE and sanitation supplies to all visitors. Although Lutheran’s skilled nursing facility continues to work on their reopening plan, restricted visitation has begun at their assisted living program, Hultquist Place, with PPE being a key component to do so.

“Every dollar and every mask counts,” said Tom Holt, President and CEO of Lutheran Jamestown. “We’re honored to be a recipient of this grant. The supplies are always needed for use by our staff, but an even more emotional story to be told is that this funding will help us reunite our residents with their families little by little,” said Holt. Supplies purchased with the help of Univera Healthcare’s grant will be used by families, residents, and staff during visitation appointments.

Angeline Muscarella, resident of Hultquist Place, is grateful for the impact the grant has had on her. Angeline’s niece, Rachel Estes, came to visit her on Friday afternoon using PPE throughout their time together.

“This is such a beautiful facility and gazebo for us to use for our visit,” said Estes of her time spent with her aunt. “We are truly grateful for this opportunity,” she said. The two have not been together in person without a phone or window separating them in months until Friday. Social distance signage, guidelines, PPE, and hand sanitizer was available throughout the duration of the visit.

“Our staff continue to do a great job protecting our residents on campus and protecting themselves while they’re not at work,” said Holt. “Our ability to begin opening slowly is all thanks to them,” he said. There are currently no infections on the Lutheran Campus which has allowed both facilities to continue working on reopening plans to allow visitation.

For information about Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program, click here.

The mission of Lutheran Jamestown is to offer a continuum of care that supports an individual’s journey through life with compassion, dignity, and respect.

State Announces Re-Opening Guidelines for Adult Care Facilities

Four months after the state shut down all visitation to adult care facilities across New York State in response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, highly anticipated guidelines for re-opening visitation were finally released late last Friday, July 10. Two area senior care communities, Lutheran Jamestown and Heritage Ministries, spent the weekend reviewing the fine print in those guidelines and are working together on a phased re-opening of their campuses. To them, collaboration is key in making sure the community understands and adheres to the new restrictions and can be reunited with their families as soon as possible.

“We are excited to connect families with their loves ones again in the near future, as are our colleagues at Heritage Ministries,” said Tom Holt, President and CEO of Lutheran Jamestown. “One thing we need to make very clear, however, is that re-opening of our campuses will happen in phases much like the state’s economy. We have to be smart and we have to be safe. Visitation is going to look very different than is once did,” said Holt.

The NYS Department of Health indicated that re-opening adult care facilities to visitation could begin on July 15, but it is expected that 90% of facilities or greater will not meet the criteria to open on that day. Many will be delayed weeks or months, depending on the region they are located, the levels of care offered in each facility, and several other factors. Operators state-wide were issued strict guidance from the DOH outlining a certain set of criteria that each facility must meet before they are able to begin visitation. The submission of a re-opening plan is one of them.

Lutheran is expecting to open their assisted living program next week and their skilled nursing facility in two weeks. Heritage plans to open two of its three skilled nursing facilities as well as their assisted living facilities next week with the opening of their third skilled nursing facility to be determined. Independent senior housing for both organizations remains open as it has the entire duration of the global health crisis.

“We’re very fortunate to live and operate in a smaller community where we have put ourselves in the best position to not only meet the requirements asked of us, but also shift and adapt as time goes on and things change,” said Lisa Haglund, CEO of Heritage Ministries. “The community’s patience and understanding is important when it comes to the new normal of visitation on our campuses,” said Haglund.

Leaders from both organizations explained that visitation will not be a “doors open” approach as it used to be. In fact, visitation on campus is required to be outdoors (weather permitting) with no visitation in resident rooms or care areas unless medically necessary. Social distance, use of sanitizing agents, and facial coverings must be required at all times to prevent the spread of infection during visits. Plus, visits need to be scheduled in advance and each facility will have different limits on the amount and frequency of guests on campus at one time.
The urge to hold, kiss, and hug family members and friends will be hard for many, but doing so is also prohibited and could come at a cost.

“We have been told in great detail by our regulators that any guest who violates the social distance instructions given to them during their visit will be prohibited from future visits until the health crisis is over,” said Haglund. “With no end in sight for this COVID-19 threat, the last thing we want is for any one person’s separation from their family to be extended indefinitely,” she said.

