WEST SPRINGFIELD — Older adults with underlying health conditions are at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19. Mercy LIFE, a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), has risen to the challenges of the pandemic by providing medical care and social services to keep seniors safe at home.
Traditionally, Mercy LIFE’s all-inclusive care model provides coordinated and comprehensive medical and social services at the Mercy LIFE Day Center, in the community, and at home to help frail, medically compromised seniors remain in their own homes. Since COVID-19 first hit the region, Mercy LIFE has transformed service delivery to its more than 300 participants in their home settings.
“During COVID-19, the safety of our participants remains our top priority,” said Emmanuel Cheo, who recently became Mercy LIFE’s executive director. “And for now, staying home is the safest way to minimize their risk of contracting the virus.”
Although Mercy LIFE continues to be operational, its Day Center has been closed with the implementation of stay-at-home and social-distancing mandates. Early on in the pandemic, Mercy LIFE’s inter-disciplinary team acted quickly to augment its all-inclusive services and innovatively meet its participants’ needs at home in the following areas:
• Medical care: nurses and primary-care providers visit participant homes for hands-on care, as needed; physicians and nurse practitioners are utilizing telehealth technologies for virtual visits; and medications, medical supplies, and cloth masks are delivered to participant homes.
• Rehabilitation therapy: physical therapists and occupational therapists have implemented telephonic or virtual therapy sessions, and therapists visit participant homes for hands-on care as needed.
• Nutritional care: meals are delivered to participant homes, and Mercy LIFE staff are connecting participants with food banks and assisting with online grocery shopping.
• Social-work services: the Mercy LIFE social-work team breaks down socioeconomic barriers for its participants; caregivers can turn to Mercy LIFE social workers for guidance and support, while social workers connect participants with community resources via telephone.
• Social engagement: isolation resulting from stay-at-home orders can be challenging for seniors, so Mercy LIFE’s recreational-therapy teams have group calls with participants, conduct telephonic activities like bingo and trivia, and deliver activity packets to participants’ homes to keep them engaged and socially connected.
• Participant and caregiver education: Mercy LIFE serves as a source of truth for COVID-19 facts with participants and caregivers; the program keeps participants informed of signs and symptoms, how to avoid getting sick, and how to avoid fraud and scams during COVID-19, among other topics.
• Spiritual care: participants can choose to participate in prayer and reflections via telephone with Mercy LIFE staff and other participants; many seniors are seeking spiritual support to cope with the impact of COVID-19.
“Mercy LIFE is uniquely positioned to provide comprehensive care for seniors during this time,” Cheo said. “The Mercy LIFE team is dedicated to serving our senior population and keeping them safe. We look forward to seeing our participants together at the Day Center when it safely reopens.”