If social distance is violated during a visit, that resident will need to undergo a fourteen (14) day quarantine period. Aside from the personal consequences that social distance violation may have on an individual guest, the risk of infection it presents could set an entire facility back should anyone introduce an unwanted pathogen to a frail population via their loved one.

“This certainly is not the way we envision our communities but it is the reality we face together,” said Holt. “Staff at all of our facilities have done a remarkable job keeping themselves safe while not at work and keeping our residents safe while at work,” he said. Both organizations are getting creative with their re-opening plans, including outdoor “picnic” areas, visitation pods, getting business office staff involved with scheduling and monitoring visits, and more. “All efforts that can be done will be done to bring families and their loved ones together in the safest way possible,” said Holt.

Both Lutheran and Heritage nurse managers, social workers, and administrators will contact their respective families directly with the appropriate sanitation protocols, visitation requirements, and scheduling details when they are ready to receive guests.

The mission of Lutheran Jamestown is to offer a continuum of care that supports an individual’s journey through life with compassion, dignity, and respect.

The mission of Heritage Ministries is to serve others through Christ-centered ministries which promote hope, dignity, and purposeful living.

Foster Grandparent Volunteer Appreciation Special Deliveries

Under normal circumstances, this would be the time of year when Lutheran’s Foster Grandparents, teachers and other school support staff from the area would come together for a celebration of service to children and families in the community. Unfortunately, temporary changes had to be made to this year’s volunteer appreciation activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a replacement, staff from Lutheran Senior Housing and Foster Grandparent offices delivered no-contact thank you gifts to all volunteers outside of their homes.

“All of our foster grandparents were very excited to see us again,” said Brenda Weiler, Project Coordinator for the Lutheran Foster Grandparent Program. “We all felt honored to do this for them after everything they have done for us. We recognized over forty volunteers this year,” said Weiler. The volunteer gifts included a platter of bread and cookies made by Elegant Edibles Catering, fruit, candy, a flashlight, and a gift card.

The Lutheran Foster Grandparent Program is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency focused on volunteering, service, and civic engagement. The CNCS engages millions of Americans in citizen service through several Senior Corps programs.

“Our foster grandparents are local, senior citizen volunteers placed under the direction and supervision of an assigned teacher or site supervisor at our area schools,” said Weiler. “They establish a one-on-on relationship with a child in need of extra help and provide guidance in and out of the classroom. Volunteers help the students with their learning and help the teachers with special focus areas within the classroom,” she said. Foster grandparents frequently help improve students’ literacy skills like writing or reading as well as provide assistance with other subjects.

The Lutheran Foster Grandparent Program services Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegheny Counties. The program is actively searching for new recruits to serve in local schools when restrictions are lifted to do so. To qualify, volunteers must be 55 years of age or older and have an interest in serving and guiding students in a classroom setting in their own community.

FGP Thank You Deliveries 2020

Lutheran Senior Housing and Foster Grandparent staff helped package and deliver the volunteer appreciation gifts using no-contact drop-offs and personal protective equipment for safety. Pictured from left: Tiffany Erhard, Senior Project Support Coordinator, Karen Pfeffer, Clerical Assistant, Kevin Saff, Director, Patricia Fitzgerald, Financial Counselor, and Brenda Weiler, Project Coordinator.

HP Resident Celebrates 103rd Birthday Remotely

During the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, it has been a challenge for seniors in assisted living programs and skilled nursing facilities to connect with family and friends in the community or across the country. At the Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program, donated Chromebook laptops are now available for use by residents to video chat with their loved ones. One resident in particular, Ruth Anderson, used technology to celebrate her 103rd birthday with her family last week.

“Oh, they can hear me?” said Anderson, as her son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and great grandchildren began to fill the screen for their call. A resident of Hultquist Place Assisted Living Program since 2012, Ruth turned 103 this past week. A milestone like this would normally be celebrated with friends, family, and lots of group photos, but strict social distancing precautions and fear of the unknown have prevented that from happening this year.

Three Chromebook laptops were provided to Hultquist Place by the Iroquois Healthcare Association through their Workforce Investment Organization established in 2018. The devices are primarily used for training purposes to enhance the skills of care providers. In the wake of visitation restrictions being placed on senior care communities across the state and region due to the current public health crisis, IHA WIO reconfigured the devices to be used to connect residents with the outside world. The program is done at no cost to Hultquist Place residents or staff. The Chromebook laptops are loaded with Facebook Messenger, Skype, Google Hangout, and Zoom.

“It brought me a lot of joy to see the expression on Ruth’s face and how happy it made her that she was able to see and hear her family on her birthday,” said Candra Roach, Activities Director at Hultquist Place. “I’m thankful that we are able to offer this as an option for Ruth and others to connect with their loved ones. I’m also thankful to IHA WIO for their flexibility and willingness to make these devices available for other uses,” said Roach. The Chromebook laptops have been easy for the residents to use and the activities staff has been available to assist when needed.

Similar efforts have been made across campus at the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center. A secure video conferencing room is now available to nursing home residents who wish to communicate with friends and family off campus, plus special arrangements are also made for those who must stay in their rooms.

“We have had a lot of residents use this feature to talk to their family,” said Erin Carlson, Activities Director at the Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center. “One resident in particular is receiving Hospice care which makes the current state of the world even harder for that family. This resident has been able to talk with their family and it has made a huge difference for them and others,” said Carlson.

The efforts made by the staff at both facilities to facilitate video chatting, phone calls, and coordinate care package deliveries has made a great impact on residents struggling with the emotional effects of social distancing.

New Family Takeout Meals for Lutheran Employees

With everyone’s nerves on high alert as the Novel Coronavirus continues to sweep through New York State, Senior Leadership at the Lutheran Campus in Jamestown have made sure to pay extra attention to the staff and their needs during this time of uncertainty. As a healthcare facility, nursing homes are considered an “essential business” so all staff report to work as usual, regardless of which department they work in.

“The COVID-19 public health crisis we’re facing as a society is unprecedented,” said Tom Holt, President and CEO for Lutheran. “Though our mission is to protect our residents from harm’s way at all times, we know there are some scary realities many of our staff are personally facing while not at work. Childcare, food access and meal planning, layoffs of loved ones, and other issues are plaguing our community and nation so we want to help them wherever we can,” said Holt.

Though recruitment of nursing staff remains a top priority, the Human Resources Department at Lutheran has become a hub of information on how employees can help their affected family members file for unemployment, find child care solutions in the community, information on Lutheran’s Employee Assistance Program and the SAFER program offered through The Resource Center, as well as other resources needed to supplement their altered daily life. To help ease the tension from a nutritional standpoint, Lutheran created a new program to help employees get access to meals for their families.

“We’ve all seen the store shelves and watched people hoard food during this time. It is putting a significant burden on our workers, especially those with young families. Many of them are putting in extra time to care for our residents and cannot make it to the store immediately after their shift. By then, many food supplies they need are gone,” said Holt. “As a company, we are fortunate enough to have access to food resources that others do not, so we’ve created Family Takeout Meals that our employees can sign up for regardless of position or income,” he said. The Family Takeout Meals are available free to all staff on Thursday of each week. The three-course meals feed up to four people and range from pasta and meatballs to roast turkey and stuffing. Lutheran’s Dietary Department created the new meal plan that over 175 employees took advantage of in week one. The program will continue until community workforce bans and travel restrictions are lifted.

From a wellness perspective, employees can also participate in Guided Meditation during their lunch breaks with the nursing home’s Music Therapist.

“Meditation and music is good for the body. It helps decrease stress and strengthens our immune systems,” said Elizabeth Dooher, NMT, MT-BC, Music Therapist at Lutheran. “In our short mindfulness sessions, we¬¬ scan areas of our body for discomfort, release any areas of tension, and allow the music to help us relax,” said Dooher. The sessions incorporate social distancing requirements where necessary. Dooher is also working to create Guided Meditation MP3 files for staff to listen to while not at work or who cannot make it during their break times.

“Our employees are the miracle workers here, going to extraordinary lengths for our residents and finding a sense of solidarity in the process. We have an obligation to protect them and their wellbeing just as much as our residents, and our entire leadership and management team is committed to doing that in the face of adversity,” said Holt.